Master Cicerone
Certified Sommelier
à la Bière
Bozeman, Montana
Master Cicerone
Consultant à la Bière

Beer Immersion: Cologne

Rich Higgins Beer Immersions Travel – Educational Beer Tourism to Europe
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Cologne & Düsseldorf

North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

No Dates Currently Offered

  • Contact Rich if you would like to inquire about Beer Immersion options in the future.


Likely breweries, visits, tours, and meals:

Cologne – Braustelle, Früh am Dom, Gaffel am Dom, Mühlen, Päffgen, Sünner im Walfisch, and more;
Düsseldorf – Uerige, Füchschen, Schumacher, Schüssel, and more!

Discount available to Cicerones® and Certified Beer Servers, too! Info at bottom of this page.

Map: Cologne Location

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Cologne & Düsseldorf: Jewels of Beer Culture

On the banks of the Rhine River in northwestern Germany lie Cologne and Düsseldorf: jewels of beer culture. The two cities are home to a dozen traditional brewers of delicate, impeccably fresh ales served from wooden barrels hoisted atop the bar. Residents gather at all times of day to sip on beer, eat soft pretzels, mustard, cheese, sausage, and pork roast, and talk politics and football/soccer. Fashionable, upmarket Düsseldorf is the state capital, while cosmopolitan, diverse Cologne is twice as large. Cologne is famous for its 500-foot-tall, Gothic Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that largely escaped the devastation of World War II air raids. Both cities have large, welcoming Old Towns filled with plazas, statues, and pedestrian zones.

Kölsch & Altbier: “Neighbeers” a World Apart

Cologne and Düsseldorf are rival cities, divided by 25 miles and 2 different beer styles. Cologne, known as Köln in German, is home to straw-colored, balanced Kölschbier. Düsseldorf brews chestnut-colored, hop-forward Altbier. The overwhelming pride in local beer, and the disdain with which each city regards the other city’s beer, are inspiring, charming, and border on hilarious.

At the brewpubs and beer halls, blue-aproned beer servers swing trays full of small glasses of foam-topped beers about the beer halls, on the look-out for almost-empty glasses. When you take the final sip of your cold, crisp beer, you’ll find another freshly poured beer waiting for you. Small glasses, just 6 to 8 ounces in volume, keep each beer a manageable size rather than risking that a larger pour might go idle and flat. This brilliant, efficient service style keeps the conversation and the beer flowing.

In the US, bottled, exported kölschbier is the un-dead, a pasteurized shadow of its former self; and proper, traditional altbier is rarely shipped outside Düsseldorf. Real, unpasteurized kölsch and alt are revelations in freshness, smoothness, and character. These beers just aren’t meant for export, and and you really have to visit these cities to try them!

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Special Beer Styles:

  • Kölsch: vibrant, crisp, nuanced golden ale, served from wooden gravity kegs
  • Düsseldorf-style Altbier: crisp mahogany ale full of malty structure and hoppy bitterness, served from wooden gravity kegs
  • Wiess: unfiltered Kölschbier, smooth and nourishing with a veil of yeast
  • plus: some great local craft beers, too

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Local Dishes:

  • Halve Hahn: translates as “Half Rooster,” but is actually just a starter of Gouda cheese served with rye rolls, butter, onion, and caraway seeds
  • Strammer Max: warm, open-face sandwich of grilled bread, fried eggs, and ham
  • Krüstchen Gulasch mit Röggelchen: crispy-skin pork cutlet in goulash, served with rye roll
  • 3/4m Hausgemacht Bratwurst: sautéed coil of housemade, spiced pork sausage 3/4 meters (2.5 feet) long!
  • Decke Bunne: broad beans with smoked ham and sometimes a light meat sauce
  • Mett Happen: raw ground beef coated in chopped onions on rye rolls (not my fave, but a crazy popular bar food!)
  • Flönz, Kölsche Kaviar, und Himmel un Äd: Flönz is popular, lightly smoked blood sausage; caviar is a joke about the visible fat cubes studded into the sausage; and Himmel un Äd is dialect for Flönz with applesauce (apples from the sky) and potato salad (apples from the earth)
  • Apfelstrudel: delicious, warm spiced apple dessert wrapped in flaky pastry and served with vanilla ice cream

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Local Customs We’ll Join In On:

  • enjoying being automatically served freshly-poured beers whenever your beer glass is almost empty
  • drinking beers served by gravity from wooden kegs
  • eating and drinking in bustling pubs in the shadow of one of the world’s largest cathedrals
  • listening to Kölners and Düsseldorfers insult each others’ beer, and deciding for yourself which is better: Kölsch or Altbier!
  • strolling the banks of the Rhine River

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Local Non-Beer Sights We’ll See:

  • Cologne Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Reliquary of the Three Wise Men, Cologne’s Historisches Rathaus
  • Jewish Quarter Archeological Zone, Ancient Roman walls
  • large Cologne and Düsseldorf Old Towns
  • the serene and mighty Rhine River

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Places I’ve Enjoyed Staying At:

  • CityClass Hotel Residence am Dom, Alter Markt 55, Cologne
  • website ~ TripAdvisor

    • nice rooms and in-room modern bathrooms in a medium-sized, modern hotel, with elevators
    • central location has a tradeoff: it can be noisy outside due to proximity to bars and nightlife — consider bringing earplugs for sleeping
    • located in the heart of the Old Town/Altstadt on the Old Market plaza
    • from hotel: 7-min walk to the train station; several Kölsch breweries and taprooms within 5-minute walk
  • Hotel am Augustinerplatz, Hohe Strasse 30, Cologne
  • website ~ TripAdvisor

    • small rooms with in-room modern bathrooms in a medium-sized hotel, with elevator
    • perfectly clean, functional hotel in a good location, but lacks some charm
    • located at south end of the Old Town/Altstadt, near restaurants, bars, and shopping district
    • from hotel: 12-min walk to the train station; 5-min walk into the historic heart of the Old Town/Altstadt

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10% discount for Cicerones® and Certified Beer Servers!

Hold a Cicerone® Certified Beer Server distinction or higher?
You’ll get 10% off your Immersion price!

Photo: Beer Journey Tasting Notebook and Guide

Beer Immersions are the best way to study and learn about beer! Plus, participants receive a free Cicerone® Beer Journey tasting notebook and guide.

Click here for more information about the Cicerone® Certification Program.

Photo: Beer Journey Tasting Notebook and Guide

(Beer Immersions are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Cicerone® Certification Program.)

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