Beer House Walking Tour, Cologne

Beer House Walking Tour (Self Guided), Cologne

In Cologne they say, "Kölsch is the only language you can drink." Brewed only here and nowhere else, Kölsch – a light beer, slightly bitter, bright yellow in color, and made of top-fermented yeast – is forbidden for production in any other part of Germany.

Each licensed brewery in the city makes its own variation of Kölsch, served traditionally in a tall, thin, cylindrical 200-ml (6.8 US fl oz) glass called a Stange ("pole" or "rod"). In keeping with the local ritual, the server, called a Köbes, carries eleven or twelve Stangen in a Kranz ("wreath"), a circular tray resembling a crown or wreath. Instead of waiting for you to order a refill, the Köbes immediately replaces an empty Stange with a full one, marking a tick on the coaster under the Stange. If you don't want another refill, you can cover the glass with the coaster, which means "enough for me."

The most logical place to start a pub crawl in Cologne is Gaffel am Dom, a fairly well-known beer-house located at the foot of the Cathedral, which has been making Kölsch since 1908. From here, you can make way to the famous Brauhaus Früh am Dom, the second largest brewery in Germany after Munich's Hofbräuhaus, established since 1904. Here, Kölsch is still bottled from the original wooden barrels, which hold 90 liters or 450 glasses.

Also notable, further down the road, are the Sion Brauhaus – the maker of signature Sion Kölsch; the Brauerei zur Malzmuehle – renowned, among other things, for being visited by German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and US President Bill Clinton; and many other prominent beer-houses.

To explore them all in more detail whilst sampling the freshest and diverse varieties of Kölsch, take this self-guided walking beer tour of Cologne and enjoy yourself!
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Beer House Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Beer House Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Cologne (See other walking tours in Cologne)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: audrey
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Gaffel am Dom
  • Fruh Brauhaus
  • Sion Brauhaus
  • Peters Brauhaus
  • Sunner im Walfisch
  • Brauerei zur Malzmuehle
Gaffel am Dom

1) Gaffel am Dom

Gaffel am Dom is a traditional, yet modern brewery and tavern situated in Cologne's historic Deichmannhaus since 2008. This seven-storey neoclassical edifice is named after Wilhelm Ludwig Deichmann, one of the co-founders of the Deutsche Bank, and was built in 1914 replacing the original building erected in the mid 19th century.

As for the brewery, Gaffel Becker & Co was founded in Cologne in 1908 by the Becker Brothers. Being a member of the Cologne Brewery Association, it is authorized to produce its own brand of the traditional regional top-fermented beer – Gaffel Kölsch. The brand's name derives from the Cologne Gaffels, who were the political arm of the guilds and merchants in the city back in 1396. "Gaffel" was the old Cologne expression for a two-pronged fork that the local merchants brought from Venice in the 11th century.

Behind the majestic façade you will find a typical Rhenish beer-house where Cologne's metropolitan flair meets a village-like tranquility in a mix of traditional brewery attributes (lights, large copper elements and numerous original pieces of historical beer advertisements) and innovative dispensing and cooling technology. Fine dry Gaffel Kölsch here is delivered via an uninterrupted cold chain from the brewery to the tap, using the Gaffel cellar barrel system guaranteeing absolute freshness.

Spread on three floors, the house can seat up to 700 guests; the outdoor section has 300 seats. The spacious, light-filled rooms with long bars, benches and tables on the one hand, and cozy nooks, small booths and secluded rooms on the other, produce an ambiance that is bourgeois, hearty, comfortable and, as is so typical of the Rhinelander, positive and cheerful. The menu features hearty regional specialties, including a large variety of German sausages.
Fruh Brauhaus

2) Fruh Brauhaus

Brauhaus Früh is perhaps the most popular biergarten (beer-garden) in Cologne's Old Town. Also known as Früh am Dom for being located directly opposite the Cologne Cathedral, this brewery is named after its first owner, Peter Josef Früh.

Converting the building of the former Central Theater and Schützenliesel restaurant, at Am Hof 12, into a top-fermentation facility in 1904 marked the first milestone for Cölner Hofbräu P. Josef Früh KG. Here the beer was brewed right in the cellars. Over the years, the location has been continuously expanded and developed.

During World War II, the building, like the rest of Cologne, was severely damaged by bombing raids, with its main section completely burned down in February 1944. In 1987, the production was moved to the Fühlingen district of Cologne, and Früh became a draft beer pub. Gradually, the pub incorporated three neighboring houses and now has about 1400 seats, including the beer-garden. There are several uniquely decorated halls - "Armorial Hall", "Winter Garden", "Bell Tower", and "Roman cellar" (here you can see the remains of the ancient Roman masonry, as well as old equipment of the brewery). The establishment is currently run by the fifth generation of the Früh family.

In addition to the freshly tapped Früh Kölsch, the beer-house offers a large range of meat dishes and snacks, prepared especially to go with the brew. Here you can also discover the art of traditional brewing and serving beer – waiters carrying "perforated" trays, in the holes of which glasses are inserted.

In 2003 the Feinkosttheke delicatessen was opened next to the beer-house, offering Früh's homemade specialties, spices, mustard and sauces.
Sion Brauhaus

3) Sion Brauhaus

Brauhaus Sion – the “beating heart” of Sion Kölsch beer – is a traditional historic brewery and inn in the middle of Cologne's Old Town. Hospitality has been celebrated here since 1318 when a tavern at Unter Taschenmacher No. 5 (Under Bagmaker #5) was first mentioned in the city documents.

