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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.

21 Responses to First of all, it’s pronounced goes-a

  1. Jeff Alworth September 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    Gee, a lot of this reminds me of something I read somewhere. A book on wheat maybe? I recall it being rich in data.

    FWIW, Portland has for some reason gotten super hot on this obscure style. At least three breweries have made an example (Widmer, Cascade, Upright, and it seems like I’m forgetting someone), and Cascade has made four–one for every season. I will go ahead and take full credit, because about six months before this mini-revival started (is it kosher to use the word revival?), I discussed the style on my blog. As you know, Stan, bloggers wield the kind of influence that they tend to dictate trends.

    Because it was to me all academic and divorced from its homeland roots, I for months mispronounced it, but I’ve been trying to break myself of the habit.

    In any case, you want a good gose (or any other style, for that matter), come to Portland. We’ll set you up.

  2. Stan Hieronymus September 29, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    Jeff – I admire the spirit of exploration but I am bothered that one of the beers Cascade calls Gose includes no wheat in the recipe.

    I’m fine with them taking beer in any direction that tastes good but it seems it changes consumer expectations at a time they already don’t know what to expect when confronted by this relic in a glass.

    I guess I wish they’d find another name.

    Or maybe we should call ones that taste like in Leipzig “goes-a” and new age American versions “goes.” That wouldn’t cause any confusion, would it?

  3. Swordboarder September 29, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    Jeff, here’s how to fix it in your head:

    “It gose very nicely.”

    Just remember you’re pronouncing it with a bad Italian accent.

  4. PaulB September 29, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    What was the gold medal gose?

    It looks to me as if you didn’t like it as well. Why?

  5. olllllo September 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    I’ve mispronounced it even knowing the correct way.

    I just thought “goes” would work better in a beer name, that is until I made a blackened version for kicks. It only took an instant to realize how wrong, “There Gose the Neighborhood” would be.

    And now I’m cursed.

    Incidentally, retaining the appellation via the pronunciation is a nice touch. It certainly beats pLambic.

  6. Stan Hieronymus September 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Paul – A Berliner weisse from Snake River Brewing in Wyoming won the “German sour ale” category. I didn’t see it on the floor at GABF. It also won World Beer Cup, but has not be available the two times we were in Jackson the last 14 months. I’d love to know what it tastes like.

  7. Jeff Alworth September 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    Stan, point taken. Cascade’s Summer Gose seems like a pretty fair example, though.

  8. Mike September 30, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    The reason US brewers can call their beer a Gose is that the US takes a rather strange view of the Protected Designation of Origin (or Protected Geographical Indication or Traditional Speciality Guaranteed). If the original comes from outside the US, the US declines to recognise it. However, if the original comes from inside the US, then various government bodies do recognise it. Sometimes, companies can apparently create their own PDO: Philadelphia Cream Cheese, for example. (information from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_Geographical_Status#United_States)

    What I take from this post is that “style guidelines” are only for the fun of discussion and debate.

    Not having tasted any of the beers mentioned here, I have no idea how similar they are to German Gose. However, it would not surprise me if some of them were tasty. It’s too bad the US takes such a commercial view of an agreement that is accepted within the EU and other parts of the world.

  9. Brian Yaeger September 30, 2010 at 4:38 am #

    Every time I try a craft Gose (most recently the Winter and Summer Goses on draft at Cascade; go figure drinking a Winter Gose in a city like Portland renowned for its rain when it was boiling hot outside 5 days after the Autumnal Equinox), I’m reminded of a local homebrewer named Jason who’s been brewing these for at least 5 years. Dying to remember how he pronounced it the first time he told me.

  10. Stan Hieronymus September 30, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    Mike – Has Gose received protected status? If not, perhaps somebody should lobby to make it “Leipziger Gose.” Quite obviously it is appropriate for Brauhaus Gosler to brew a beer it calls Gose but it lacks the sour quality of the two made in Leipzig.

    As to the “tastiness” of the very small batches a few American brewers have attempted . . . Giving a beer the name of something from Germany that has a pretty specific historic profile sets certain expectations. One of those is that the beer will be sour (every server in Leipzig “warned” us when we order either Gose). I’m sure that Cascade’s are sour, but I haven’t tried them. Tiny Bubbles is the first I’ve had that would not be laughed out of Ohne Bedenken.

