Cologne Beer Culture – Less is More?

When you think of German beer, large steins and the busty Bavarian women carrying them come to mind…or at least for me that is. To be fair, this is all I have known about German beer culture. Up until my Viking Cruise Rhine Getaway stops in Cologne, the only experience I had with Germany’s passion for beer is Munich’s famous beer houses. Turns out Cologne has plenty of pubs to discover and thanks to a Cologne beer tour with Viking Cruises, I found out that their beer culture is completely unique as well.

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Cologne beer tour culture

Less is More

The beer in Munich is big. Both in popularity and serving sizes. When a Munich beer tour calls itself Size Matters, this should be clear. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived on this Cologne beer tour excited to take down 1-litre steins, then disappointed to see tiny servings of beer served in front of me.

As I took the tiny glass in my hand I tried to hide my disappointment while listening to our tour guide explain the “kids’ size” portions. In Cologne, less is more. Kölsch, a special brew only made in Cologn, is served in 200 ml glasses and comes on a specially designed round tray called a ‘Kranz.’ The method behind this seemingly out-of-place small portion is simple: the small glasses (known as ‘Stangens’) ensure the beer is always cold and always fresh.

How fresh? The servers (called Köbes) keep the beer flowing. If your glass is empty, a new one will arrive until you place a coaster (beer mat) on top of your glass. Similar to how I found eating steak in Brazil in this stop/go fashion, this is a dangerous game friend.

Cologne beer tour culture
Cologne beer tour culture

Method to the Madness?

Although I am partial to a dark Dunkel while in Germany, I really did like the beer in Cologne. So do the locals. As I found on this Cologn beer tour, the city is home to the country’s highest density of pubs per capita. On top of that, there are laws in place to preserve this unique beer culture. These laws are on top of Germany’s own laws on brewing.

So yeah, beer is kind of a big deal in Cologne.

Cologne beer tour culture
On top of stopping the free pouring, your Köbes keep track of your servings by marking your coaster after each beer.

A Cologne Beer Tour Nightcap

This Cologn beer tour wrapped up early as our Viking Cruise Rhine Getaway ship was setting off that night. For the short trip back to the ship, our guide popped into a convenience store and grab us a couple of Kölschs to go.

What a country.

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Cologne beer tour

What say you?
Thoughts on this Cologne Beer Tour?
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For more reviews from Europe and beyond see HERE.

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Cologne beer tour culture

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Although I was provided a complimentary Cologne Beer Tour thanks to Viking River Cruises, the experience, opinions, and tiny beer discovery was my own.

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