In recent months you may have noticed a small Pacific Northwest resurgence in Gose brews among other obscure beer styles. The Gose is a style of beer that has a checkered past and during periods in its evolution has all but disappeared from the planet.
The Gose style dates back to the early 18th Century in the town of Goslar, Germany, in the Lower Saxony in the northwest slopes of the Harz Mountains. Brewed with at least 50% malted wheat in the grain bill, Gose beer fell outside of the Reinheitsgebot due to the use of salt and coriander spice. However, the beer was allowed special exception due to it being considered a regional specialty. Goses became so popular in Leipzig, a city now consisting of more than half a million people, that several regional breweries started brewing Goses themselves. By the end of the 19th Century, it was considered to be the local style of Leipzig and there were countless Gosenschänke in the city.
Gose beer is characteristically sour due to the presence of lactobacillus bacteria after the boil. Traditionally brewed Goses often fall within the 4-5% ABV range and give off a distinct lemon herbal zest and quenching saltiness initially derived from the hard water where it originated, but since then, salt is added.
Originally, Goses were spontaneously-fermented. This means they ferment without the addition of yeast. The first Goses were solely top-fermented in the pre-lagering period, but a some point in the 1880’s brewers began combining top-fermenting yeast and lactic acid bacteria to achieve a similar taste profile.
From its peak in the 1800s when it is estimated that perhaps more than 80 Gosehouses existed in Germany,the style disappeared after the outbreak of World War II and it was until 1949 that one small brewery began making Gose again. Friedrich Wurzler Brauerei of Leipzig began producing the style. Wurzler, the sole keeper of the traditional recipe from Döllnitzer Rittergutsbrauerei where he used to work, handed it down just before his death in the 1950’s to his stepson, Guido Pfnister.
When Pfnister died in 1966, it appeared the recipe was gone for good. However, in the 1980’s a version of the style was revitalized by Lothar Goldhahn who revamped an old Gosenschenke (pub). After researching flavor profile demands of Gose from local quaffers, Goldhahn developed his rendition of the beer in East Berlin at Schultheiss Berliner-Weisse-Brauerei. The style again disappeared during the late 1980’s but has since come back.
Recently, beer imagineer Ron Gansberg of Cascade Brewing brought this wonderful beer style to his brewery at Raccoon Lodge where his barrel-aged and sour beers have earned him national notoriety. The Lipschmacker Gose was the first in a series of Cascades incarnations of the brew. Since early 2009, Gansberg has produced two renditions of the style with a third on its way for the winter holidays. An Autumn Gose held a darker body than the style traditionally employed. Said Gansberg of the brew “(It is) a centuries old recipe featuring orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon and a slight salty top note that conjures up warm kitchens and wood fires.” In the fermenters as we type this is Cascades Winter Holiday Gose, a potpourri of citrus, tart, and salty flavor profiles. Dark ruby colored, this third seasonal Gose is brewed with many of the ingredient as the others but now with additional orange peel, cinnamon, hibiscus flower, coriander, nutmeg, and cranberries. Still unfinished, our sampling of this from the brites was very juicy and exceptionally thirst quenching.
Across town of NE Broadway at Upright Brewing, brewers Alex Ganum and Gerritt Ill have just brewed up and bottled their interpretation of the style as well. Expected to be conditioned in the next few weeks or so, the hybridization of styles upon premature sampling was a combination of zest, salt, and sweet. “Gose was a single batch we made that was almost entirely bottled..we filled three kegs.” said Ganum. “I got the idea to brew it after tasting Cascade’s version earlier this year and remembering how much I loved a homebrewed one I tasted in a competition years ago. Our version uses the typical coriander and salt in what we think is a balanced manner along with a blend of roughly half pilsner malt and half malted wheat. We decided to use the house French saison strain because it has a bit of tartness to it naturally but also employed a sour mash like we do on the Four and added a pinch of lactic acid to acidify the water a bit further. It ended up quite dry and hit 5.2% ABV. I think the mix of dryness, acidity and saltiness makes it easy and enjoyable to drink plenty of – our kind of beer.”
There are a few available imported Goses around at specialty shops like Belmont Station, John’s Marketplace, and By the Bottle, but you might want to see what these talented Portland brewer are doing. It might open your mind, or at very least, expand your palate. Keep your eyes peeled and your tongues ready as these unique culturally and historically significant beers gose around. You never know, it may disappear again.