Profiled by Maria Devan
The style guidelines define not only the nitty gritty measurable characteristics of the beer but also the spirit of the drink as well. To me the kolsch beer style means elan, finesse, restraint and the understanding of brewing. It’s character is subtle and delicate yet it’s pretty vivacious. It is breadier than you might have guessed from the way enthusiasts talk about it, and the the beer showcases the “ester” from yeast by showing you it’s delicate yet pertinent begining. That’s all it is in the beer. An almost imperceptible fruity sweetness. Like a white wine twang. This beer is subtle. All of the beers character, all it’s identity rests on the fact that it is low alcohol. 4.5%. The pils malt in the kolsch is bready but is more a golden sweetness. Fine flour that has been toasted golden. And different brewers will evoke subtle differences in that malt . It’s soft and seems to just melt on the tongue and is dry. Also because it has no wild rampant flavors to carry you away you can sometimes taste a mineral quality or a yeast character that gives the beer a slight pucker in the finish. A ‘tang” if you will.
SO – as a low abv style it is going to be crisp. A higher abv adds sweetness, and body to a beer. It also can be anti-crisp and complicate things further by augmenting flavors.
Ithaca’s beer is 7% alcohol. And while it is acceptable to use up to 20% wheat in the kolsch Ithaca has added Vienna malt. Some recipes for kolsch allow for up to 15% vienna malt. I would say already that it is not a kolsch. Hmmmmm . . . Lots of brewers do variations or interpretations on a style. Put their “spin”on the traditional beer. Ithaca has made two other kolsches according to Beer Advocate and both had an abv above 6%. However I am pretty sure this is the first that they have bottled.
Daydreamer pours a a darker shade of yellow gold than the average light or pale straw color. The addition of Vienna malt has given it a rather orange hue and in indirect light the beer is pretty orange. Slight haze and a fingers worth of white creamy foam that lasted.
The nose is very strong. Apple, pear & white fruit. Heavier graham cracker and some breaddier malt and some earthiness. A sweetness from alcohol and a bit of hop floral (or maybe that floral is from the alcohol) to lift that up even more.
Taste is fruity. Pear, apple and white fruit. Ithaca said pineapple and my son said banana peel. Cloying sweetness. Esters from alcohol and a sweeter breaddier malt that tastes of graham cracker. Finishes with a slight taste of hop herbal and no hop bitterness. The kolsch should be dry and it is but it also has a dryness from alcohol on the tongue that does not belong in the kolsch. It’s too fruity, it’s too sweet, it’s too rich it’s too heavy. It does not drink like a kolsch and because it is 7% (which is on it’s way to tripel) it will sit in the glass and open up plenty.
Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”
Maria Devan lives in Ithaca, New York with her son. She writes great reviews for PGA and other web sites, reviews brews on the web and You Tube with other homebrewers and craft beer lovers from all over the country. Maris also gets a LOT of great exercise walking up, and down, up, and down, up and down, the hill near where she lives!