Kölschglas, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Speciality beers of NRW

Pilsener, Altbier, Kölsch and other regional speciality beers

The beers of NRW are as diverse as the region itself. Traditional recipes and interesting new creations guarantee the perfect glass for every taste. Whether they are fruity, lively, dry, sweet or full-flavoured – every beer brewed in North Rhine-Westphalia is a true original!


For the people of Cologne, Kölsch is more than just a beer. This pale, top-fermented brew is firmly embedded in the city’s culture and ranks alongside Cologne Cathedral as a symbol of the city and its surrounding region. Indeed, the history of Kölsch is almost as old as that of the cathedral, with records of Kölsch breweries dating as far back as the 13th century. Today, 25 different Kölsch brands are being produced. Some are made in large-scale breweries whilst others are produced in traditional microbreweries and mostly served in the rustic atmosphere of an adjoining inn.

The atmosphere in a true Kölsch brewery pub is unique. With a rich mix of people and a genuine spirit of hospitality, the glasses are constantly replenished by the “Köbes”, as the old-style waiters of Cologne are called. The numerous breweries are popular with tourists and locals alike. Kölsch lovers are also well catered for in the area surrounding Cologne, with several brewery pubs and beer gardens serving the top-fermented beer in the Bergisches Land region. In Bonn, meanwhile, visitors will need a little more local knowledge if they want to order a Kölsch: here the pale beer goes by the name of Bönnsch.


Altbier is mostly savoured by locals and visitors in and around Düsseldorf. This very drinkable dark beer is inextricably linked to the state capital on the Rhine. Even though its name can be translated as “old beer”, this brew does not actually have a particularly long history or brewing process. “Altus” is Latin for “high” and refers to the high-rising yeast used to make this top-fermenting beer.

Outside of Düsseldorf, the dark brew is also popular in the surrounding Mettmann district and in the Lower Rhine. Visitors looking to savour a glass of Altbier in a traditionally rustic atmosphere should check out the microbreweries in the historic centre of Düsseldorf. The names to look out for include Füchschen, Schumacher, Schlüssel or Uerige. The malty flavour of this speciality beer really comes into its own when it is enjoyed in an authentic setting.


North Rhine-Westphalia is known throughout the world for the excellent quality and incomparable flavour of its Pilsener beers. Krombacher, Warsteiner, DAB, König Pilsener, Veltins, Fiege, Rolinck and many more all originated in Germany’s most populous state. Visitors to NRW will be able to order an authentic Pils brewed to German beer purity regulations just about everywhere. While in Cologne and Düsseldorf, it might admittedly be better to stick with the traditional local choices of Kölsch and Altbier, but it is fine to order a glass of Pilsener everywhere else.

The bottom-fermented beer is characterised by its pale to golden hue and ranks as one of the most popular beers in North Rhine-Westphalia. Apart from the well-known brands of the industrial breweries, a large number of microbreweries are also producing their own regional specialities. Visitors to NRW can sample these tasty beers, which are brewed with passion following traditional recipes, at the adjoining microbrewery inns.

Something different

Alongside the well-known Pilsener, Altbier and Kölsch varieties, the brewers of North Rhine-Westphalia tend to come up with all kinds of surprises. With new ideas seemingly on tap, local master brewers are constantly creating tasty and unusual new speciality beers. From weiss beer to malt beer and from beer eau-de-vie to beer cocktails, the finest of ingredients go into these new creations to ensure that the palates of beer-lovers in NRW never become jaded. Some of the more unusual choices include a refreshing Landbier (country beer), a special beer or a fruity beer drink.


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