Gose is a German-style sour wheat beer that originated in the Middle Ages. Since 1740, it has been associated with Leipzig, Germany, but the style originated in Goslar, Germany, which is adjacent to the Gose River.
At one time, Gose was a very popular beer, but it fell out of favor after WWII, and it completely died off in 1966. It was resurrected in 1985, but production has been relatively low since then. That is, until recent years, when it has exploded in popularity, especially in the United States (along with the Berliner Weisse and other sour ales).
Gose, pronounced “GOES-uh,” should not be confused with Gueuze (also Geuze), which is a Belgian-style blended Lambic beer, even though traditional examples of Gose are spontaneously fermented similar to Gueuze. Unlike Gueuze, however, which is a blend of 1- to 3-year-old Lambics, Gose is served young and fresh. It also should be noted that most Contemporary Goses are not spontaneously fermented.
The Gose style is similar to the Berliner Weisse style, but it is typically seasoned with spices such as coriander and salt. Both of these styles are only brewed with a small amount of hops (often producing just single-digit IBUs) because hops can inhibit lactobacillus growth (unless the beer was sour mashed) and hop bitterness tends to clash with sourness.
THE GOSE STYLE
APPEARANCE: Color can vary from straw to medium amber, with a white head made up of tiny, packed bubbles. Gose is usually unfiltered, thus haze is common.
MOUTHFEEL: Light-bodied and highly-carbonated. Very refreshing, effervescent, snappy and highly attenuated.
FLAVOR / AROMA: Malt flavors are low to virtually unperceivable, as is malt sweetness, though there may be some bread/dough flavors. Malt bill includes malted barley (especially pilsner malt), wheat, and sometimes oats. Hop bitterness, flavors and aromas are nonexistent (though some contemporary versions may have hop aromas derived from dry hopping). Salinity is typically low. Spice notes (most commonly coriander) are usually mild to medium. A low to medium lactic acid character is noticeable, creating a refreshing, lemony sourness. Horsey, sweaty and leathery notes contributed by Brettanomyces yeasts may be evident, especially with Leipzig-style/Traditional Goses, but are usually mild because this beer is rarely aged long enough to fully develop these characteristics. Contemporary Gose may include non-traditional additions, such as fruit, herbs, spices, etc., creating a wide variety of fruity, herbal, spicy and floral aspects. American brewers have already pushed the envelope with these beers, and there’s no sign of that trend slowing. Contemporary Gose may be fermented with a pure ale yeast strain or a mixed strain, and it may or may not be spontaneously fermented.
ALCOHOL BY VOLUME: Most examples fall in the 4-5% ABV range, though some dip slightly above or below that range.
LOCALLY AVAILABLE EXAMPLES
There are many regional interpretations of the Gose style. Reuben’s Brews (Seattle) recently released a Holiday Gose made with cranberries and orange zest. It’s a snappy, spicy and refreshing beer, and if you can find any bottles around, be sure to snatch them up.
Sierra Nevada also recently released an amazing Gose called Otra Vez, which was made with prickly pear cactus and grapefruit. It may sound odd, but I found it to be curiously delicious.
In a recent Paste Magazine article, Brian Grossman (son of Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder), who heads up the Mills River, North Carolina facility, had some interesting things to say about Otra Vez:
We started making goses about six years ago. We’ve been working on this beer for a long time. It took 119 different lactic fermentations to come up with the one for Otra Vez that balances what we want with the prickly pear cactus and grapefruit and right amount of salinity … This is probably the most challenging beer we’ve ever made.
Some other Gose beers you should be able to find in Bellingham right now include a Gose from fPfriem Family Brewers (Hood River, OR); Here Gose Nothin’ from Destihl Brewing (Chicago); Troublesome by Off Color Brewing (Chicago); and a Blood Orange Gose from Anderson Valley Brewing (Boonville, CA).
Earlier this year, Menace Brewing released a delicious Gose. Even though it was a limited release, it was so well received that it ended up being a finalist for Bellingham’s Best Beers of 2015. Unfortunately, it’s no longer on tap at The Local, but I hear Menace plans to brew it again in the future.
Boundary Bay has also brewed a Gose called Steady As She Gose, which was mighty tasty.
If you’re a fan of this rapidly growing style, I’m sure you’ll see many more versions of it from local and regional breweries in the near future.