Saturday, 13 May 2017

No longer a Gose virgin

Until the other day I’d never tried a Gose, but now, having enjoyed a glass, I must say I rather like it and would certainly give the beer another go. With its unusual inclusion of coriander and salt in the grist, I found the beer surprisingly  refreshing and definitely much more palatable and agreeable than a German Weisse Bier.

For the initiated, Gose is a top-fermented beer that originated in the town of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, Germany, from where its name is also derived. It is brewed with a grist malted wheat constitutes at least 50% of the grain. Gose was first brewed in the early 16th century.

Due to various trading links, the beer was slowly introduced to other parts of Germany, and it became particularly popular in the city of Leipzig; so much so that local breweries copied the style. By the end of the 1800s, it was considered to be local to Leipzig and there were numerous Gosenschänken (Gose taverns) in the city.

Gose belongs to the same family of sour wheat beers which were once brewed across Northern Germany and the Low Countries. Other beers of this family are Belgian Witbier, Berliner Weisse, Broyhan, and Polish Grodziskie

Dominant flavours in Gose include a lemon sourness, a herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have a prominent hop bitterness, or aroma, and typically have a moderate alcohol content of 4.0 to 5.0% ABV.

My example was purchased through Beers of Europe, and was labelled  Original Leipziger Gose. It is a naturally conditioned beer, but because my bottle had been standing for so long in an upright position in the fridge, it poured virtually clear, with just a slight haze. When I looked, there was quite a crust of yeast remaining in the bottom of the bottle.

The beer maintained a reasonable head until over half way down the glass. There was nothing much in the way of aroma, but on the palate there was a refreshing sharpness, which blended well with the coriander. I could also taste the salt lurking, quite prominently, in the background.

My bottle was brewed at the Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei; a brewpub and beer hall housed at the Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig. For the rail buffs amongst us, the Leipzig Bavarian station is Germany's oldest preserved railway station, which first opened in 1842 for the Leipzig–Hof Railway, by the Saxon-Bavarian Railway Company

The station was closed in 2001 for the construction of the Leipzig City Tunnel. It re-opened in December 2013 after the completion of the tunnel. Since then it is integrated into S-Bahn  system. The new station is built directly underneath the site of the former station which has been converted to a variety of uses, including a brew-pub; as mentioned above.

Because of the use of coriander and salt, Gose does not comply with the all-conquering Reinheitsgebot, but is allowed an exemption on the grounds of being a regional specialty. It acquires its characteristic sourness through inoculation with lactobacillus bacteria after the boil. The beer was originally spontaneously fermented, but sometime in the 1880s, brewers managed to achieve the same effect by using a combination of top-fermenting yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
Gose was delivered, still actively fermenting, in barrels to the local pubs. Casks were stored in the cellar with the shive hole left open, so that the still-active yeast could escape. When fermentation had slowed to a point where no yeast was emerging, the Gose was ready to bottle and it was filled into traditional long-necked bottles. These were not closed with a cap or cork, but with a plug of yeast which naturally rose up the neck as the secondary fermentation continued.

Gose’s popularity eventually waned, and by the outbreak of World War II, only one Leipzig brewery continued to produce the style. After the war, the brewery was nationalised by the East German government, and eventually closed. Gose clung on stubbornly, but were it not for the work of pub owner Lothar Goldhahn, who wanted to revive the style, in order to sell it at the "Ohne Bedenken", a former Gosenschenke, which he was restoring, it is likely the beer would have disappeared altogether.

Goldhahn questioned local drinkers in order to ascertain its precise characteristics, and then searched for a brewery to produce it, but  no local brewery was willing to make such strange beer. Eventually the Schultheiss Berliner-Weisse-Brauerei in East Berlin agreed, and following successful test brews production started in 1986.

Gose has again found popularity, and the style is now brewed outside Germany, in the United States, Canada and Britain. As I discovered, it is an extremely pleasant and thirst quenching beer, making it the ideal drink for a hot summer’s day, (not many of those around at the moment!).


RedNev said...

Congratulations on losing your virginity! Why not celebrate with a Gose?

Paul Bailey said...

Why not indeed Nev, especially as it's not often that a much hyped beer-style actually finds favour with me.

Matt said...

When Gose wasn't being brewed in East Germany in the 80's, the Leipzig pubs substituted for it with bottles of Belriner Weisse, both of them as you say being members of a bigger family of north German/Belgian sour wheat beers. I've also seen a claim that Gose and gueze are linked, although, apart from the similarity of the words, that might be hard to back up historically.