In October of 2019, Chicago’s Dovetail Brewing released its first-ever Kölsch, a style the team had wanted to brew since they opened two years earlier. To mark the overdue occasion, Dovetail totally overhauled how their taproom functions, turning it into a traditional German-style bierhaus for the night.
On the second floor, they shut down bar service and cut the tap list down to a single item. When patrons came in the door, staff escorted them to long, communal tables. There, they exchanged their credit cards for coasters. Instead of bartending, staff strolled the aisles with circular trays loaded with glasses of sparklingly clear Dovetail Kölsch-Style Ale. Empty glasses were quickly swapped for full ones, no order necessary. For each glass downed, a server added a mark to the coaster (or deckel), which acted as the ledger. When the customer placed their deckel atop the glass, service stopped.
This was the first Dovetail Kölsch Night, but what started as a single evening of total devotion to Köln’s style of beer and service has since grown into a tentpole event for Dovetail. Now, they host at least two Kölsch Nights per year, expanding the program to their main floor and out into the beer garden. And it’s not just them. Breweries across the United States are selling out Kölsch service, from Atlanta’s Halfway Crooks to Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm, Pennsylvania’s Workhorse Brewing, Utah’s Offset Bier, and more.
It’s an unlikely trend. Broadly, Kölsch is not an especially popular style—in fact, it’s the second-lowest selling craft style in the United States, according to IRI-tracked retail data. Yet Dovetail and these other craft breweries have energized their customers around this underappreciated style.