Friday Night Blue Collar Brew Review –
Goose Island Summertime Kölsch

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At the beginning of Friday’s beer run, I didn’t have one inkling as to what I was going to buy and try for weekend beer reviews. Empty headed, so to speak, I entered the beloved Morris Beer Store and noticed that it was a day of the babes. Young and pretty Lauren was there with a trainee behind the counter as I ducked around to the craft beer shelf. Down the line I scanned and noticed again that the newcomer Crown Valley Brewery had a nice showing up on the top shelf. Should I? … Nah. I didn’t want to show favoritism. As you recall, their Old Bison Ale was almost a perfect match to my last batch of homebrew.

Further on down the line, I ran into the land of the bombers, those 22-25 ounce bottles of beer. Today I didn’t have the bucks for bombers and really wanted six beers for the dollars. I slowly started back up the aisle. Hey, wait a minnit… Let’s see if there’s anything new down near the Goose Island/Sam Adams section. Ding-dong! There it was. The beer would fit perfectly with the newly experienced 75° weather Illinois was having. The beer was Goose Island Summertime. A perfect seasonal.

I grabbed a bottle out of a sixer and scoured the label looking for clues. Nothing. No ABV, no marketing blurb, just the label with the government warning and a bottled on date of 04/05/10. I checked my cranial memory banks and tried to remember if I had this beer last year or the year before. Nothing. I gambled the 8 buck price and brought the sixpack to the counter.

On my way out the door I met Ale, Al or Alessa, the cutie from last week. Apparently she was just coming on duty looking as pretty as ever. A day of the babes indeed. I thought about going back to the beer shelf and glimpsing some more, but that didn’t sit well with my conscience. I left with a sigh and wished I was young and stupid again. Then I started thinking about the stupid part which made think about high school and then I came to, turning the ignition key in my truck.

It was late in the afternoon, almost 3 o’clock and I wondered if the beer would be cold enough in 5 hours or so. Another gamble. If anything, I had a perfectly functional freezer standing by just in case. As I lifted the sixer into its mooring in the beer fridge, I withdrew a bottle to again see if I missed anything on the label. I did.

There, just above the goose head, in an arch of white on orange lettering were the words, Traditional German Style Kölsch. (The accented ö will be ignored from here on.) I had one other Kolsch style and it was from Schlafly. I recalled that it was in fact a lawnmower beer, but nothing else stood out in my 256MB of cranial ROM.

I revisited the Kolsch style of beer. From Wikipedia:

Kölsch is a local beer speciality, brewed in Cologne, Germany. It is a clear beer with a bright straw-yellow hue, and it has a prominent, but not extreme, hoppiness. It is less bitter than the standard German lager beer, Pilsner. Furthermore, Kölsch is top-fermented at a relatively warm temperature (13 to 21°C, or 55 to 70°F) and then cold-conditioned, or lagered. This manner of fermentation links Kölsch with some other beer styles of central northern Europe, such as the Altbiers of northern Germany and the Netherlands.

Hmm. Not much there about what it tasted like. My good friend Jeff, brewed up a batch of hombrew Kolsch and gave me a couple of bottles. It was quite good but really didn’t know the style; I didn’t know what to look for in the taste. The Goose Island brewmaster revealed it all in a video on their website. The vid is way down below for you to watch as well.

I looked to find out the ABV rating on this Summertime beer and there was a disparity among sites. Both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer have this beer at 5.0%. The Goose Island site rates their own beer at 4.7%. But let’s not squabble over a measly 0.3%.

One thing I did remember about the Kolsch style was that it had its own special glass. The glass is called a stange. Red flag number one, how the hell do you pronounce stange? Stange is a city in Norway of all places and they pronounce it stahn-guh. The beer style, however originated in Cologne, Germany. Pfft!

