Kölsch – the gateway to new beer styles

Not so long ago, I was a self professed lager lout. I tried those trendy IPA’s that people were raving about – but the ones I tried were far too bitter and unbalanced. Hey drinking beer was supposed to be a pleasurable experience, so if I couldn’t find anything I could enjoy, I’ll stick to the tried and true lager.

The Kölsch changed all that for me and opened me up to a world of great beer! What exactly is a Kölsch (anglicised koelsch or kolsch) anyway?

Technically its a beer that is warm fermented at around 13 to 21 °C (55 to 70 °F), then conditioned by lagering at cold temperatures. Less technically, its an ale made like a lager.

A bit about Kölsch History:

Der Kranz – Kölsch serving tray.

Grab hold of your umlauts and lets learn a bit more about this style. The Kölsch is named for the German city Köln (anglicised Cologne). Though it had been around since the late 1800’s, it was first recorded to be brewed at the  Sünner brewery in 1906. It was a true oddball style as more than 90% of breweries in Germany at the turn of the century made lagers.

Köbes has also come to mean a ‘headstrong man’ in local vernacular.

If you know your beer history – you’ll know about the German Beer Purity Law which originated in Bavaria in 1516.  Kölners weren’t going to take any that Bavarian guff and at one point even banned the making of lagers in 1603! Because of this, lager brewing came later in Köln than other German cities. Interestingly enough, a true Kölsch does adhere to the Reinheitsgebot, but uses an ale yeast instead of a lager yeast.

In an effort to make Kölsch great again, Köln gave the Kölsch it’s own Protected Geographical Indication. Much like the way Champagne can only come from the Champagne region, Kölsch can only be brewed in the Köln region . In addition to the regional requirements, it is also needed to be top fermented, light coloured, highly attenuated, hoppy and meet the standards of the Kölsch Konvention which operates under the Reinheitsgebot.

It even has a peculiar way of being served: officially it should be served in a 7oz (200ml) Stange, a straight glass. These glasses are served by Köbes (waiters) inside a Kranz, a cylindrical serving tray. And before you think Stange, Köbes and Kranz are just regular ol’ Germans words, they are infused a bit with local humour. Stange literally means stick, Kranz means crown (or wreath), Köbes, is a derivative of the name Jakob – I guess all the waiters have the same name!

The Kölsch / Altbier Rangewars

Just around the corner from Köln, is Düsseldorf. They have their specialty beer called Altbier. Altbier is another German beer style that is similar to Kölsch in that it uses ale yeast and is then lagered. But Altbier is darker and is typically more bitter than the Kölsch. Its been said that in the town of Langenfeld, there is actually a demarcation line between Köln and Düsseldorf to separate Kölsch and Altbier areas! Specifically on the main street where Kölner Street changes to Düsseldorfer Street and vice versa. Legend has it, that Landlords would only dispense Alt on the Düsseldorf side, and Kölsch on the Köln side.

This rivalry even extends to German memes depending on which area you’re from. See for yourself…

This is how Kölsch is brewed / This is how Alt is brewed

Enough chatter, what does it taste like? 

A traditional Kölsch is classified a Pale Bitter European Beer. Its colour is light gold and should be very clear.  It will have medium to low head, have aromas of soft fruit with light-to-medium body and solid carbonation. Overall it should be crisp and refreshing.

Does Outlier Cartel make a Kölsch?

“Yeah… nah”. Our Cargo Cult is fundamentally a Kölsch!  We were inspired by those thirst quenching crispness of rice lagers and the nuanced ale flavours of a Kölsch. Not ones to follow convention, why not make a beer that is the best of both worlds?  So while we could never enter Cargo Cult as a true to style Kölsch (it’s not from Köln and contains rice) it’s still damn tasty!

Read More

Gypsy Brewing – the 411

What exactly is Gypsy Brewing? What is it not?

Gypsy brewing refers to the ability of brewing in different places. This means finding partner breweries willing to get your beers made and packaged at their facility, letting you set up shop where it makes sense to you for a number of different reasons. These reasons can include availability of unique ingredients, great processes at the partner brewery, water characteristics, closeness to market or a multitude of others!  Gypsy Brewers can be varied, and at multiple locations at the same time. Albeit not the case for Outlier Cartel, there are cases where gypsy brewing means an actual brewery wandering to find locations that meet particular requirements or have certain characteristics that make it unique for the process of the brewery.

What are some of the differences in brewing from a fixed facility and brewing as a journeyman? Are there any surprises?

Having your own equipment has the enormous advantage of being able to understand and fine tune your processes to great detail. This will allow you to produce great quality beer consistently and at a better margin since you aren’t paying anyone else to make his for you. When you are a brewing journeyman you need an amount of trust in your production brewery that isn’t easy to reach. You may be able to find a partner brewery that isn’t compatible with the processes your particular brewing style/process requires. This can result in products that aren’t up to the standards you’re looking for or a product that differs from the recipe you originally designed. This only means that recipe design and executing process breweries aren’t always in unison and doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the beers at a particular brewery per se. You may find that a brewery produces great quality beers under other labels, but they can’t translate your recipes accurately into the desired beers.

Besides being a good brewer, what else does it take to be good at Gypsy brewing?

