From a Vienna Lager to a Baltic Porter to a German Leichtbier, the official beer of the Erie County Fair has taken on many forms, and while it has been many things over the course of these past five years, once thing it has never been is a Kolsch. Until now that is, because the official beer of the 2021 Erie County Fair is a German-style Kolsch courtesy of Hamburg Brewing.
The beer actually comes from the mind of Erie County Fair Homebrew Competition winner Rick Felser, whose kolsch took home the top prize, meaning it would be brewed and scaled up for production by Hamburg Brewing, and then served throughout the fairgrounds.
“The exciting part about the fair’s homebrew competition is that the best in show recipe gets to be scaled up and named the official beer of the fair,” Hamburg Brewing Owner John Russo says. “Rick took these honors with the fair’s 2021 Homebrew Competition with his kolsch recipe and we were very happy to work with him on it. With a tight timeline, our magic-making brewing staff was able to pull it off.”
Erie County Fair Kolsch is a light, crisp and refreshing German-style Kolsch brewed with noble hops and light pilsner malt. It’s breadier than most kolsch, though that breadiness is balanced our by notes of sweet malt. It’s an easy drinker.
“The beer is certainly a true-to-style Kolsch with its pale straw color and ingredient structure,” Russo explains. “Our base malt at HBC is an American grown pilsen malt and we combined that with a solid dusting of German Vienna malts and some wheat. The most important part of the beer is that Rick built a great water profile. That part is key to getting the most out of the German Hallertauer hops used to give the beer some spice. The beer drinks clean and crisp with subtle sweetness. The short story is that it is a great crusher for the extreme heat of August at the Erie County Fairgrounds.”
Russo believes that a kolsch is a perfect beer accompaniment to the fair due to its supreme ease of drinkability, something this writer can certainly speak to. I enjoyed one earlier this week and can attest that it went down smooth and perhaps a little too easily.
“Personally, I feel that the kolsch style is pretty close to perfect for the fair,” Russo says. “Its drinkability is only matched by a couple of other styles such as a pilsner or light lager. It has the flavor and oomph of ale, but the crisp and clean feel of a pale lager due to its cold fermentation and aging. This hybrid style was perfected in Cologne, Germany long ago for a reason. Prost!”
Erie County Fair Kolsch is only available at the fairgrounds, available anywhere that beer is sold in the fairgrounds on draft.
Brian Campbell is co-founder and Brand Manager of the Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), and Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague).