Köln or Cologne is a bit of a watershed on this tour for a few reasons: it’s roughly halfway through, we stay here in the same hotel for three nights and, most importantly, we have a free day here.
It’s always been a special city for me as I spent quite a bit of time here as a child and with some lovely weather it’s felt like a mini holiday.
We’ve had a great time, starting with the concert which went down very well with the audience, they were quite a bit more lively than the others we’ve had so far this tour. Then, when you leave the stage here you’re greeted with one of the best sights in the music world:
Free Kölsch! It’s a nice light summer beer that is only made in and around Köln. There are loads of different breweries and the town is very proud of it, everyone seems to drink only Kölsch. Backstage we’re given Gaffel which is one of the larger producers. At first it seems like nice pilsner but you soon notice some differences, it’s quite hoppy and the head is good, soft and made from loads of tiny, almost champagne like bubbles.
After this we walked towards the old town and went into Peters Brauhaus. As you can probably guess they serve Peters Kölsch here. This is great stuff. It’s smoother than the Gaffel, a bit sweeter with some butter and a little apple in there and the hop is more subtle but still provides real flavour, not just bittering. It’s very easy to drink.
In one of the most incredible experiences of my life we bumped into some audience here who first bought a round for all seven of us then, when leaving, placed a €100 note on the table and told us to have a good night… In another bar a different member of the audience had just bought a round of champagne for all the orchestra there, maybe these things aren’t so unusual in Köln?
I also chatted with a barman who explained that Kölsch is top fermented and therefore an ale, not a lager. He said this is responsible for the good head and bubbles- many commercial lagers are artificially carbonated. When I get home I’m going to have a go at making something in this style, I think it’s a perfect summer beer.
Today on our free day I’ve been doing some present shopping and spent the afternoon at the Lentpark, a big swimming complex with a lovely, though freezing, outdoor pool. The time was split between having fun on a wide water slide that fitted three of us side by side and soaking up the sun sipping on more Kölsch.
Finally we returned to Peters Brauhaus for some traditional German cuisine: lots of meat generally served with some potatoes and sauerkraut. Excellent!