Gose is a German beer style that was on the wrong side of the barbed wire during the Cold War.
This pale, unfiltered, wheat-based ale, seasoned with coriander and salt, is a stylistic cousin of Berliner Weisse. Both undergo a lactic fermentation that imparts a refreshing tartness. Until World War II, gose was a popular regional specialty in the German state of Saxony. The city of Leipzig once had scores of taprooms dispensing gose, many serving the university crowd. Goethe, Leibniz, Nietzsche and Wagner all studied there and might have acquainted themselves with the local tipple.
When the Iron Curtain descended on Germany’s eastern sector, the Communist regime saw little point in catering to local tastes, and gose disappeared from the mid-1960s until the mid-1980s. The operator of a Leipzig pub called Ohne Bedenken resuscitated the style, quizzing old-timers on whether his re-creation matched their memories.
Gose dates back centuries before the Reinheitsgebot (“purity law”) became the law of the land in a united Germany, limiting brewing ingredients to barley malt, hops, yeast and water. Like the lambics of Belgium, it might originally have been spontaneously fermented with airborne microorganisms. Gose is pronounced “GOH-zuh.” It sounds a little bit like “gueuze,” a Belgian term for a blend of young and aged lambics, and there is a temptation to seek a linguistic connection. But the style’s name probably comes from the river Gose or the town of Goslar, once a brewing center for this beer.
Gose has a citric character akin to a sour lemonade, a bready sweetness and a dry, mineral-like finish that awakens the thirst and keeps one reaching for another sip. Low in alcohol (generally less than 5 percent by volume), gose is the Gatorade of beers, rehydrating the body and replenishing the electrolytes.
In fact, a gose was offered to thirsty runners crossing the finish line at the 2012 Boston Marathon. Boston 26.2 Brew, a special draft-only release from Boston Beer (official beer sponsor of the marathon), was served at bars and restaurants along the route. A stronger version (6 percent alcohol by volume) was packaged in 22-ounce bottles as part of the Samuel Adams Small Batch series and named Verloren, the German word for “lost.”
Brewer Ian Pyle once interned at the Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery in Leipzig, which exports its Leipziger Gose to the United States. He describes Verloren as “true to the style” but “unique” because of its yeast, wheat, alcohol content, body and levels of salt and coriander.
When Kevin Blodger worked as head brewer for the Gordon Biersch brewpub in Rockville, he whipped up a gose to fill the gap between seasonal releases, winning a bronze medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival in the German-style Sour Ale category. Now co-owner of the recently opened Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, Blodger has based Old Pro Gose on his original recipe, upping the percentage of wheat and adding a little more spice to make it “more approachable for people who aren’t sour-beer drinkers.”
Union Craft hasn’t officially entered the Washington market, but to celebrate DC Beer Week, Blodger and partner Jon Zerivitz dropped by Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle with a few kegs in tow. Old Pro is a hazy gold, with a lemony flavor up front and an uncompromisingly dry finish, full of prickly spice and seaspray. This late-summer seasonal is draft only, but Blodger is considering a canned version for next year.
Like Berliner Weisse, gose can be dosed with a variety of syrups and flavorings for those who want a sweeter drink. Blodger has experimented successfully with essence of woodruff, an herb that colors the beer a faint green and imparts a curious flavor somewhere between marshmallow and menthol cough drops. The Web site for Ohne Bedenken suggests several other mixers, including cherry liqueur (said to be “women-friendly”), curacao and strawberry juice.
Rather than a froufrou summer cocktail, however, gose’s true calling might be as an accompaniment to seafood. Boston Beer Chairman Jim Koch says he enjoys his gose with sushi: the kosher salt he uses in the beer marries well with the soy sauce, and the malty background soothes a palate stung by wasabi horseradish.
Flying Dog Gose, the newest release in Flying Dog Brewery’s Rarities series, is “perfect with seafood,” says brewer Keith Kohr, who formulated the recipe. Besides salt and coriander, Kohr added Old Bay seasoning: 25 pounds per 50-barrel batch of beer.
“The Old Bay was definitely the driving force behind the beer,” says Kohr, who added a little rye as well to enhance the peppery bite. “It’s almost like a jalapeno beer. It’s not quite as spicy, but it sneaks up on you.”
Noting that company has been operating in Maryland since 2006, he said, “It’s been too long for Flying Dog not to have a beer that goes with crabs.”
Kitsock is editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.