Archive | September, 2010

First of all, it’s pronounced goes-a

Can we agree to call a beer that actually tastes like one brewed in Leipzig, Germany, and is spelled G-o-s-e a goes-a*?

That’s a start. For whatever reason, more than a few American brewers seem fascinated by the beer that was oh, so popular in Leipzig at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its demise, and revival, is a great story, but a suspect most are drawn to brewing something they call Gose because it is a sour beer — all the rage these days — and spiced (coriander and salt, in fact). In some circles spices are also the rage.

Still, a great history, better told by Ron Pattinson than anybody else. (Take your time; lots to read.)

This isn’t the post to examine beers called “Gose” (and too often pronounced “goes”) that don’t include wheat in the recipe, that’s aren’t sour, that don’t taste of coriander and salt, that might even be made with orange peel or lavender. This is about a single beer, about a revival done right.

The beer that Eric Rose of Hollister Brewing in Goleta, California, calls Tiny Bubbles would fit right in at Ohne Bedenken, the Leipzig Gosenschenke (Gose house) so essential in resurrecting this defunct style. The pub (above) serves the only two versions of Gose brewed in or around Leipzig. One is made at Bayerischer Banhof Gasthaus and Gose Brauerei, a train station that has been converted into a brewpub, and is exported to the United States.

The second,Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose, is made under contract for a descendant of the original owners of Rittergutsbrauerei Döllnitzer, the dominant Gose brewery of the nineteenth century. Most drinkers find Ritterguts bolder, more sour, with more coriander and more salt flavor than the Bahnhof version. Tiny Bubbles tastes more like Ritterguts, and earned a silver medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival.

A third German brewery, Brauhaus Goslar in the ancestral home of Gose about 115 miles away, makes a Gose that clearly lacks the sourness of either Leipzig beer. Brewing in the town of Goslar seems to date to the first millennia. Three hundred breweries, probably most of them in homes, operated by 1500, and during the seventeenth century German writers identified Goslar as an important brewing center because of its specialty beer called gosa.

What Gose tasted like before the eighteenth century remains lost in the cloud of history, but by 1740 one description states “Gose ferments itself without the addition of yeast.” Leipzig taverns began selling Gose “imported” from Goslar about that time and soon local breweries were making their own. Although the secrets of production were more closely guarded than Berliner weisse to the north documents indicate that by the late nineteenth century brewers added lactic acid bacteria, probably during the boil, rather than continuing to rely on spontaneous fermentation.

That’s the process brewmaster Matthias Richter uses at Bahnhof today. “We cannot use the old way, because we produce different beers in the same fermentation cellar,” he said. “The lactic acid bacteria could infect the other beers.”

Rose took a bolder approach, which he explained via email. “As for souring the beer I use a lactic culture from Wyeast that I grow up for several weeks. I pitch the lacto on day one and begin sampling the beer on day two,” he wrote. “Typically by day three or four it has the appropriate tartness and I then pitch in fresh hefe (weizen) yeast to ferment the rest of the sugars. It’s usually ready to serve in three weeks from the brew day, but I think it ages really well. The batch at GABF was brewed in June.”

He spent many hours discussing his choices with his friend Jonathan Cutler of Piece Pizzeria & Brewery in Chicago, whose wheat beers have won numerous awards. “He’s wanted to make one for a long time but is extremely worried about using lactic in his brewery for obvious reasons. I asked just about everyone I could about this beer and the typical answer was, ‘Good luck, let me know how it turns out,’” Rose wrote. “I was extremely happy with how it turned out. I’ve been a huge Berliner weisse fan since I was a teenager, but now I’d say I’m a much bigger cheerleader for Gose. Cutler described it as being, “Like a Berliner, but with balls.’”

