With Köbes, Kölsch beer and Cologne hospitality: A living traditionAround the corner from the Cathedral, on a side street just off Cologne’s shopping streets, at the gateway to the Altstadt (Old Town) — The Früh brewery pub is centrally located for everyone who’s visiting Cologne and enjoying its lively atmosphere. Thanks partly to its convenient location, Früh established itself quickly and successfully after opening its doors back in 1904.
Germany’s second-largest brewery pubWith room for about 1,500 guests, Früh is the second-largest brewery pub in Germany today, second only to the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. Every year, approximately 2.5 million guests stop by for a Kölsch or two — and for a meal, of course. Here’s an interesting comparison: Cologne Cathedral welcomes six million visitors annually.
Kölsch on tap from wooden barrels: 90 litres of Kölsch or 450 freshly poured glassesYou might wonder how such a multitude of guests can be served so fast on a daily basis. The answer is a 90-litre wooden barrel on the counter that holds 450 Stangen — the special cylindrical glasses in which Kölsch is served. The waiters are known as Köbes, but if the server is a woman, she’s called a Köbine, Jakubine or Kranzmarie.
Here the Kölsch has been drawn from a wooden barrel ever since 1904, when Peter Josef Früh opened his brewery pub. When things get lively, a wooden barrel of this kind can be emptied in just 19 minutes, with the tapster filling a new Stange every two or three seconds. That said, cheers!
A short digression: After you’ve caught his or her eye, the Köbes or the Köbine brings you your Kölsch. A Köbes traditionally wears a blue apron, carries a leather wallet and treats customers with a typical brusqueness. After you’ve emptied your glass of Kölsch, the next one quickly stands before you, full to the brim — whether you’ve ordered it or not. If you don’t want another glass, you often can’t get a word in edgewise, because the Köbes or Köbine prefers to react to a symbolic signal: the beermat. If you put your beermat on top of your Kölsch glass, you won’t be included in the next round and you’ll miss out on the buzz.
The menu at Früh am Dom — what you’ll be served on your scrubbed wooden tableOn your way to a tourist attraction or your shopping tour, Früh is never far away, offering you a refreshing Kölsch — as well as a bountiful menu that caters to appetites of every size. In addition to a changing weekly menu, Früh serves hearty traditional fare such as schnitzel, stews, pork knuckle and sausages. On Mondays there are always potato pancakes; on Wednesdays the special is always grilled pork ribs.
Of course the menu also includes typical Kölsch specialties such as Halver Hahn (a bread roll with cheese), Himmel un Ääd (black pudding with mashed potatoes and apple sauce), broad beans with bacon, Rhenish sauerbraten and pork knuckle — in addition to other classics of savoury home cooking. Everything is made according to Granny Früh’s time-honoured recipes, which are traditionally delicious. But when it comes to beer, there’s no room for discussion — the only brand that’s served here is freshly tapped Früh Kölsch from the barrel.
Several buildings, many rooms, numerous occasionsFrüh has been expanded again and again, and today the brewery pub occupies several buildings stretching along the address Am Hof 12–18. The striking building with a crow-stepped gable, which was built in 1691, used to be an inn called “Zur Glocke”. It became an extension of Früh in 1989. But the story began with the building to the right of it, back in 1904.
The dimensions of Kölsch hospitality: The pub restaurant, the fireside lounge, the hall etc.The main restaurant area of Früh is on the ground floor, with all the features a rustic and typically Kölsch pub requires — wooden tables, wooden chairs, wood panelling, a tiled fireplace, painted ceilings, a bar counter and a “confessional,” where the manager sits. Connected to this restaurant area are several other rooms, including the Wappensaal, the conservatory, the sauna, the Glockenstube, the Glockenstuhl, the delicatessen counter, the Cologne Room, the fireplace lounge and the Heinzelmännchen Room on the first floor, which is a bit more sedate. The first floor used to be the residence of the Früh family, and today it is furnished with antiques from the Rhineland region.
The Früh complex also includes the Früh Lounge for private parties and conferences, the Eden Hotel Früh, and restaurants in other parts of the city, such as “Em Tattersall” at Cologne’s racetrack in Weidenpesch.
A brewery pub cellar with medieval flair: Open to guests since 1998For a long time, the cellar of the brewery pub was used as a space for fermentation and storage. This is where Früh Kölsch was originally brewed. Früh opened up its cellar to guests in 1998, after there was no longer enough capacity to accommodate guests in the original building. The medieval vaults were exposed, and a cellar bar was installed. Incidentally, the brewery pub cellar is open one hour longer than the other parts of the complex.
A beer garden with a view of the Pixies’ FountainWhen the weather is fine, people also like to sit in the beer garden in front of Früh. From here there are good views of the Pixies’ Fountain, the Domplatte (Cathedral Square), towards Hohe Straße and of the beautiful façade of the building located at Am Hof 12–14.
A brief history of Früh, from its opening until todayPeter Josef Früh, the son of a master brewer from Brühl, began to operate the Aposteln brewery in Lindenthal in 1895. This was initially a short-term arrangement, and it was a great success. In 1904 he established a new brewery pub near the Cathedral, naming it Früh. For this purpose, he renovated and expanded the former Central Theatre and commissioned the Cologne-based sculptor Georg Grasegger to design the large public room. After Peter Früh died in 1915, ownership of the company remained in the family. Today it is still managed by members of the fifth generation of Peter Josef Früh’s family.
By the way, if you visit the Melaten Cemetery, be sure to take a look at the monumental Art Nouveau tomb of Peter Josef Früh and his family members.
Früh wasn’t spared during the bombing of Cologne in the Second World War. The main building burned in 1944 and 1945. But the production equipment remained intact, so the brewery could resume operations relatively quickly, while the buildings were being repaired step by step. Ever since then, the brewery pub has been a magnet for guests — Cologne residents as well as overnight visitors and people passing through. As a result, Früh now extends along the entire facade of Am Hof 12–18 in Cologne.