On day 129 of the Nowhere To be Project we scheduled a tour of the original Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Dublin. We’ll be visiting Ireland in a few weeks and knew that it was an essential excursion. No matter where we are in the world, one of our favorite things to do is to seek out the local vintages, brews and spirits. We usually prefer to do it in local pubs because they usually provide an intimate connection to the culture of a place, but visiting distilleries, microbrews and vineyards offers unique opportunities for connecting more deeply with the libations of a locale as well. Some of our favorite tastes along the way have been the wines of France, the vodka of Russia, the Kölsch in Cologne, Germany Related Blog Post and the gluhwein of the European Christmas markets. We’re currently abstaining from alcohol as a sort of cleanse for the liver before the storm that will undoubtedly ensue on our upcoming British Isles Explorer voyage on the Viking Sky. If traveling tipsy is wrong, we certainly don’t want to be right.
I arrived in the charming medieval town of Zons, Germany on a cloudy and cool Monday morning in May. Unfortunately, I barely blinked and this picturesque enclave evaporated as I hopped a lift to Cologne mere moments after stepping foot in Zons. From what little I saw, it warrants a return visit.
The fragrance (Eau de Cologne) that Giovanni Farina concocted in the city of Cologne in 1709 is known the world over but is, in my opinion, remarkably upstaged by a cathedral which might be described as the beacon of Cologne. It dates back to the thirteenth century and literally sparkles above this city of scents. Studying the many nuances and hidden secrets of this behemoth could likely span eons, but I managed to get my fill in about an hour. This brevity was most certainly influenced by the aromas of local cuisine rife with sausage and potatoes. If I’m being honest though, the Kölsch will be my takeaway.
Kölsch is a light-colored beer unique to Cologne. We were told by a local that there is actually a law prohibiting its production anywhere else in the world. He described it as a sort of commandment that governs the beverage. Kölsch is produced in brauhauses, each with their own special and truly unique version. Upon entering a brauhause, patrons are quickly greeted by a köbe who carries the small glasses known as stange in a circular contraption called a crown. The beer is served fast and cold with a shout of “PROST!” preceding the initial swig and the köbe frequently imbibes right along with you. Coasters placed atop the stange are used as a signal that one has had his or her fill. This doesn’t occur very often from what I could see.
We made it to four brauhauses in a span of a few hours. In that time, a great deal of Kölsch was savored in a very celebratory atmosphere. I say celebratory because each brauhause carried a vibe similar to one that might be experienced at a pep rally. My favorite beer of the varieties I swilled was Mühlen-Kölsch, a light and refreshing brew resembling spiked non-sweet lemonade. The carbonation in Kölsch seems low which, in my case, supported copious consumption. Here’s the thing, I am not really a beer worshipper. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but grapes almost always take precedence over hops in my glass. With that being said, the people who were with me on this self-imposed crawl know beer inside and out. We all agreed that Cologne is a place of merriment and satiety, mostly due to the magical elixir that calls this place home. PROST!