Originally, the facility on the site of today's Sion beer-house specialized in brewing of the so-called Medebier (mead), using herbs and honey. Since the brewing rights in Cologne, at that time, were always tied to the actual location, it is safe to assume that the beer was made right inside the building.

Over the course of centuries, the brewery had changed hands repeatedly until, eventually, Jean Sion from an Eifel brewing dynasty took over the business and laid foundation for the success story of Sion Kölsch. He ran it until his death in 1915, upon which his heirs followed as owners.

The brewery was heavily damaged by bombing in 1942 and at the end of World War II was completely destroyed. After the war, Hans Sion – praised as the “Father of Kölsch” – had the house rebuilt and started trading under the current name "Brauhaus Sion". The actual brewing was no longer done on the premises, but shifted to other Cologne breweries. After Hans Sion's death in 1998, his son Hans Georg Sion inherited the place, now comprising the "Unter Taschenmacher No. 3-11" complex capable of seating up to 600 guests. Today, René Sion continues to lead the brewery in the fourth generation.

The "Brauhaus Sion" inn, furnished in a rustic brewery style, mainly offers specialties from the regional Rhenish cuisine. Little things like Halver Hahn, Rievkoche or Kölsch caviar are also served here alongside Sion Kölsch on the tap.
Peters Brauhaus

4) Peters Brauhaus

Peters Brauhaus is a traditional German beer-house in Cologne. It is a landmark establishment licensed to brew Kölsch beer, and it is one of the last remaining breweries in the city that still produces its own brand of Kölsch beer, known as Peters Kölsch. The brewery has been in existence since November 26, 1847, and the brewing tradition in Monheim, where the brewery is located, dates back to 1262. The cylindrical beer glasses, known as Kölschstange or Kölner Stange, in which Peters Kölsch is served, are inscribed with the year 1262.

Peters Brauhaus is located in Cologne's old town, in a side street just off Alter Markt, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The building's beautiful façade is an attraction in itself, and the friendly service and delicious traditional German cuisine make it a must-visit spot in the city. The restaurant is also family-friendly and perfect for large groups of friends.

The brewery has a rich history, dating back to 1544 when it was first mentioned in the tax records of the city of Cologne. It was likely one of the leading breweries in the city even then, as the tax records required a large amount of brewed and sold beer. The brewery changed ownership several times over the centuries, with Wilhelm Lammertz being the first mentioned as a brewer and owner in 1780. Brewing stopped in 1898, and the site was later bought by the Brügelmann cotton mill, which expanded on the site.

Today, Peters Brauhaus continues the brewing tradition, reviving the Kölsch culture that has been a part of Cologne's history for centuries. The beer is always served crispy cold, and the establishment also serves a range of meat dishes and locally-distilled schnapps. If you are looking to experience the traditional German beer-house culture and taste some delicious Kölsch, Peters Brauhaus is the perfect spot to visit.
Sunner im Walfisch

5) Sunner im Walfisch

Sünner im Walfisch is a cozy brewery located in a historic property dating from the mid-17th century. It stands on the site of another, medieval brewery "Heinrich zur Krae" (Krähe), the first records of which in the Cologne Rentkammer beer tax book appear as early as 1476.

Visitors to Sunner im Walfisch can expect to find a variety of traditional dishes on the menu, including Himmel & Ääd (a local dish made with mashed potatoes and apple sauce), broad beans with bacon and fried potatoes, and Rhenish sauerbraten with dumplings and red cabbage. Grilled rump steaks with herb butter and an oven-fresh knuckle of pork with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes are also popular choices.

If you're looking for a quick bite, Sunner im Walfisch offers a range of snack options as well. Try a Mett roll with freshly tapped Kölsch beer, Halve Hahn (a local sandwich made with rye bread and cheese), or a meatball with mustard and bread.
Brauerei zur Malzmuehle

6) Brauerei zur Malzmuehle

The Brauerei zur Malzmühle ("Brewery at the Malt Mill") is a traditional Kölsch brewery and restaurant at Heumarkt No. 6. The brewhouse was founded by Hubert Koch in 1858, which makes it one of the oldest in the city, and was originally known as the "Bier und Malzextrakt Dampfbrauerei Koch, Cöln" ("Beer and Malt Extract Steam Brewery, Cologne").

In 1901 Hubert's son Jakob Koch took over the brewery and turned it into a popular meeting place for locals, especially the well-off traders in the neighboring wholesale market hall. In 1912 Koch sold the business to his nephew Gottfried Joseph Schwartz, ancestor of the current owner family, who gave it the current name.

The malt mill was destroyed by bombing in 1945 and then rebuilt after World War II. In 1948, brewing operations resumed, although guests still had to be served outdoors.

Nowadays, the imposing historical property from 1744 is still in place. Here Malzmühle's main product – "Mühlen Kölsch", a unique traditional top-fermented beer, part of Cologne's Kölsch Convention – has been produced according to the original handmade brewing recipe ever since it was patented. Also within the building is a shop, where you can buy Mühlen Kölsch in bottles, crates or kegs.

In 1999, US President Bill Clinton visited the brewery whilst attending the G8 summit. Another prominent guest of the Malzmühle, in earlier times, was Konrad Adenauer.

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