Germany is often thought of as the birthplace of beer. It is of course home to the original Octoberfest, which is held in Munich, and draws beer drinkers from every corner of the world. Whatever the origin of the drink and however popular their beer festivals, it is evident that Germany doesn't have as many varieties of beer as we have in the States. In Munich its the Wiessbier, in Berlin its the Berliner Wiess, and in Cologne its the Kölsch. A specific brewing process and specific ingredients that create a certain type of beer for a specific region and that is typically how it goes.
However, Braustelle Brewery in Cologne flips the script on this age old style of brewing. Boasting a number of varieties of beer from wheat and barrel aged beers, to herbal and sour beers, this place is pretty unique when it comes to what the rest of Germany's breweries are doing. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to get our hands on some of the unique beers they are concocting at Cologne's smallest brewery!
Unlike some of their other beers, Braustelle's Cherry On Top definitely looks how it tastes. This sour beer gives itself away as soon as you lay your eyes on it. With a frothy, strawberry appearance and a wonderfully pink head there is no way this beer could be anything but the cherry on top of Braustelle's sour line up. The aroma is almost pure cherry with just a hint of cheesecake. Cherry On Top is made with real cherries, and as you sip the beer you'll travel back in time to your childhood as the taste of cherry candy hits you dead on.
Braustelle sings a bit of a different tune with this black stout. A far cry from their mostly sour line-up, this dark brown beer is made with roasted malts and a good bit of Whiskeymalz. Aptly translated as "secret seven", you may find that it has a bit of a mysterious smokey, leathery aroma that is reminiscent of a fall camp fire. This interesting aroma carries over to the taste with smokey notes and a bit of a lingering finish. After trying a few of their beers it's safe to say that Braustelle is definitely whipping up some of the most interesting and unique beers in Germany, and Schwarze Sieben deserves a superlative or two.
Similar to the Parisian nightclub for which this beer derives its name, Moulin Rouge is very much unassuming. Catching the eye with its almond appearance and subtle brown butter head, one would guess the aromas would unveil a smell that pairs with the looks. However, this is not the case. Caught off guard with a sour aroma with wafts of vinegar, it is similar to when a tall person has a very high pitched voice. The two just don't seem to go together. On the tongue, the taste matches the aromas giving off a tart, slightly acidic taste. Low levels of carbonation all combine to solidify the fact that this is, of course, another one of Braustelle's wonderfully unique beers.
Braustelle continues their streak of delectable tartness with Raquí, a sour ale fermented with rhubarb and quince juice. (Don't worry, we had to look up "quince" too.) The intriguing fruit-and-vegetable beer pours the color and opacity of wildflower honey: a murky chestnut brown with dense, creamy head. The subtle, floral sweetness of the nose smacks of a certain fruity bubblegum. Tangy pear and lactic sour flavors greet the palate along with a light funk. The complex, refreshing Raquí manages to be both familiar and unique at once. A pleasantly baffling brew.
Braustelle may pride themselves on their experimentation, but that doesn't mean they've turned from the traditions of their Cologne roots. Their Helios Kölsch seems brewed to prove this point. The unfiltered Helios enlightens its glass to a dusty, dandelion gold, ringed by a thin but dense chalk-white head. Lemon zest, hay, and cereal grain comprise its unassuming aroma. These notes continue on the tongue, along with a bready, peppered spice. Helios's performance is an impressively balanced one, opening with bold hop bitterness that gives way to malty sweetness just in time. This simple cycle of flavor mimics this sunny beer's namesake, and adds some extra dynamism to this usually stable style.
There's a good reason why "tripelbock" may not be a familiar term: technically speaking there is no such style. Helios Tripelbock is really just a doppelbock with a Napoleon complex. But that's not to say this beer needs to overcompensate with a fancy name—it's plenty robust on its own, all 9.5 percent of it. Helios Tripelbock's hazy marigold body radiates a surprisingly fresh, clean perfume. Tasting brings the expected boozy heat, along with toffee, phenols, and Braustelle's signature citrusy tang. By no means is this a beer to be taken lightly.
An English porter from a German brewery, aged in oak and described by the maker as “slightly sour.” Based on this hodgepodge description, the gustatory reality of Grergories Porter could be anybody's guess. Luckily we had access to the real thing, and can shed some light on the smoky dark of Braustelle's patchwork-quilt of a beer. A faint sliver of a latte head crowns an opaque black coffee body, releasing smells of chocolate-covered raisins, rum, and chicory. Dark chocolate predominates over the promised sourness, along with some notable anise. Owing to the oak, the body is impeccably smooth. This porter, like all good mysteries continues to draw us in even after it's solved.