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Thornbridge Tzara, 4.8%
Kölsch is possibly one of the most difficult styles of beer to emulate. The native beer of Cologne is such a delicate little flower of a beer that it doesn’t take much to crush its petals and ruin the whole show.
Thornbridge, I’m thrilled to say, has green fingers when it comes to their cultivation of this bright and breezy type of beer.
The production hallmarks of kölsch are a warm fermentation, to encourage fruity, floral flavours and aromas, followed by a cold maturation in the lager fashion, which should crisp things up and leave the beer lean and clean.
Thornbridge has followed the best examples to the letter, matching the strength and including four weeks lagering, and come up with a beer that is among the most refreshing you’re ever likely to drink.
A glance at the ingredients list makes interesting reading. The grist is comprised of extra light German pilsner malt, some Carapils and wheat – a sensitive hand then when it comes to colour and malt intensity.
The hops are the German favourites Perle and Tettnanger, both likely to encourage a clean, herbal bitterness and subtle citrus fruit flavours. Vitally, the yeast is an authentic kölsch yeast, which ensures a flowery note.
The beer bubbles up pale and yellow in the glass, with neat, white foam head. The aroma is instantly enticing, lemon-sharp and fresh, with a delicate perfume. Dig deeper and there’s a gentle graininess at its heart with herbal hop notes developing.
On the tongue, the beer is crisp and spritzy, bittersweet and quenching. Lemon leads the way before perfumed, floral flavours blossom on the palate, with a subtle peppery bite adding complexity.
Dry and slightly bready, the finish begins with lemon but turns tangy and floral, with bitterness quickly taking over.
Crucially, having created such an elegant beer, Thornbridge has had the sense not to pasteurize it, which gives it a distinct advantage over various Cologne-brewed examples of the style.
By the way, the name of the beer, Tzara, has no Cologne connections. It refers to a Romanian/French poet, playwright and performance artist. The Thornbridge guys just liked the name.