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A gose by any another name

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

- Juliet, from Romeo and Juliet

Love. Hate. Writers. People who write headlines. A match sometimes made in heaven. Sometimes in hell.

In the May/June issue of Imbibe magazine writer Josh Bernstein explains that the beer known as gose is pronounced “gose-uh.” The headline on the story reads, “So the Story Gose.”

The story is worth your time, and it’s online. For me it raises a question that I can’t answer. The dreaded You say tomato, I say tomahto question. In this case, You say goes, I say gose-uh. Is it still a gose if it is imperial-ized, if it is dunkel-ized, if it is brewed without wheat?

Bernstein writes about those sort of Americanized versions (imperial and dunkel from the Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire; the non-wheat version one of four seasonal goses from Cascade Brewing in Oregon), and he’s more comfortable with calling them gose then I am. (For the record, Portsmouth and Cascade both make excellent beers across the board, and I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t brew these particular ones.)

Quite honestly, this isn’t worth losing sleep over. Gose is a niche product. If you search the beer sites you’ll find plenty of examples, but mostly one-offs brewed in small batches. Still there’s a difference between reviving an interesting beer and treating it as an oddity. Eric Rose’s Tiny Bubbles is a fine example of the former.

We certainly don’t need to create more styles — Portlander Gose? Portsmouther Gose? no thank you — to make the difference clear. However it’s also not appropriate to toss in some combination of salt, coriander and lactic acid and imply the result would taste like the beer students drank in Leipzig pubs in 1900.

Once again, I’ve got a question, not an answer.

But here’s one I can answer right now. Pumpkin Gose? No.

22 Responses to A gose by any another name

  1. Alan May 20, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Wouldn’t “gose” be subject to internal German dialect differences during the period of its “popularity”? My recollection is that there are great variances. But Ron Pattinson would know given his Teutonic connections and also awareness of goozy.

    Not really your point but a solid tangent. FTW!!!

  2. Mike May 20, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Gose is named after the place it was originally brewed, just as Hoegaarden is. The town is called Goslar and there is a river tributary that runs through the town called Gose.

    I’m not quite sure what Alan’s question is. The name would probably have only been known in the one region where it was brewed and people presumably spoke the same German there.

    As for copies of it made in the US – what the hell, there are US tripels, quadrupels, Berliner Weisse, kellerbier (need I go on?)…

    It is a shame though that people drinking copies of a beer may not be aware its only a copy and then quite surprised (hopefully pleasantly) when they taste the real thing in situ.

  3. Jeff Alworth May 20, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Are you comfortable calling Hoegaarden “wit?” I ask because some guy once mentioned that prior to its revival by Pierre Celis, wits were quite a bit different. The revival re-created a style that now has meaning to modern drinkers, and they wouldn’t recognize a 1900-era wit if they encountered one.

    Gose died out, presumably because no one was that thrilled about it. I have no idea the volumes of revival gose the two German breweries sell, but it must be quite small. Americans are reviving it too, and evolving it, and so the name may come to be associated with a beer that doesn’t look like it did 200 years ago. Isn’t that the same with nearly ever style?

  4. dave May 20, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    “Cascadian Gose” has a good ring to it. ;-)

  5. Mike May 20, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Jeff, your first paragraph is based on “some guy”? Right.

    And your second paragraph is based on? Oh, it’s your opinion. Right again.

    I suppose the fact that the US refused to sign the Protected Designation of Origin law (http://is.gd/dppUwp) had nothing to do with US brewers using the name?

    The Hoegaarden story from “some guy” demonstrates to me that he doesn’t really have a good understanding of beer or beer history. And you seem to have (again) misunderstood my point.

    As far as Gose, I’d suggest that a world war or two, plus 45 years under Soviet rule possibly also played a role in this.

    Gose reached the height of its popularity in the Middle Ages (http://is.gd/PQRGMo), as several other somewhat strange North German beers. Gose is one of the very few that is still made today.

    If the local German version is based on memory, a little documentation and experience, what is the American version based on?

  6. Steve May 20, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Dave… that’s not nice. And to be honest, doesn’t sound at all appetizing!

