If you would like to play a drinking game at home, take a sip anytime I attempt to say something in German, or try to say a science term. Example, Leipzig or Lactobacillus. Also, before I start, pitching basically just means adding to the brew.
Gose- An Old School Sour
There are many different sour styles, from Lambics, to Gueuze, Flanders, Wild Ales, Oud Bruin, American sours, and Berlinner Weisse. Today we will focus on, the “Gateway Sour” GOSE! As it has been called by Cascade Brewing’s brew master. Cascade Brewing is a brewery in Portland that specializes in sours.
History of the Gose
Gose, is a traditional sour ale pronounced, Go-sah, like ‘Mimosa.’ It is an unfiltered sour wheat ale, traditionally brewed with salt and coriander. This ale started in Goslar, Germany. The saltiness originally came from the salt water in the Gose River, that they brewed with. Eventually Leipzig, Germany become the hot spot for Gose Taverns, called Gosenschanken. I suppose you could call Cascade Brewing a modern Gose Tavern.
Legend has it that this beer is over 1,000 years old, and was enjoyed by the German Emperor, Kaiser Otto III. This is legend because there is no written documentation at all that beer was even in Goslar until 1181, let alone that a German Emperor sung its praises. As far as Gose, specifically, there is no written documentation of its existence at all until 1470. Still fun to think about, and still really old.
Before WWII there were over eighty Gose Taverns in Germany, but afterwards, they were gone. However, there was one man who kept the style alive until 1966 when he passed. A couple decades later a brewer wanted to revive this historical and unique style, so he found some old timers, and had them taste test his beer until they decided he had made a traditional Gose! I do wonder if they lied a little just to get more free beer.
Gose is a wheat ale, so as far as it violating the Reinheitsgebot law (the Bavarian law, turned German law that states beer must only be water, hops, malted barley and yeast), I read a couple different reasons as to why Gose was not violating this law. Just like with all things Reinheitsgebot, it was conflicting and different information. One reason was it was such a hit, that it was given an exception. The other was Reinheitsgebot wasn’t applied to all of Germany until 1906, and where Gose was popular wasn’t in the enforceable Bavarian regions. What happened after 1906…I don’t know.
The Beer Judge’s overall impression of what a Gose should be, is a “highly carbonated, tart and fruity wheat ale with a restrained coriander and salt character and low bitterness. Very refreshing, with bright flavors and high attenuation.”
The tartness comes from lactobacillus. This is actually a bacterium that is good for your gut health. Lactobacillus eats sugar, but instead of making alcohol like yeast, it makes lactic acid. This is also found in yogurt, and is where that sour hint comes from. So if you eat that yogurt that Jamie Lee Curtis swears by, maybe switch to a Gose beer a day? I have no medical training at all.
Gose was originally brewed with wild lacto fermentation. What this means is that lactobacillus wasn’t pitched, it happened naturally. This can cause Gose to be a very unpredictable beer. To happen naturally, part or all of the wort is left un-boiled, so the wild bacterium in the grain husks can run its course, because they are not killed off in the boil. Today it seems that lactobacillus is more pitched. This makes it easier to control the flavor, or better yet, to control off flavors. It can get a lot more technical nowadays, which I am not going to get into, nor do I have the credentials to do so. But you get the basic idea.
This is different than wild fermentation v. pitching yeast. That is the process of yeast eating sugar and making alcohol. Gose was also wildly fermented back in the day, but is not generally done today for the same reasons as the lacto fermenting: control. That is a whole other beer school for another day.
Now, the most famous beer ingredient of all…HOPS! They are only present in Gose beers for their antimicrobial support. Think IPAs, they help preserve the beer. This is why Gose beers are low in IBUs (International Bitterness Unit), or bitterness.
I don’t know if anyone is still brewing Gose with salt water from the Gose River, but if not, salt and coriander are added at the end. The salt should be subtle, and the fruity flavor usually comes from the coriander, which has a citrusy type of flavor. I say usually because in recent years, breweries in the states have run wild, no pun intended, with all sorts of sour styles. And…every other style of beer. I am definitely not complaining.
The aroma should be similar to that of a witbier, and the ABV tends to be between four and six percent. Because it has such low ABV, there are parts of Germany that will serve this with liquor, or even add it to something like a white wine or champagne.
How to Serve
Ok, I found this very interesting. It is not uncommon for the still fermenting wort of a Gose to be bottled, and then the yeasty foam rises up and crusts to create a cork. This is why if you have seen a true German Gose, the bottle is like a ball with a tube on top. Then the lid, is like that of a growler with an attached lid, rather than a cork, or a cap.
The recommended proper glassware is a stange glass. This is used for Kolsch, Altbier, Gose , and a few other beer styles. It’s basically a cylinder that holds just over 6 ounces of beer, and can be referred to as the “champagne flute of the beer world.” Might also be good for a Miller beer.
Now, that we are all experts on an unpredictable style of beer with no set method of production, I leave you with a Summer fun fact! Germans consider Gose to be a perfect Summer beer, and have nicknamed it Sonnenschirm which means Sun Umbrella! So here is to Summer, and our gut health! If you were playing the drinking game, and you’re not drunk, you weren’t paying attention. Prost!