facade of the Paeffgen pub in the old town of Cologne. The Paeffgen brewery brews the famous Koelsch beer, a top fermented beer originated in Cologne
Christian Mueller/

The Soul of Cologne lives in a Brewery

Together with the cathedral, carnival and the Rhine, the city’s breweries form the foundation of Cologne. Anyone who wants to understand the soul of Cologne must visit the breweries, drink the moreish Kölsch beer from small glasses and talk to the people there. It’s an experience that can be had at any of the well-known addresses in the city or in the old town. Many locals, however, prefer to visit the breweries in their own neighbourhoods. Not only is the beer cheaper here, but you’ll also meet fewer tourists. funkyGERMANY introduces you to five of the most atmospheric and sociable breweries in Cologne.

Malzbier-Brauerei Gerhard Fischenich

In its current form, the Gerhard Fischenich Malt Beer Brewery is still so new that even many Cologne locals are not aware of its existence. It is in fact located in a traditional quarter, very close to the university. The brewery is run by the owners of the “Haus Töller”, who ensure an endless supply of Päffgen Kölsch beer from wooden barrels. On the small menu guests will find dishes like goulash, potato soup and roast knuckle of pork – hearty, traditional fare that is popular with guests. The entrance of the wonderfully old-fashioned restaurant is illuminated by a gas lantern, creating an air of nostalgia and history. Directly behind the brewery is perhaps the most beautiful taproom in town. The bar is so compact that you are guaranteed to get into conversation with a local. 

External facade of the Gerhard Fischenich malt beer brewery
Ralf Johnen

Malzbier-Brauerei Gerhard Fischenich, Weyerstrasse 71, 50676 Cologne, Tel. 0221 258 93 16 (only Thurs to Sat)

Max Stark

Local celebrities, regulars and drinking societies are equally represented in the “Starkse Max”. This traditional restaurant dates back to 1889, is perhaps the biggest attraction in the Kunibert quarter. The brewery gets along without music and carnival. Instead, there is good brewhouse-style cuisine, quick-witted Köbesse (brewery waiters and waitresses) and, of course, fresh Päffgen Kölsch on tap. 

Sauerbraten at Max Stark Brauhaus in Cologne
Ralf Johnen

Max Stark, Unter Kahlenhausen 47, 50668 Cologne, Tel. 0221 200 56 33, 

Früh em Veedel

A small room where everyone stands together and drinks together. That is how life in Cologne is sung about in a well-known German song. And if you think that’s a myth, an early morning visit to “Früh em Veedel” will clear up any remnants of doubt… Here in the south of the city, the city’s brewhouse traditions are practiced as they always have been. The pub has been in existence since 1886 and was long known as the “Invalids’ Cathedral” because pensioners and veterans met here to start the day with a schnapps. The adjacent restaurant serves mainly hearty, local Rhineland cuisine. But don’t worry, you don’t have to order three courses if you just want something to accompany your Kölsch. Traditional snacks are also served in the taproom. The Kölsch is fabulously inexpensive at just 1.50 euros a glass.

Köbes fills shot glasses at Früh Brauerei in Cologne
Ralf Johnen

Früh em Veedel, Chlodwigplatz 28, 50670 Cologne, Tel. 0221 31 44 70

Brauhaus Pütz 

In a Cologne brewhouse, the traditional system of service is like this: The “Köbes” (the waiter or waitress) buys a barrel of Kölsch beer from the brewhouse and sells it on to the customers drinking within the Köbes’ “zone” within the pub. In the Pütz Brewery, this system ensures that empty glasses are replenished particularly quickly. Located in Engelbertstrasse, guests entering the place for the first time are amazed by the building’s extensive catacombs, as well as the fabulous food. The goulash or the “Brewer’s Plate” taste great with a freshly tapped Kölsch beer. For larger appetites, the menu includes classics like “Kassler” (cured, smoked pork loin) with sauerkraut to a massive knuckle of pork with fried potatoes. Enjoy!

Mühlenkölsch at Brauhaus Pütz in Cologne
Ralf Johnen

Brauhaus Pütz, Engelbertstraße 67, 50674 Cologne, Tel. 0221 21 11 66

Reissdorf at the Greek market 

The Greek market district is a largely tourist-free zone. In other words, here the people of Cologne are among themselves. In Reissdorf’s contemporarily furnished main brewery the atmosphere is correspondingly sociable. People of all ages and from all walks of life have been coming together here since 1992. On the extensive “Fooderkaat” you will find, other than specialties from the Rhineland, curried sausage, rump steak and a few vegetarian dishes. But if you like, you can also simply order a little something like a “Halve Hahn”; literally “half a chicken” but actually a thick slice or two of gouda cheese on a buttered rye bread roll, often served with sliced onion and sprinkle of paprika.

Two Kölsch glasses in the Früh em Veedel in the southern part of Cologne
Ralf Johnen

Kleiner Griechenmarkt 40, 50676 Cologne, Tel. 0221 21 92 54