|Despite the slow, orderly evolution and subtle trends beer styles often follow, there are many cases where
something new—or obscure or even dead—will suddenly catch fire and fit the moment perfectly. This is the case
for gose, which disappeared in the 1960s from its home in central Germany after a couple of centuries or more. At
some point about 10 years ago, this reclusive style bounded onto the American craft scene, ready to rock.
There were classic versions, but the real madness was for fruited ones: raspberry, watermelon, cucumber, citrus,
and many others. Some breweries had trouble keeping up. A commercial brewery ignores a market opportunity at
its peril, so many hopped aboard the trend.
Historically, gose is a member of an ancient family of Northern European white beers spreading from England into
the Baltic. All share a base of wheat, often with oats, combined with extremely pale malt—air-died rather than
kilned. Most are hazy, and many are sour—or once were. Belgian witbier and Berliner weisse are the most
celebrated, but others such as Lichtenhainer, Grodziskie, and long-extinct Devon white ale are also part of the
group. Kvass (a mildly alcoholic, lightly sour beer of Slavic origin, commonly made from rye bread or flour and
flavored with mint or fruits) is a stretch, but you can make the case. Gose went dormaant when its last champion
died in 1966. The style was not revived until the mid-1980s in Leipzig, where it had its strongest following.
Probably named for the river of the same name, gose is something like a mashup of Berliner weisse, a similarly
sour beer, and Belgian witbier, with which it shares coriander. Legend has it that the local brewing water
contributed some saltiness. Leipzig water tests between 25 and 35 ppm, the point at which salt just starts to show
its presence, but this level doesn’t result in a noticeably salty beer. In small amounts, salt enhances richness and
sweetness, which is why it’s commonly added to baked goods.
Like a Berliner weisse, gose took advantage of a clever trick for acidifying beers without risking brewery
contamination: kettle souring. After some experimentation with sour mashing, kettle souring became widely
adopted about 10 years ago. In this process, wort collected in the boil kettle is brought to pasteurization
temperature, then cooled to a little above body heat, and then pitched with a Lactobacillus culture. After a
souring period of eight to 20 hours, the soured wort is boiled, chilled, transferred to the fermentor, and pitched
with normal yeast. This creates a mild to brisk acidity due to the production of lactic acid, the same tang you
would find in yogurt. Each type of acid brings a different character, with lactic being rather soft and creamy,
even when the acidity gets pretty frisky. Kettle souring has some drawbacks. Lactic fermentation is especially
sensitive to oxygen, and in some circumstances, funky off-aromas can be produced. Most notable is methanethiol
(aka methyl mercaptan), an odoriferous chemical that can reek like a garbage truck or old sewer pipes. People
seem to differ in their sensitivity as well as their attitude toward it; many even enjoy “the funk.”
Historic gose has some interesting peripheral details. It was traditionally served in a tall, footed cylinder and dosed
with kümmel (caraway) or other liqueur. Most bizarre is an old-fashioned method of stoppering the long
bottlenecks by allowing the bacteria to grow a gelatinous plug (same material used to make low-fat salad dressing,
if you’re interested), which sealed the bottles. Yes, the yuck factor is pretty high, but it just goes to show you what
an unrelentingly amazing place the beer world is.
Hope you found this month's column of interest. If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just e-mail it to me.
Thanks and Cheers!
|The Gose Story
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer.
Hope you join me every month.
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14,
#15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30,
|Techniques and insights
for the serious ceft beer
fan and home brewer.