On Tap: Gose, a Salty Beer That People Love or Hate
There comes a time in every beer nerd’s life when that nerd steps into the world of sours.
Inevitably, they go to the extreme.
They want the most pungent, most mouth puckering, curl your nose hairs beer they can find. Be bold. Be confident. Try not to look like you’ve swallowed a glass of Lemonheads.
Then they might come upon a gose and discover that sour beers can be approachable, after all. That was Jamie Griffith’s reaction when he discovered the Leipziger Gose several years ago.
“When I found that beer, it wasn’t as acidic as some of the sour beers,” Griffith told me recently.
Griffith is a brewer in Morrisville, Vt., who along with his co-brewer Allen Van Anda, has joined a steadily building movement to revive a German style of sour wheat beer that nearly disappeared. Their recently opened brewery, Lost Nation Brewing, isn’t the first in the Twin States to make gose (pronounced “goze-uh,” like “Rosa”), but it’s the only one I know that has made this unique beer part of its standard lineup.
In this regard, Griffith and Van Anda are not unlike the scientists in Jurassic Park, committed to recreating an ancient style that had all but gone extinct.
It’s a brave move on their part. The slightly sour, medium-bodied wheat beer features coriander and my favorite mineral — salt — and can be divisive among drinkers, Griffith said.
“Some people hate it,” he said. “It’s a 50-50 thing.”
Gose is not a bitter beer, but the sour-salt combination lends a dryness that leaves you craving another sip. Several versions feature a lemony tang, and some actually leave behind a salty residue that you can taste on your lips.
I love the way gose pairs with fresh, late-summer vegetables. As I drank the Original Ritterguts Gose, one of the hallmarks of the style, I found myself craving a caprese salad with the fresh tomatoes and basil that came in my farm share that week.
The thousand-year-old style is most closely associated with Leipzig, a city in East Germany, though takes its name from the river Gose that flows through a town named Goslar, about 100 miles away, according to the German Beer Institute. The naturally saline water that comes out of the mineral-rich aquifers is what makes the beer so distinct, and anyone brewing it has to adjust the water to replicate the original flavor.
It was quite popular until the 20th century, when breweries were destroyed during World War II air raids. Then the Cold War division of Germany nearly forced it into oblivion.
Eventually, the Communist regime in East Germany decided there was a better use for its grain than making beer. It needed to satisfy food shortages. By the late 1950s, the last pre-unification gose was made in Leipzig, according to the German Beer Institute.
Then the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Craft brewers in Germany took up the style again. Since 2000, one German brewery — Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof — has been leading the way with its Leipziger Gose that sparked Griffith’s interest. That particular gose can be found locally, the label adorned with a man in a bowler hat and vest wiping his lips and holding a tall cylindrical glass, called a stange, of the frothy beverage.
The Original Ritterguts Gose is a bit more aggressive on the sour tang, but I really enjoyed it. A less assertive one is the Freigeist Geisterzug Spruced Gose, which was lemony and finished with a light mineral note. (I’m not sure what the “spruced” is all about. I didn’t taste pine tree at all.)
Then there’s Lost Nation’s version. The beer is made with coriander and sea salt and registers at 4.5 percent alcohol, which makes it a good fit for the brewery’s portfolio of lower alcohol “session” beers. None of Lost Nation’s beers are boozier than 5.9 percent alcohol, but they feature all kinds of tart fruit and spice flavors.
For some people, Lost Nation’s gose has been a surprising gateway into craft beer, Griffith said.
“I’ve found people who aren’t beer geeks that love it,” he said.
It has sparked a number of stories from customers about their grandfathers putting salt in beer, Griffith said. I’ve heard of this, too, and it never seemed very appetizing. But maybe the old guy wasn’t crazy after all.
Valley News staff writer Chris Fleisher is a beer judge and the founder of the website BrewsReporter.com. He can be reached at 603-727-3229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.