  7. Stan Hieronymus May 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Mike – I think Jeff is referring to me when he says “some guy” – and “Brewing With Wheat.” Research that is based on source material, some in English and some not. The sort of stuff you cite the importance of in the thread that will not end.

  8. Stan Hieronymus May 20, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Jeff – A fair point about evolving styles. As I wrote, I don’t have an answer but using the name of a style sets expectations. Some of these are very different beers.

  9. jay May 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    The beer version of Rule 34 suggests that somebody has almost certainly already made a pumpkin gose, and probably Dave’s Cascadian Gose as well.

  10. Jeff Alworth May 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Mike, I seem to be a red flag to you. I’m sorry about that–it’s not intentional. The “some guy” is indeed Stan, and that was understatement for comedy’s sake. It’s just beer, and I don’t come here looking for fights–or looking to start them.

    Also, for future reference, many times when I post a comment here–even when you’ve posted one earlier–it’s not a response to you. In this case, I was responding to the blogger. Now I’m responding to you.

  11. Sam Tierney May 20, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    I’ve had the pleasure of tasting Hollister’s Tiny Bubbles from the fermenter before the yeast has been added. Very interesting at that point. Eric obviously has tried very hard to make this one authentic and tasty. I heard his Grätzer didn’t fare so well. I’m not sure about the adding of new ingredients to the style. Even the most die-hard recreations are going to differ somewhat simply due to changes in modern ingredients. I give more reverence to European brewing tradition than most American brewers, but I still acknowledge my market and productions practicalities. Sometimes you just have to change things…

  12. Mike May 21, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    Jeff, finally something we agree on :-) Just so you understand for the future: I read Dutch and German and have a number of books in those languages that I consider the most reliable sources for those countries. Just as you would probably consider a book about, say, US politics written by a Russian, German or perhaps even a Brit to be of limited validity.

    Moving on: this topic, I believe, is a good example of the flaw in Michael Jackson’s style theory. I can certainly understand how he, faced with a number of countries where English was not always spoken and where documentation was definitely not in English, had to come up with a system of organisation that seemed to fit everywhere.

    Historically, the concept of beer styles does not work in Europe because beer was not always produced by large or small companies to a specific standard. Brewing was originally a household activity and, since it was connected with cooking, many of the early brewers were women.

    Furthermore, beers did not have names. Why should they? When, during the middle ages brewing moved out of the kitchen, the names given were usually the name of the town where the beer was brewed, or, if brewed by a monastery, the name of the monastery.

    So, “evolving styles” is not something that would resonate for traditional European brewers. The Jackson theory is flawed in the sense that it assumes brewers are specifically trying to make the same beer.

    Gose is made in Goslar. I don’t see anything wrong with US brewers trying to make something similar, but don’t call it Gose because it isn’t. As I wrote above, at least the Goslar/Leipzig brewers have the tradition, some written records and possibly even former drinkers to help. What do US brewers have? (And please don’t tell me Horst Dornbusch.)

    Stan, I disagree with your “style” comments about witbier. Shortly after the turn of the century, Belgium was invaded and occupied by the German army. They had a need of copper for military use and famously found Belgian breweries a good source of it. The number of breweries that survived that war was sadly rather small.

    Twenty years later, the Germans did it again. And again, a minority of breweries survived the war. The last wit brewery in Hoegaarden (Tomsin) closed in the late 1950s. Pierre Celis started his brewery in the mid-1960s specifically producing the kind of beer that has traditionally been brewed in Hoegaarden. If you use the Jackson concept of style, there may have been a difference, but I doubt it would be substantial. If you use the European concept of beer type, the changes would likely have been quite small indeed.

    Changes in European beers generally occur because of fashion, drastic events (wars, agricultural disasters, government policies, etc.) and commercial considerations.

    Gose, Broyhan, Braunschweiger Mumme – all these and many more beer types appeared in northern Germany during the middle ages. It doesn’t take a big stretch of imagination to accept that middle-age tastes probably do not mesh so well with modern tastes, although I’m also sure there are some that do. German Gose is not something to everyone’s taste. The first time I had it (Berlin International Beer Festival), I immediately liked it. However, all three of my US friends found it unpleasant.

