Too Much Cologne Makes Me Happy

by Jim Lundstrom

I can’t decide what I like best about this beer, it’s delicious taste or its amusing name. It’s from Crystal Lake Brewing of Crystal Lake, Illinois, and it’s a German kolsch-style ale called Too Much Cologne.
Why is that funny? Maybe it isn’t if you don’t know the history of the kolsch style of beer. It’s an ale – meaning it is brewed with top-fermenting ale yeast – that is cold lagered in a secondary aging process. This makes it a hybrid beer, the closest an ale can get to being a lager, bringing a silky smoothness to the finished beer. 

More importantly, to officially be a kolsch, it must be brewed within 30 miles of the Germany city of Koln (which is known to us as Cologne; thankfully it is not in France, where if it would be called Eau de Toilette). Kolsch is a style that has been protected since 1997 with a Protected Geographical Indication, like Champagne or Stilton cheese.

So, a great name for a delicious, refreshing, crisp beer.

I followed that with Top View Brew, a golden wheat ale, also from Crystal Lake Brewing. The can label states that this beer “was created exclusively for The Signature Room, which, apparently, is on the 95th floor of a Chicago skyscraper. It’s probably been a quarter-century since I was last in Chicago, so I haven’t a clue what The Signature Room is or what building it might be in.

However, I dig the beer. It’s another light and refreshing beer, but there is a spiciness that I always look for in a great wheat beer, and with a slightly lemony finish. Sometimes I think there is nothing better in the world than wheat beer, or as the Germans call it, weizenbier (I once made one called Weizenheimer). There is something contemplative about sitting with a big glass of wheat beer with a beautiful white head riding high on top of it all.

I’m impressed by these two Crystal Lake beers, and I thank Ephraim resident Dick Van de Ven for giving me the two samples.