Brauhäuser in Köln: Ein ziegelsteiniges Brauhaus von außen, vor dem Gäste an Tischen Bier trinken und sich unterhalten.
Visitors to Cologne's brewery pubs might end up staying longer than planned... Photo: picture alliance/Rainer Hackenberg

Four iconic Cologne brewery pubs and fun facts about their histories

Looking for watering holes with that special something? Here are four of Cologne's most historic and friendly brewery pubs.

If you really want to understand Cologne’s soul, you have to visit the city’s brewery pubs. There are dozens of famous ones in the centre and the old part of the city (Altstadt) but lots of locals prefer the pubs tucked away in their neighbourhoods. That’s mainly because the beer’s cheaper but it’s also because many of these watering holes are rich in history and give visitors a flavour of the past. So which of Cologne’s brewery pubs are particularly good for travelling back in time?

1. Max Stark – an institution among Cologne’s brewery pubs

Brauhäuser in Köln: Im Brauhaus Max Stark sitzen viele Gäste auf dunklen Holzstühlen an hellen Tischen. Die Wände sind urig holzvertäfelt.
A lively scene at Marx Stark. Photo: Wolfgang Herrig

The history of this Cologne brewery pub stretches back to 1889 when a gentleman named – wait for it – Max Stark turned his hand to the art of beer-brewing. After many years of thriving business, the building was damaged during the war and forced to close. It wasn’t until 1953 that it received a makeshift roof along with a new owner and a new name. At the turn of the millennium, it returned resplendent yet unpretentious and bearing its old name.

Today, Max Stark’s wooden-panelled rooms provide a down-to-earth welcome for regulars, local celebrities and groups out for a drink or ten. It’s almost always full and there’s no music. Instead, you’ll hear a tale or two, accompanied by good old Cologne brewery food, the repartee of the köbes waiters and, of course, freshly tapped Päffgen kölsch. This occasionally results in the odd patron ending up slightly off kilter… A reliable source tells us they once found a receipt on the table here for 100 glasses of kölsch, four Ehrenfelder schnapps and one chicken salad for a party of four! Respect!

Unter Kahlenhausen 47, 50668 Cologne,

2. Früh em Veedel – history, distilled

Früh em Veedel is one of those brewery pubs in Cologne where you realise you’re entering a historic place before you’ve even passed the door. Located in a brick building with protected monument status on Chlodwigplatz square, it’s been around since 1886, used to be a distillery and has always had its old-world interior and fast waiters. The locals call it Invalidendom because pensioners and veterans used to meet here to start the day with a schnapps when the Hermann family ran the pub and distillery.

The schnapps are still served today, having been joined by a Bierbrand and advocaat, and the still stands nextdoor in the restaurant for all to admire. The food is mainly hearty regional cuisine, featuring homemade meatballs, Kölsche Kaviar (black pudding served with raw onion rings and a rye roll) and Veedel Krüstchen (pork cutlet with a fried egg and salad) plus vegetarian options like tarte flambée and cheese spaetzle.

Chlodwigplatz 28, 50670 Cologne,,

3. Malz-Bierbrauerei Gerhard Fischenich ­– a surprising find

Malz-Bierbrauerei Gerhard Fischenich is proof that even the oldest of Cologne’s brewery pubs can still be something of a revelation. Many people in Cologne don’t even know it exists though it’s located in a pub that’s been there for a long time, where Haus Schulz welcomed guests for 120 years.

Since 2016, Gerhard Fischenich has been run by the owners of Haus Töller opposite, who supply it with Päffgen kölsch from wooden casks. The menu features the celebrated grilled pork knuckle, goulash and potato soup. The entrance to this gloriously old-fashioned place is lit by a gas lantern – like in the old days. It leads directly into what is arguably the city’s most beautiful taproom, where the bar is so short that you’re guaranteed to find someone to chat to.

Weyerstraße 71, 50676 Cologne,

4. Brauhaus Reissdorf am Griechenmarkt – where now meets nostalgia

Brauhäuser in Köln: Im Brauhaus Reissdorf serviert ein Köbes Schnitzel mit Beilage, auf dem Tresen stehen Besteckgefäße, auf denen Kölsche Sprüche drauf stehen.
Hearty cuisine, kölsch and nostalgia are on the menu at Brauhaus Reissdorf. Photo: fantaSIEVERSchönert Fotografie

Founded in 1894, Reissdorf is one of the longest-established breweries in Cologne and you’d be hard put to find another that serves up so much nostalgia. There’s even a huge neon Reissdorf sign on the side of a wall near Rudolfplatz square, which enjoys protected status and has become something of a cult attraction since its installation in 1968. Cologne is blessed with three Reissdorf brewery pubs, one of which is in the Griechenmarkt area.

Since the area is largely tourist-free, the guests tend to be locals, which is why a typical Cologne vibe pervades the contemporary interior. People of all ages and backgrounds have been coming together here since 1992. Apart from regional specialities, there’s currywurst and rump steak on the menu as well as a few vegetarian options. Smaller snacks are available too, like Halver Hahn (a rye roll with butter and cheese) or Mett (raw minced pork), served with a rye roll and raw onions. And then it’s up to the guest to find a corner they’d like to make their own and do their bit to preserve Cologne’s brewery pub culture. Prost!

Kleiner Griechenmarkt 40, 50676 Cologne,,

You’ll find more excellent brewery pubs here.

0 comments on “Four iconic Cologne brewery pubs and fun facts about their histories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *