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The Gose (pronounced gose-uh if you want to be authentic) is a German white beer that originated in the small town of Goslar some time in the early 1500s. Since then it has undergone many periods of boom and bust, going from the most popular drink in Leipzig to being seemingly lost forever about a half dozen times. (You can read a little more history on it here.) Though once this historic style had all but disappeared, it's quickly gaining traction in the United States today.
Typically brewed with about 40% barley, 60% wheat, and a dash of oats, there's nothing special about the grain build. What sets this style apart from a witbier are the adjuncts. Coriander and salt are added during (or after) the boil in order to create a fuller mouthfeel and added complexity. (This tradition may have arisen from salty springs that provided early brewers their water.) Luckily for us, gose was allowed as an exception to the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) on the grounds that it was a regional specialty beer.
When brewed to style, these are very low-hopped beers. Originally a spontaneously fermented beer, they now undergo a lactic fermentation before the addition of a Saccharomyces strain (brewer's yeast). This provides a subtle tartness, without overwhelming the palate. Typically brewed below 5.0% ABV, these session beers are ideal to crack open on a warm spring day.
Two Classics To Try
If you want to get started tasting gose, here are two old-school examples you should be able to find in good beer stores.
Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf Original Ritterguts Gose
The Original Ritterguts Gose has been brewed with the same recipe since 1776. Pale straw in color and slightly hazy, the aroma is a subtle blend of fresh lemons and bread with a sprinkle of salt. The lactic acid really comes through on this one, it has a tart, lemony brightness, followed with a wave of saltiness and mineral character that's quickly kicked to the back of the palate by the vigorous carbonation. Although it is brewed with coriander, little comes through in the finished product. I'm going to be drinking a lot of this stuff as the weather gets warmer.
Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof Leipziger Gose
Another classic, Bahnhof's Leipziger Gose drinks pretty differently from the beer above. It pours the same pale straw color, but offers a strong scent of coriander, wheat, and lemon zest. The coriander is meant to steal the show on this brew, dancing a delicate balance with the wheat malt. A very slight salinity and even slighter tartness waft over the tastebuds with a mouthfeel that's far from thin. The dry finish and active carbonation makes it incredibly drinkable.
Awesome American Examples
Once you've got a handle on what classic gose should taste like, it's time to branch out into new interpretations. Unfortunately, not all the domestic examples are good, and many of the good ones are only available on tap. All the more reason to visit your local brewery! Here are two of our favorite (unfortunately rare) American-brewed examples of the gose.
The Bruery Salt of the Earth
Before you lace up your hunting shoes I should note that this was a 2011 one-off release as part of their Provisions Series... but who knows, maybe we can convince them to brew it again. Rather than using traditional sea salt, The Bruery's team used truffle salt in this riff on the gose. It's a very carbonated beer, with a very unique aroma. A mixture of salty, peppery, and earthy notes balance nicely with just a hint of lactic acid. The addition of truffle salt clearly adds a unique earthiness to the style without taking it too far off track. Coriander is present, as is tart lemon and a strong wheat malt backbone. We can't say it's traditional, but we can say it's delicious.
Trophy Brewing Rose Gose
In another non-traditional take on the gose, Trophy Brewing Company of Raleigh, NC substituted rosemary instead of the traditional coriander in their Rose Gose. Pour a glass of this stuff, and everyone at the table can smell the rosemary. The salt and rosemary pair much better than I would have thought, but this beer has very little sourness. Rose Gose is a perfect example of the depth and complexity a little salt can add to the right beer. This very well may have been a one-dimensional beer without it, but with it we can't say any such thing.
Other domestic examples to seek out include Westbrook Gose from South Carolina, Tired Hands Ghost from Pennsylvania, Portsmouth Gose from New Hampshire, and from Oregon, the goses from Upright and Cascade. Have you tried these brews or other good goses?
About the Author: Sean Buchan covers the Denver craft beer scene for Denver off the Wagon in addition to doing freelance photography for Colorado breweries. You can also view his beer photography on his blog, Beertographer, here.
Beer samples provided for review consideration.
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