  11. Mike September 30, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    Stan, as I read the Wikipedia entry, individual products do not receive “protected status.” The law, says the article, “protects the names of regional foods.” It further specifies: “These laws protect the names of wines, cheeses, hams, sausages, olives, beers, Balsamic vinegar and even regional breads, fruits, and vegetables.” So, in brief, it certainly looks like Gose is covered.

    Although no scholarship is implied: Gose is the name of a small river that flows through Goselar and a few nearby villages. It would not surprise me if Gose (the beer) were also brewed (long ago) in some of these villages. This would certainly make Gose a place name as well.

    From what I’ve seen on Ratebeer, most American “Gose” is difficult to distinguish from American “Berliner Weisse.” So, sourness alone is not the key, it is the spices (assuming salt counts as a spice) that separate them.

  12. Steve September 30, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Interestingly enough, from today’s Chicago Tribune (online) and an article titled:
    4 new brewpubs bring sophistication to Chicago’s beer scene
    Chicago’s brewpub scene is diverse, thriving

    “And these brewpubs aren’t just turning out standard fare — they’re producing beers aged in used bourbon barrels, using unusual brewing ingredients such as hibiscus and resurrecting obscure beer styles such as a smoked helles lager.”

    I guess everyone has their own interpretation of resurrecting or revival.

  13. Brian Yaeger September 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Be thankful he didn’t say “introducing obscure beer styles…”. It’s probably safe to say that most Trib readers don’t know what a Helles lager is, whether it’s been rauched or not.

  14. Sean Inman September 30, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    I was lucky enough to have the Banhof Gose in Leipzig and it was superb. Doesn’t quite taste the same in bottles. So I am glad there are breweries in the US embarking on the style.

    But as with other American experimentation, when I see an Imperial Gose, then I will know that the shark has been jumped.

  15. Stan Hieronymus September 30, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    Sean – Twice as much wheat, twice as much coriander, twice as much salt. Right?

  16. Steve October 1, 2010 at 6:10 am #

    “It’s probably safe to say that most Trib readers don’t know what a Helles lager is…”

    Let alone Gose. Yeah, that was half my point — and my usual, initial point of despair.

  17. Stan Hieronymus October 1, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    Mike – I agree that “Gose” seems like a good candidate for a PDO, although somebody would have to take the initiative to go through the application process.

    Yes, the use of salt and coriander are much of what sets is apart (although the tendency to focus on the Reinheitsgebot is silly because it was a law for that region at the time Gose was brewed). But sour is the vital component that has been missing from the few American brewpub attempts I have had. That’s why I focused on it.

  18. Mike October 1, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Stan, as I have already explained, the law is the law. There are no applications or procedures (aside from a product/company asking for an exemption). Gose is clearly covered by the law. It is simply the strange policy of the US to ignore it, as it also does Champagne, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto di Parma, and virtually all other food and drink produced outside the US.

    Who is focusing on the Reinheitsgebot? I have a bottle of Ritterguts Gose at home (sadly, it is empty) and I don’t see any mention of it on the label. I do see, however, (in very small letters) “gesetzlich geschützt”, which should settle any question about its position.

  19. Stan Hieronymus October 2, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Mike – Here’s an overview of PDOs and PGIs in Germany. What it takes to get one and what products are thus proteceted. The rules very from country to country (a Google search will show you others, from the source, rather than Wikepedia).

    I was referring to the American fascination with the Reinheitsgebot and the idea that Germans would produce a beer with coriander and salt.

  20. ChadY October 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    Stan,

    What would you say to American brewers who produce a beer which does not strictly adhering to traditional recipes used to make either a Berliner or Gose but instead draw some inspiration from either in creating their own take on this interesting type of beer now nearly unavailable… New World Sour-style Wheat beer?

    Chad

  21. Stan Hieronymus October 19, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    Chad – At the point such a “style” is sold widely enough (and perhaps been around long enough) to define itself I would agree. But remember that gose was a regional obscurity that remained under Michael Jackson’s radar for many years.

    It seems these days that we rush to identify styles for competition purposes. Styles serve a “bigger” purpose, which is to give drinkers a fighting chance of knowing what flavors might be in the glass. Not a problem at Hollister, which sells the beer only at the pub and thus a server can tell the customer what to expect.

    I don’t have an answer for what Cascade should call its seasonal gose made without wheat, but it seems like it could cause consumer confusion down the road.

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