Rose added, “The beer was considerably more sour for at least the first eight weeks. Super lactic which I love. It tasted like really young unblended Gueuze but salty. Reminded me of Lou Pepe Gueuze in it’s tartness. Everyone . . . told me it was too tart for the style. Some suggested a sour mash that they said would soften the tartness and add complexity. I disagreed, liking the aggressive tartness. I wanted mine to be super traditional.”

And that’s why it would fit right in at Ohne Bedenken.

The down-and-dirty details

The recipe includes about 60 percent malted wheat and 40 percent pilsner malt, with a tiny amount of acidulated malt. The only hops were Saaz flowers added to with the mash. Rose used one pound of salt and four tablespoons of coriander in the 8.5-barrel (about 260 gallons) batch, adding them with 15 minutes remaining in the boil.

Known in brewing circles for his skills as a cook, as well a brewer, Rose said he erred on the side of caution in deciding the amount salt to use (historically, amounts varied widely). He also took into account Santa Barbara water is very hard and saline. “I like to describe the beer as having the salt be like seasoning on a steak where it brings out the flavors as opposed to the saltiness of crystals on your tongue,” he wrote.

The beer, about 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, started at 11.5 °P and finished at 2.8 °P.

Rose called it Tiny Bubbles because “I like Don Ho.”

******

*Perhaps not the best guide to pronouncing the word, but the point is the “e” is not silent.

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The importance of revivals, folk and beer

This story from folk music legend Pete Seeger is a little long to use as a quick introduction to a discussion about reviving defunct beer styles, so his tale today and beer tomorrow.

In the foreword to “Singing Out: An Oral History of America’s Folk Music Revivals” Seeger expresses his doubts about revivals. he uses the song “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” to make his point.

“Here was a song I sang only half well. When you think of how truly magnificent it must have been when done by a bunch of sweating black people rowing ashore from Sullivan’s Island,” he writes. “The raw voices in the formal sense — but superbly trained voices in the sense that they’d been singing all their lives. Making up new verses and laughing as they think of a new verse to it.”

Seeger recounts how Charles Pickard Ware chronicled many of the verses in 1867: “He wrote down as much as he could and then afterward he went around to the singers and said, ‘What verse was that you were singing?’ They said, ‘You mean you’re writing this down? Wow, well here’s what I was singing.’”

It was about 90 years later that Tony Saletan chose three verses from the 15 to 20 Ware had transcribed. Saletan taught them to Seeger and Seeger to the Weavers, who sang the song in Carnegie Hall.

“Now it comes back to me from numerous schools and summer camps, such a pale wishy-washy piece of music compared to what it was once,” Seeger writes. “And I realize that my own singing of it is kind of pale and wishy-washy, compared to what it was once. It makes me wonder, is it possible to revive folk music? Well, I finally come to the conclusion: yes, it is possible. We can try. All you can do in this world is try. And a good attempt at trying is sure better than never having tried.

“Do you remember the man, Edward FitzGerland, who did the translation of Omar Khayyám saying ‘Better a live sparrow than a stuffed eagle?’ They said, ‘Your translation is nowhere as good as the original.’ He said, ‘But the original is sitting there on a piece of paper, with no one to read it. It’s dead.’

“So better a live sparrow.”

The really nice thing about the beer up next? It’s no sparrow.

 

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Monday morning (mostly) beer reading

  • Lauren Buzzeo of Wine Enthusiast magazine offers “highlights and epiphanies” from the Great American Beer Festival.
  • Jason Jewett, a 27-year-old regular guy in Denver, on volunteering (which still allows for time to walk around and sample).
  • A headline that should make you nervous: “Investors’ Thirst Growing for Craft Beer Stocks.” Is it good for smaller breweries when CNBC begins to notice?

    From a story I wrote for the current issue of Beer Connoisseur magazine: “Boston Beer Co. and Pete’s Brewing Co. together sold about 1.3 million barrels of beer in 1995, almost of it brewed under contract. Not long after the two companies went public their combined market capitalization reached about $570 million. At the time Coors – since merged with Molson and affiliated with Miller Brewing – brewed 20 million barrels of beer, owned its own breweries and had a market cap of $725 million. Maybe the math didn’t make sense, but everybody wanted a piece of the craft beer action.”

