Beer habits and culture in Cologne:
Typical Cologne beer is called "Kölsch" and served in bars around town in small glasses, called "Stangen", of 0.2l. That way the beer is always fresh and cold.
Don't worry, waiters will be fast to bring you a new one once your old one is (almost) finished.
In more traditional bars and especially the breweries, the waiter (called "Köbes" in local language) will even hand you a fresh Kölsch without being asked, so it is easy to lose track of how much you drank. He will put a pencil line on your coaster for each beer that you drank, this will be the basis for your bill, so do not lose it!
To stop the beer from coming, put the coaster on top of your empty glass.
You may also experience the deadly dry wit of the Köbes (traditional name of the blue-clad waiters) in most of those places. If it happens to you, don't get upset, just enter the game, send the Köbes packing with a dig and a smile and you'll be all right. Actually they are popular beeing like that.
If you buy bottled Kölsch, take either "Reissdorf", "Früh", "Gaffel" or "Mühlen", which are rated highest by Cologne citizens (There are about 30 more brands).
There are so many bars and pubs to choose from that you could spend most of the night going from one bar to the next.
Where to drink in Cologne:
- For traditional breweries, head to the Altstadt around the Dom, where the "Früh Kölsch" brewery is the most authentic place, famous both with visitors and locals. You will find a younger crowd at "Hellers Brauhaus" on Roonstraße, near metro station Zülpicher Platz or "Brauhaus Pütz" on Engelbertstraße close to Rudolfplatz. Furthermore the "Päffgen", on the all-bar street Friesenstraße close to the Friesenplatz, and the "Mühlen" near Heumarkt are traditional brewery pubs but less touristy than the "Früh". Also recommended is Sion, which is a lesser known brand, but hailed to be very good, although some beer enthusiasts have found it lacking character from 2007 on. Most Altstadt pubs are somewhat scorned as "tourist traps" by locals, however: prices here are usually higher than e.g. on Zülpicher Straße.
The breweries also serve you great meals from the typical local cuisine. They are famous for its large portions.
- DO NOT order another beer than Kölsch in a brewery (especially not Alt beer from Duesseldorf)! It's very unfriendly and it might happen that you get kicked out in a brewery! Ok, if you don't speak german, I guess you might be lucky...if you are german...you will be kicked out! It's because of the rivalry between both cities. If you order a glass of milk, it might take more than 30 minutes till you get it. Your friends will have a few glasses of Kölsch in that time already.
- There are a lot of modern bars and lounges all around town. More mainstream ones are on Zülpicher Straße. For something more independent and funky on this street, try Umbruch (funky) or Stiefel (punky). The Low Budget on Aachener Straße next to Moltkestraße metro is a nice, unassuming, punky bar which features a fine selection of drinks and often hosts concerts, poetry or cabaret sessions.
- A lot of stylish places are in the so-called Belgian quarter between Aachener Straße and the Ring, e.g. famous M20 or the Hallmackenreuther.