The first gose I ever came across was Off Color’s Troublesome, a “wheat ale brewed with coriander.” I found this (not inaccurate) description to be a brilliant tactic for putting one of Chicago’s first gose beers on the market under familiar terms. Especially considering that, as the German Beer Institute points out, this type of beer is actually “brewed with slightly salted water,” which might have scared some people away from it at first glance. In fact, at first glance one might wonder, how do you even say that word? Well, I’ll show you:
I also remember scanning the QR code that took me to a page on the Off Color website, explaining what Troublesome truly was. I thought this scannable code was another smart way to introduce the beer’s recipe and history to beer geeks like me, who would actually take the time to seek out this extra information. And now that the gose has become more familiar in Chicagoland, the label has since changed along with the market’s knowledge.
Troublesome’s label has it all!
When Matt, our homebrewer friend Stefan (who generously donated most of the goses we enjoyed for this post), and I sat down a few months ago to taste an array of goses for the first time, to our dismay, most of our “modern” examples were completely overtaken by off-flavors. Thus, we decided to call a do-over, opting to give these beers–many of which were considered best-in-class–another shot. That being said, round one was a fascinating study in off-flavors, so I’ve put an asterisk next to those beers that had issues, and will list the problems out below the body of the article. You know me–I love me some off flavor education!
Goses are part of the Historical Beer category within the BJCP’s guidelines which “contains styles that either have all but died out in modern times, or that were much more popular in past times and are known only through recreations.” In the future, I think that as some of these styles gain popularity in the modern era they could be moved to other categories, but right now the gose seems to be the only one gaining that level of familiarity within the beer market.
You may be wondering why this ancient ale is salty. Originally brewed in a German town called Goslar, then later in neighboring Leipzig, this 1000-year-old, totally unique brew was traditionally made with slightly salty water. According to the German Beer Institute, “It is likely that the original source of saltiness in Gose is the naturally saline water that comes out of some of the mineral-rich aquifers in and around Goslar that supplied the water for the old Goslar brew houses.”
In 1900, Gose was the most popular beer in Leipzig, but wartime destruction of brewing facilities in Germany caused the beer’s sudden decline. Only after the Communist regime fell in 1989 was this beer brought back into production in Leipzig. It was even allowed an exception from the Reinheitsgebot (the infamous German Purity Law) that forbids any ingredients besides malt, water, hops, and yeast in beer so that coriander could be added as it traditionally was (German Beer Institute).
Due to this beer’s fascinating history, I figured it was only logical to include some of the “OG Goses,” if you will, from the region. In 1900, Leipzig was rumored to have around 80 gose houses, so let’s dive in and see what the hype was all about! And, since there’s so many here, I’ve divided them into 4 categories: Traditional, Traditional with a Twist, Modern, and Modern with a Twist.
Ritterguts, 4.2% ABV (Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf)
Appearance: hazy gold
Aroma: subtle lemon
Mouthfeel: light, fairly flat
Flavors: Salty lemonade, sweet, refreshing, and light like a watery peach
Gose Liepziger, 4.5% ABV, (Gosebrauerei Leipzig)
Appearance: hazy yellow-gold
Aroma: smells funky, salty, and kind of like a fruity mushroom
Mouthfeel: very effervescent and full-bodied
Flavors: prominent salt flavor, herbal coriander and a hint of sock
Traditional with a Twist:
Frietgeist Quince Gose, 5.0% ABV, (Kölns kleinster Brauerei)
Appearance: hazy yellow
Aroma: odd, funky spruce-like smell
Mouthfeel: creamy and effervescent
Flavors: lemon, lime, salt, herbal rosemary
*Troublesome, 4.3% ABV, (Off Color Brewing)
Appearance: hazy light yellow
Aroma: light lemon & coriander
Mouthfeel: effervescent, creamy
Flavors: fresh coriander, biscuit, lemon-lime
Salarium, 4.0% ABV (Transient Artisan Ales)
Appearance: cloudy yellow with a fluffy, white head that held, then slowly dissipated
Mouthfeel: very bubbly and puckering
Flavors: tart, acidic lemon zest and slightly sweet lemon candy, lime zest
*Westbrook Gose, 4.0% ABV (Westbrook Brewing)
Appearance: hazy yellowy gold
Aroma: peppery sea breeze
Mouthfeel: puckering, full and creamy
Flavors: quite salty, lemon and a hint of vegetal green pepper
*Here Gose Nothin’, 5% ABV (DeStihl Brewery)
Appearance: very clear, light gold
Aroma: dank, herbal and the slightest hint of green onion
Mouthfeel: very tart and crisp
Flavors: dry, tart and salty, herbal lemon, bready finish
Modern with a Twist:
Blood Orange Gose, 4.2% ABV (Anderson Valley Brewing Company)
Appearance: very light yellow, lightly hazy
Aroma: orange pez candy
Mouthfeel: subtle, salty pucker on end
Flavors: very tart, orange orange orange flavor that overwhelms the others
Suburban Beverage (with key lime), 4.2% ABV (Perennial Artisan Ales)
Appearance: cloudy key lime color
Aroma: sweet lime
Mouthfeel: creamy and effervescent
Flavors: bready, like a “beery margarita” (Thanks, Stef), fresh, key lime
Gose Smack Aged in Cabernet Barrels (with pink Himalayan sea salt), 5.5% ABV (Noon Whistle Brewing)
Appearance: light peachy pink color
Aroma: peach and apricot
Mouthfeel: very smooth
Flavors: sweet peachy salt, resembling a Riesling wine, and tons of layered berry flavors like raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry
While all of these beers adhered to the BJCP’s general gose guidelines, each one seemed to highlight a different characteristic of the style. They were all “highly carbonated, tart and fruity, … with restrained coriander and salt character, and low bitterness. Very refreshing, with bright flavors and high attenuation.” There was, however, a great variety within the modern category. For example, Westbrook stood out as having a very bright coriander-focused profile, where Off Color’s breadiness made it unique from the rest.
Each gose in this tasting offered a unique perspective, and I can’t help but see their modern existence as a testament to the power of beer through the ages. Any beer style that’s delicious enough to have survived a few wars is a winner in my book.
Cheers, and many, many thanks to Stefan for providing a group of world-class American examples of modern goses to compare!
Off-Flavors, Round 1:
* Westbrook Gose V1.0 had a slight raw vegetable aroma, that was just powerful enough to make the beer unpleasant.
* Troublesome, so sadly, was skunked. A result of being exposed to UV light, this was likely the fault of the distributor or the retail outlet that sold the bottles. I wept salty tears.
* Here Gose Nothing V1.0 displayed a rotten peach flavor and vegetal jalapeño aroma, combined with spoiled food smell. This undrinkable beer was seriously infected, and we had to scrap any tasting notes. Sad face.