  13. Stan Hieronymus May 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Mike,

    I don’t know what this means:

    Stan, I disagree with your “style” comments about witbier.

    I don’t think it refers to anything within these comments. Perhaps you are disagreeing with what I wrote in Chapter 3 of Brewing With Wheat, which was called “In Search of the Real Belgian White,” but it doesn’t appear you’ve read it. There were substantial differences between “styles” brewed in the 19th century, and between those and the Celis resurrection.

  14. Jeff Alworth May 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Though this is really beside the point (and NOT, I want to emphasize, a rebuttal), I can and do read Europeans who write about American politics quite often.

  15. Mike May 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Stan, Jeff quoted you writing “I ask because some guy once mentioned that prior to its revival by Pierre Celis, wits were quite a bit different.”

    This is what I do not find accurate. Beers made from wheat (referred to as “white” in Dutch, German and French) have been brewed since the middle ages. Since beer at that time was locally produced, there were obviously many different varieties. If you are saying the beer produced in Hoegaarden specifically, then I seriously doubt it changed very much in the 100 years of so before Celis. If you are talking about other wheat beers, then I don’t think it is a valid comparison.

  16. Mike May 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Jeff, that’s quite understandable. I’m afraid that it was my analogy that was not good.

  17. Stan Hieronymus May 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Mike, read how Bière de Hougaerde was produced in the 19th century (and well into the 20th) and you will see the Oud Hoegaards Bier Celis created was different. Here are three authorities to start with:

    - Adolphe Frentz in Livre de Poche du Fabricant de Bière Blanche
    - G. Lacambre in Traité Complet de la Fabrication des Bières et de la Distillation des Grains
    - Hendrik Verlinden in Leerboek der Gistingsnijverheid

  18. Mike May 22, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    Stan, there were no less than 35 “breweries” (actually, primarily farmers) making beer in Hoegaarden in the late 19th century. Was each one making exactly the same beer? Very unlikely.

    Secondly, was the technology of producing the beer in the 19th century and the 1960s the same? As you wrote, of course not. And not for the first, I might add. Considering beer has been made in Hoegaarden for hundreds of years, I imagine the technical production has changed a good number of times.

    Did the beer taste the same or similarly? I would certainly expect so!

    Witbier had been made in Hoegaarden since at least the 16th century (likely as early as the 14th). As technology changed, of course the method of production changed, but the earmarks of the taste – what made the Hoegaarden variety so special (much of the beer was “exported” to Leuven) – very probably stayed the same or very similar.

    Since there was no such thing as “beer styles” (or the BJCP) at the time, taste was the factor that distinguished beers. Each village or town that produced beer had a unique taste, depending on local crops, water and, of course, method of production. Therefore, changing the taste of a beer would have huge commercial consequences. (Although this is a modern analysis from 1998, for your technical enjoyment, here is a chemical comparison of 15 wheat beers from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany conducted for PINT, the crappy Dutch beer consumers union: http://is.gd/qadR6v)

    Though I don’t doubt, as you wrote, that the method of production changed, perhaps even radically, during that period, I would nevertheless be quite surprised if the taste of the beer changed very much at all.

  19. Mike May 22, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    Sorry, slight correction: “exported” to Liege, not Leuven.

  20. KD May 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Mike seems like a real fun guy to have a beer with.

  21. Stan Hieronymus May 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    KD – In fact, I’ve spent an evening drinking beer and talking with Mike (and others) at In De Wildeman in Amsterdam. A nice evening.

    But – please don’t take this wrong, Mike – it is easier if you realize there is an agenda.

    I quit commenting in this thread because no matter how many sources I point to that substantiate that many white beers in Belgium tasted different than those from Pierre Celis . . . Mike will continue to suspect otherwise.

  22. KD May 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Stan I really enjoy your blog, and I enjoy the comments. I learn things from the comments and your blog.
    I don’t really comment because I’m not going to argue about style origination nor do I home brew so I can’t get into attenuation or diaectyl.
    I like beer, many types and styles.
    Mike seems to constantly argue with anyone in the comments. If he has an agenda, shouldn’t he have his own blog so he can yell at people? He seems to turn discourse into a competition, just distracting for someone trying to learn something.
    Cheers.

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