The Raconteurs song “Steady, as she goes” isn’t about beer. It’s actually about settling down and meeting a girl and becoming an adult. But, settling down doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy a beer now and then. And, if you’re going to drink a beer, grab a gose.
Of all the beer styles that have exploded onto the scene in the last few years, gose is the one most shrouded in mystery. I remember being at a party a few years ago and a friend of a friend handed me a can of Westbrook Gose and told me that I, “have to try it.” He didn’t prepare me for the salty, sweet, sour taste that I became immersed in. I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t sure I liked it at first and was concerned that he had purchased a gimmicky version of a sour ale without the sweetness. But, by the time I finished the can, I felt as though I couldn’t get enough. Sadly, he hadn’t planned to give all of his beer away to me, and I had to wait to go out and buy my own the next day. I’ve been hooked ever since and have made it my goal to try and compare every gose available.
What is Gose?
This top-fermented beer has its roots in the town of Goslar, Germany in the 16th century. To be called a gose, the beer must be brewed with 50% or more malted wheat. “A gose is an old Germanic style sour ale that was lightly flavored with salt and coriander,” says Devils Backbone Brewmaster Jason Oliver. “It tastes tart with subtle citrus notes and a slightly salty mouthfeel.”
“Gose is a top-fermented (ale) German wheat beer that has a slightly saline base water source that is allowed to become very slightly sour,” says Anderson Valley Brewmaster Fal Allen. “The bacteria that gives the beer its lemony tartness also give it a hint of ‘outdoor or earthy’ aroma.” He adds, “Gose is a wonderful session beer for those of us who like a little sour and funkiness in our beer.”
Gose is well-known for its tart, citrus, and herbal flavors. But, the most dominant flavor is the saltiness that offsets all of the other flavors. Gose should be enjoyed slowly and is usually around 4-5% ABV so you shouldn’t feel bad about imbibing a few in one sitting. Even though it seems like it’s one of a kind, gose is a member of the wheat beer family, in the sub-family of sour beers. When you think of sour beers, you likely think of Rodenbach and the like, but you’re in fro a treat if you grab a gose the next time you’re craving sour ale.
This old style, German beer has seen a resurgence lately with a handful of breweries trying their hand at re-creating the gose. This unfiltered sour wheat beer is usually cloudy and yellow in color with a fairly low hop bitterness. It’s made with ground coriander seeds and salt. Since the main ingredients are coriander and salt, brewers have been known to add myriad flavors to offset the salty, herbal flavor. Craft breweries that have their own version of gose include Westbrook Brewing Company, Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Victory Brewing Company, Boulevard Brewing Company, Sixpoint Brewery and Evil Twin Brewing.
Devils Backbone Cran-Gose
”Cran-Gose is currently our only gose style,” says Oliver. He chose the style because gose combines session-ability with a great tartness and unique character. “That is a really great base to build upon.” They choose cranberry because he believes the natural tart and fruity character of the beer with works well with that fruit. “We used hundreds of pounds of pureed cranberry which provides not only the delicateness of that fruit but also a wonderful pinkish-red hue, it’s really striking.”
Oliver believes there are obvious reasons the style has become so popular lately.
”It blends tart with session-ability.” He also points to the popularity of another style that helped push gose to the forefront. “Sour beers have really grown in popularity and with it, the gose style.” Cran-Gose was the first release in their Daypack Series for 2016. “Our Daypack beers are all session-able, under 5%, and canned for maximum mobility.”
Anderson Valley the Kimmie, The Yink & the Holy Gose
Anderson Valley produces several different varieties of gose. “Our original (the Kimmie, The Yink & the Holy Gose), our Blood Orange Gose, Our Brinney Mellon (watermelon Gose), & coming soon, our GT botanical Gose,” says Allen.
You might be wondering what made Allen decide to try his hand at making gose beer.
“We were toying with the sour mashing process and a friend of our said – ‘hey, that process would work really well with brewing a Gose.’ So we tried it out.” Once they tasted the beer, they knew they had a winner. “It’s a great mix of flavors and an easy to drink session ale.”
Gose is a very special style and one that Allen takes very seriously. “It is a unique style of beer – It is a historic German style that has a saline base water source, is slightly sour and uses coriander – and for Germany – that’s unique.” He has a lot of fun brewing it, and it helps that he always really enjoys drinking it. “It lends itself to a lot of experimental flavors being added.”
Allen isn’t surprised by the popularity of the Gose in recent years. “It’s a fairly low alcohol, very thirst quenching beer that is slightly sour – it’s a great introduction beer for those people that are just getting into sour beers.” He believes that part of the reason people enjoy it is because it’s packed with interesting flavors, but it’s approachable and isn’t overly intense. “And I think it is a great crossover beer for people who may not like classic American Lager beers and are not yet into the intensity of a craft IPA or Stout.”