More than being a good brewer, you need to have a good working knowledge of science, and an ability to translate product concepts to a recipe design that makes sense. It requires good process managing, understanding the logistics behind both product development and production processing. You’ll need to liaise with suppliers, source ingredients, some of which may be rare or hard to find. In addition you need to talk to local manufacturers to understand how to make things wherever you are at the moment, build relationships based on mutual trust, so you get the best and more importantly when you require it. You’ll need to be able to work across internal and external stakeholders in a timely manner and sometimes under pressure. A good brewer will be able to correctly interpret the recipe design into a physical product – so whilst not being essential to being good at gypsy brewing, the production brewer will very much appreciate if you speak their language.

What are the most memorable places you’ve brewed at? 

Definitely brewing in Tahsis, BC as well as putting down a batch in Pearl River, NY. Being exposed to unique ingredients such as foraged mushrooms in BC as well as NY state grown malt. The unique locations and challenges/opportunities it brings with it make it a very enjoyable thing to do. Each place is unique, and this can be repeated in as many locations as you can find.

Gypsy brewers tend to do alot of collaborations. Why is this and what are our some of your favourite collaborations?

See above. The ability to find locations and build partnerships often come with creating lasting relations. This uniquely human aspect of gypsy brewing will naturally result in collaborations, and it would be odd not to do this since you are partners already.

Who are the most successful Gypsy brewers in the world? Locally who else is doing this in New Zealand and Asia Pacific.

There’s notable early trendsetters like Evil Twin Brewing and Mikkeller of Copenhagen; and Stillwater Artisanal of Baltimore who built themselves into international brands through sales in bars, supermarkets and beer stores. They have all have been very successful and have now moved to their own facilities, some after up to 10 years of gypsy brewing. In NZ and Asia Pacific, there’s some examples like Behemoth and Yeastie Boys, as well the now defunct Cult Brewing.

What are the drawbacks of being a gypsy brewer?

I can name a few drawbacks from not owning your own stainless steel such as getting brewing dates bumped, not getting your carefully designed recipes translated into product correctly, getting misunderstood or poorly understood by the market – ‘wow, the quality and consistency of your beers is amazing, even though you’re a gypsy brewer’, and many others.

From a business perspective, what are the main advantages of being a gypsy brewer?

Here’s where the adaptability and flexibility of gypsy brewing plays in your favor: you can be at the forefront of trends by answering swiftly to even small changes since your loyal following expects precisely that from you, you don’t have a taproom that expects you to have lines with the same beers all the time, you can set up shop where you think you can sell your stuff rather than having to come up with strategies to sell stuff where everyone already knows you.

Is Gypsy brewing for everyone: why or why not? Will we see more gypsy brewers in the future?

We may possibly see more Gypsy Brewers in the future. Like the article mentioned above, there’s big responsibility that comes with being a gypsy brewer, and I don’t think most brewers as well as consumers actually appreciate that. You can quickly make a bad name for yourself as a brewer, because customers will expect transparency from you amongst other things. We make a point of always stating where we’ve made our beer, and are proud of our partnerships rather than trying to hide the fact we don’t own stainless steel. People will end up knowing your story, and if you’re not transparent from the get-go and good at what you do, things will eventually become hard for you.

New site design and the Postulate of Cold Ones

Hi Cartelians,

Just a quick apology for any of those who had experienced the ‘Maintenance Page’ today – we were just updating our website template after 2 plus years! We thought the new template is a great new way to highlight some of the artists we have worked with.  We hope you like it – we may still be working out a few kinks here and there.  And thank you Madalin Tudose, who helped me get this up and running!

And for those that missed it – here is video from our maintenance page this morning. It ponders on the nuances of the fabled ‘Cold One’:

Happy Christmas to All!

Mark, Carlos and Alvin



2017 in Haiku: Interstellar Bears – dreamily fall from great heights – in Wunderkammers

2017: Let’s Celebrate Summer with our 2nd Birthday!

First of all – we’d love for you to celebrate with us at the Outlier Cartel 2nd Birthday bash. Here’s what you need to know:WhereThe Lobby, 12 Vulcan Lane, Auckland CBD
When: Saturday 9th of December at 12:00 pm

We’ve made a variety of beers released in kegs, cans and bottles this year. Some of these were small and polarising one-offs like the dry-hopped imperial Apfelwein we presented for this years’ Fresh Hop event, a few others were large enough batches to get distributed throughout NZ. It may seem light by Outlier Standards, however we took a different approach this year. Instead of cranking out new releases, we took our time to build relationships in the New Zealand Craft Beer community and around the world – which included Defiant Brewing in the USA and Adobe Software. The collaborations helped push our creative limits:

Interstellar Blush – Our Collaboration with Hallertau

Gypsy Rose – Our Collaboration with the Pink Boots Society
Kekulé’s Dream – Our Collaboration with Adobe Software
New Zengland IPA – Our Collaboration with Defiant
Enchanterelle – Our mushroom red scotch ale with Tahsis FarmOur own creations this year have been exciting too:

Wunderkammer – It’s really a gruit, read more here!
From Such Great Heights – cheeky Canteloupean Beer!
Poke the Bear – A marshmellowy summery delight!

So whats new for 2018…

Well, Come and talk to us to find out or get in touch clicking here!


This is a very short post – but an important part of our beer making – don’t cut corners and be happy! These tiny signs are posted at our partner brewery in Tahsis, BC!