    Within a few years “craft” beers sales went from soaring 70 percent per year to flat and we were told — incorrectly, of course &3151; it was all a fad. No small brewery operator wants to revisit the late 1990s.

  • Most interesting two back-to-back sentences I read in any beer blog last week (and I read a lot): “Get crazy: line the rim of the glass with cinnamon sugar, snort some nutmeg, then forget about the glass and just chug the growler of Red. Get wasted and throw pumpkins at passing cars.”
  • Accentuate the positive: “Why Music Critics Write So Many Favorable Reviews.” Not sure which thought from this PopMatters essay seemed most intriguing.

    - “On the younger end of the diametric, online critics are perhaps guilty extending the long tail of hipsterdom into impenetrably esoteric ends, allowing no gateway for the ignorant or uninitiated to fully enjoy a piece of music writing without feeling like they’re being talked down to.”

    - “The author is expected to not only justify the album’s existence, but to justify the need to write about it in the first place. Is it any wonder then that such an intensely personal (and often defensive) writing tends to veer towards positivism?”

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    The ‘better’ question is the wrong beer question

    If I live to be 200 I’m pretty sure I’ll still be thinking bad ideas I’ve never suggested before.

    For example, the one that I would ask brewers at the Great American Beer Festival this question: “Do you brew beers that are as good at or better than the Europeans have for generations?” (If you’ve forgotten, here’s the background.)

    Blatz FinestIt came with a guarantee the answers would be boring. Like anybody was going to say, “Sure, I make six beers better than anything from Cantillon” or “The guys from Schneider were begging us not to ship beer to Germany.” I went to sleep last Thursday (GABF Day One) painfully aware of what a dufus I am.

    Two conversations Friday reminded me I really need to pay more attention to this blog’s mission statement.

    The second was between a festival attendee and Southampton Publick House brewmaster Phil Markowski, who was signing copies of his Farmhouse Ales at the time. The man asked something about if Americans brewers now “broke more rules” than Belgian brewers.

    “Go to any booth and you’ll see rules broken,” Markowski said. “If somebody can do it and it tastes good then that’s fine.”

    The first came earlier in the day when I asked Anders Kissmeyer, former brewmaster at the Nørrebro Brewery in Denmark and now technical editor of the Scandinavian Brewers’ Review, the “better” question.

    “The question about which is better is ridiculous,” he said. “As long as people are working at making better beer, that’s what matters.” Because, most time at least, the result is improved beer.

    Kissmeyer isn’t shy about praising the spirit of experimentation in United States. “The Americans are not only giving the English and the Germans and the Czechs a kick in the ass, but also the Belgians,” he said.

    So Kissmeyer set me straight and then provided context. Markowski offered more context and Garrett Oliver, signing The Brewmaster’s Bible at an adjoining table still more when he leaned over and said, “The Europeans don’t understand that we have an idea of what’s going on everywhere.”

    Kissmeyer does because he ventures to the United States somewhat regularly. Oliver does because he goes everywhere. They are better qualified than most to talk about “better” and they know better than to waste the time.

    Thanks, Anders. We’ll see if I can stick the the mission statement written nearly six years ago.

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    See you in Houston for Dixie Cup

    If you aren’t going to be in Houston Oct. 14-16 for Dixie Cup XXVII you can quit reading here.

    If you are going to be there I hope we get a chance to meet, probably to talk about beer. Although I do carry around family and trip pictures and will spring them without provocation.

    I’ll be speaking Saturday morning, briefly about “The rhythm of the brewery,” and answering whatever questions from attendees who might happen to be awake at the beginning of the third day of a beer drinking marathon.

    Hope to see you at the opening reception Thursday or judging or at the Fred Tasting (led by Ray Daniels) or just hanging out.

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