Second red flag, stanges are skinny, straight-sided glasses that usually hold less than 12 ounces. The glass I had that mostly resembled a stange was the Peroni glass, measured at 250 cc, or about 8 1/2 ounces. Man, what a pain this is gonna be. Subtract room for the head and you’d be lucky to get 7 ounces of beer. Drink while the rest sits in the bottle and waits for the next pour out of the same bottle. That’s bullsh … But I’ll do this one last time, I’ll drink Kolsch from a stange and overheat my elbow pouring and drinking until it needs a lube. One last time. Then no more. The stange should be removed from the Oxford Beer Dictionary and anyone (after tonight) who drinks from stange should be considered a radical beer snob and castipated. This is the last time I drink from a stange thimble glass thing. After the last sip of the last Goose Island Summertime Kolsch tonight, I shall fling the glass at the concrete floor and break it in a celebration of release from this awful container. Or just fill it with paraffin wax and stick it back in the beer glass cabinet never to be used again, as a testament to poor design and the stifling of proper beer drinking.

When beer time finally rolled around, I grabbed and held a bottle firmly in palm of hand and made the judgement that yes, the beer was cold enough to drink. I popped the cap noticing again that G.I. still had a thing for twist-off caps on craft beer.

The beer poured up a nice bright yellow, a color which reminded me of morning toilet duty. Or anytime thereafter. In beer geek jargon, it would be described as a straw yellow. The head came up a good inch’s worth, nice and white also like… in the morning. (What’s interesting is the fact that this beer will not change color from the beginning to end. Well, maybe after a while.) Lots of large and medium bubbles raced to the top. The beer had a nice beery aroma, almost like a wheat beer or a light lager.

The first sip hit, bringing with it, almost the taste of a wheat beer, only different. The front of the sip was rather empty but the middle filled up with nice, light flavors and there was a slight crispness going down. There was a very slight bit of tart, almost similar to that of that twinge you get with the first fresh taste of grapefruit, only quite a bit less. The taste was light bodied and went down nice and easy. I was sure I’d get more of that tart as the sips went on. Not a lot in the hops area, though.

This beer did not exhibit any detectible sweetness, but that slight bit of art in each sip made up for that. The tartness was, now obviously apparent to me, the flagship taste of this beer style. With each taste it was there dominating, and with each sip I was initially reminded of the first sips of a wheat beer such as Hacker-Pschorr and others. But there were no complexities in this taste, as there are in a wheat beer.

The sips continued on into the second bottle and that tartness, the lightness of body and the overall taste made for a really great drinking experience. I would venture to say that this Kolsch style of beer would make for a more enjoyable taste if one was not in the mood for a true unfiltered wheat beer.

As an aside, the wheat beer style has it’s own special glass as well, only taller and fatter and holding more beer per pour. Those Kolsch guys are missing out with their skinny little anorexic sippy glasses. A glass made for milady’s dainty, well-manicured digits. All this pouring, my God! (Oh, shut up and drink.)

Not being as well versed in the Kolsch style as I am in say, stouts or English ales, I would say that this beer is the perfect quaff for the summer months. (If I ever got a dog, I’d name him Quaff.) This beer could quite possibly qualify as a lawnmower beer and a session beer. I’d advise experiencing the taste of the tart in this beer on a casual basis to get some idea before you blindly buy a sixer of this beer specifically for slamming after your next yard project. It’s not off-putting, but it may not be the taste you were in the mood for. But it is quite slight.

All in all, Goose Island’s Summertime Kolsch is a great seasonal brew. A clean, refreshing taste with a twist that would be welcome on a warm, balmy night while sitting out on the patio, swatting at mosquitos or watching the bug zapper nuke another victim. “SMOKER!!!!” Those were the days. This is the beer for the warm months ahead. No one will not like this beer.

The SixPackTech ratings for Goose Island Summertime Kolsch are:

Taste: B+ > The slight tartness just might tweak your cheeks like Aunt Emily used to.
Smoothness: B+ > Slick as a soapy doorknob.
Drinkability: B > Bring ‘em on! My tongue’s not tired yet.
Bang for the buck: B > Not cheap, but not not expensive neither.
ABV: 4.7% or 5.0% depending.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Smells sweet. (sip) Not much to it. (sip) A little bit of tart, kinda like (sip) … lemon water. There’s not much to this at all. (sip) It’s got a big name for this tiny little glass. (Like minds think alike.)

Greg Hall – Goose Island Brewmaster

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