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The Kölner Stange

The term Kölsch was first officially used in 1918 to describe the beer that had been brewed by the Sünner brewery since 1906. It was developed from the similar but cloudier variant Wiess (white in the Kölsch dialect). It never became particularly popular in the first half of the twentieth century, when bottom-fermented beers prevailed as in the rest of Germany.

Kölsch is usually served about 10°C/50°F in long, thin, cylindrical 0.2 litre glasses. This glass is known as a Stange (pole), but is sometimes also derisively called a Reagenzglas (test tube), or Fingerhut (thimble) because they are a lot smaller than the beer glasses used in most of the rest of Germany. Recently though, many bars (especially outside central Cologne) have moved to reduce the waiters’ work load and to satisfy their more thirsty customers by offering larger, less traditional glasses, (0.3 L or 0.4 L) of the same shape. Connoisseurs would even drink Kölsch from smaller (0.1 L) glasses, called “Stößche”, as the taste of Kölsch deteriorates rather quickly while it is sitting in the glass.

Kölsch waiters (Köbes) in traditional pubs are encouraged, and indeed expected, to speak the local dialect which is called “Kölsch” as well and to use fairly rough, unrefined language, which might include crude jokes with the customers.In keeping with serving tradition, the Köbes in such pubs will also continue to exchange empty Kölsch glasses with new ones unprompted until customers leave their glass half full or place the beermat upon the glass to signal that they no longer wish to be served. Waiters carry filled glasses of Kölsch to customers in a special circular tray called a Kranz (wreath). They are then ready to replace any empty glasses immediately.

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