EVERY NOW and then you hear a news story about some language, animal or art form that is very nearly on the brink of extinction but rises slowly from near disaster because of the work of a dedicated group of people.
The beer style known as gose is one of those stories.
Gose (goes-uh) is a style of beer dating back at least a thousand years. It originated in the area around the German town of Goslar which derives its name from the nearby Gose River.
In the 11th Century Goslar was a major mining center for the German Empire, the wealth and population growth that came along with the mining industry fueled a growing brewing industry. The most popular beer brewed in Goslar was, of course, the gose, a beer unlike any other, because it is brewed with salt.
The minerals that made Goslar a rich mining town also affected the local water table giving the water a slight salinity. Gose are related to wit beers and are, in fact, brewed with a 50% malted wheat grain bill and coriander, both required aspects of wit beers but when brewed with Goslar’s salty water and fermented with lactobacillus, the same family of bacteria that give us pickles, yogurt and sour dough bread, the beer that is produced is tart and refreshing with a salty finish, kind of like a margarita.
Eventually Goslar’s mines dried up, as did the fortunes of the local brewers, but gose was still a desired beer especially in Leipzig a city not too far from Goslar. Leipzig brewers took up the style, modifying it enough that the style eventually became known as Leipziger Gose. Soon Gosenschänken (gose houses) were popping up all over Leipzig, maxing out at 80 licensed taverns in 1900.
This was the peak of gose popularity though, and as two world wars moved through Germany and lagers grew in popularity, the style began its slow decline.
By 1960 there were no breweries making gose, and it’s said that the recipe was known to only a handful of people.
With the fall of the wall, gose made a slow recovery in Leipzig and eventually the style found it’s way to the US. It’s still an uncommon style, most often released as a summer seasonal, but a few breweries, Sierra Nevada, Westbrook and Off Color Brewing to name a few, have put gose in their year-round lineup.
Gose are great summer beers. They have a tang to them but are usually very mild, refreshing and low in ABV, usually hovering in the 5% range, making gose a very sessionable beer. As temperatures rise in Savannah it’s worth trying a gose or two. Try serving them up in a traditional cylindrical glass (a Tom Collins glass will work in a pinch).
Here are a few you can find around town.
The Local Option
Perhaps the strongest flavored beer in this list Westbrook’s Gose was one of the fist to be marked in the U.S. and to be added to a year round lineup. Westbrook’s take on the style has an aggressive tartness and more briny character than is palatable for some but it has a loyal following. If you like sours this will be a go to beer for you. If not there are some other options to help you build up to this gose.
Readily Available Options
The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose Anderson Valley
Besides having one of the best names in craft beer The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose is a mighty fine introduction to the style. Anderson Valley’s take has a milder tartness and a sweeter finish and is very drinkable. There are two variants of this gose, a blood orange version and a melon flavored option that provides less tang and more sweetness. All three variants are available in cans and with a low 4.2% ABV are great beach beers.
Otra Vez , Sierra Nevada
The full resurgence of the gose style was announced the day Sierra Nevada made Otra Vez a year round offering. Brewed with prickly pear cactus, Otra Vez is a fruity take on the style. Less salty than the other versions on this list it has a mild tartness and a more citrus than expected but is still a refreshing brew.
Hibiscus Gose, Boulevard Brewing
Traditionally brewed with coriander and salt, Boulevard takes an additional step of steeping their gose with dried hibiscus flowers to add a floral note to the nose and flavor profile along with a distinct pink color to the appearance. This beer is only available in May and June.
Worth Hunting Down
Coco Piña Gose, Coastal Empire Beer Co
Released back in March this tropical take on the gose style is still available around town. Brewed with pineapple, coconut, pink Himalayan salt and sea salt Coastal Empire’s version pulls pretty far away from the typical gose but it’s still a very tasty fruity beer.