Session #116: Slightly Wrong Gose is Better Than No Gose

Gose in Goslar, 2008.

Gose, an obscure German beer style, has become a (small scale, low-key) battleground, and we’re not sure why.

Derrick Peterman is hosting the 116th edition of The Session where beer bloggers around the world post on one topic. This month, Derrick says:

Want to talk about the history of the Gose?  How about how American breweries are taking this style and running wild with it with different spice and fruit additions?  How else has the Gose manifested itself outside its German homeland?  Is the Gose here to stay or will it go the way of the Black IPA, once the hot style but slowly becoming a largely irrelevant curiosity?

We first encountered Gose in The Bible, AKA The Great Beer Guide by Michael Jackson. Back in 2008, when this blog was a year and half old, we travelled across Germany to the Czech Republic, stopping off in snowy Goslar and Leipzig on the way. So, before we’d ever tasted a fancified craft beer take on Gose, we had a good go on as near as there is to the real thing, at source.

We liked it, though some takes were better than others. It reminded us of a quirky cousin of Belgian wheat beer, and we like Wit, even, or maybe especially, Hoegaarden. (We realise this gets us thrown out of both The World Kraft Klub and the Ain’t Wot It Used to Be Society of Great Britain but we cannot lie.) Ritterguts had a bit more to it being a bit more tart. But, in general, what German Gose isn’t in the 21st Century is a deeply profound, complex, challenging beer: it’s a fun refresher, no more tangy than a can of Fanta, no saltier than a Jacob’s cream cracker, and with coriander present but hardly obtrusive.

For a long time Gose’s big champion was Ron Pattinson who called for the salvation of this endangered style while providing history lessons and setting some standards along the way. But the exuberant UK craft movement, focused primarily on IPAs and other hop-led styles, took a while to respond.

A breakthrough moment was the arrival of Magic Rock Salty Kiss in February 2013, brewed by Giada Maria Simioni (who has since left Magic Rock) in collaboration with Anders Kissmeyer. We don’t know that it’s the first example of a UK-brewed Gose — almost certainly not — but it was the one that made a splash. Magic Rock were, and still are, one of the buzziest breweries around and gave Gose a contemporary twist with the addition of sea buckthorn, rosehips and English gooseberries.

A can of Salty Kiss, close up.

We first tasted Salty Kiss in Sheffield in the summer of 2013 and, from the off, loved it. We’ve liked every variation we’ve tried — they’ve messed around with different fruits from time to time and tinkered with the recipe — and it’s become one of those beers we like to keep in the fridge at all times, if possible. If you’ve never had it you might imagine from the gloriously garish graphic design and the description that it is bright pink and tastes like fruit juice. It isn’t, and doesn’t: those additives are seasonings, not flavourings, and it really doesn’t seem hugely different to the beers we drank in eastern Germany eight years ago.

We tested that judgement recently when we got hold of some bottles of Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose from Beers of Europe. It was great, in that bright uncomplicated way — the kind of thing it would be a pleasure to drink from the bottle with a barbecue on a hot day. Salty Kiss is in the same territory but dialled up just a notch or two, arguably better, certainly no worse. It tastes how Gose tastes, it isn’t some sick mutation.

So when we read that Ron regrets wishing for more Goses (because everyone is getting it wrong, as we read it), or Ed being disgusted by Salty Kiss, or Alan describing most modern Gose as ‘Gatorade alcopop’, we feel a bit downhearted. Is their distaste about beer, or beer culture? We agree that a few more straight Goses without fruit and other sprinkles would be nice but, still, this feels like at least the beginning of a success story — a beer style so neglected it nearly disappeared altogether is now nearing ubiquity! As with IPA, getting people excited and engaged about the idea — letting them have fun — is step one. Getting the history right, at least at the sharp-end, in the brewhouse, can come later.

13 thoughts on “Session #116: Slightly Wrong Gose is Better Than No Gose”

  1. I’ve had plenty of the silly ones, and enjoyed some of them. I just wish that more brewers — not all necessarily, but more — would take inspiration from the originals, instead of imitating each other’s cartoon caricatures. Like saison it’s become a style for which brewers have convinced themselves they can dump in the produce aisle, and marketers and dump on the adjectives.

    1. One problem here is that the originals, i.e. the surviving or revived examples from Goslar/Leipzig, were all pretty dumbed-down (sorry for using that phrase) so hardly inspiring to hip young brewers. And that’s assuming they could ever get to taste them. Whereas the style descriptor as per BJCP — salt, coriander, sourness! — sounds pretty exciting.

      1. Sorry, Ed — didn’t mean to doubt the sincerity of your tasting notes! But they did come with a side order of snark.

  2. I found it way too salty, and though I disliked it less by the end of the can it really wasn’t for me.

  3. Had Westbrook’s Key Lime Gose on tap in Craft Beer Co (Holborn) yesterday and it was absolutely banging.

  4. I really like it when it’s simple and traditional. It’s just that so often over here it’s the cousin of fruited sweet lambic. I did end up finding one made in Toronto which was very nice except it was unnecessarily strong at 5.9% and aged on Chardonnay oak. Chardonnay is oaked to cover up green aspects of less than perfect grapes. Good Chardonnay doesn’t need it. Good gose doesn’t either.

    Fabulous that you had such an early taste of it. A fundamental experience. I grew up in a diacetyl positive region so find all the wingeing about that all a bit pointless. Most things in their context explain themselves.

    1. We did a lot of this foundational stuff 2005-2009, just trying to get our heads round it all. Rather miss the sense of confusion and wonder — what the hell *is* saison? Isn’t Kölsch just lager? Why do they call it Pils there and Helles here?

  5. I love a good gose, and of course, ‘good’ is entirely subjective…my current favorite one is a straightforward one from Reuben’s Brews – one of our local breweries here in Seattle – and I’m not surprised to see it just won gold at GABF; it’s a perfect summer beer.

    That said, I also like the Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose, and while I’m generally not a fan of most beers involving fruit (whether they ‘should’ have fruit or not), that one is also a great, flavorful refresher. I, for one, welcome our salty German-ish overlords.

    1. A while ago we read a Tweet from UK brewing personality (that’s the best way we can think to describe him) admitting to cutting IPAs and pale ales with blood orange flavour San Pellegrino. Keep thinking we must try it under controlled conditions sometimes, perhaps tasting-off against some commercial beers with orange/grapefruit.

  6. Suggestion for part II of this – Tiny Rebel are now doing AK47, described as an “Amplified Kvass” at 4.7%. Not unpleasant, but it ain’t a kvass.

  7. As I mentioned on Twitter, the main criticism we get for Salty Kiss is that it isn’t sour enough for a Gose (largely from people who think they are drinking a Geuze I think)… but the other one is that is isn’t salty enough, so I’m puzzled by your reaction Ed, but I suppose one mans salty…etc..

    What I particularly like about the beer is that it has a fairly uncomplicated flavour profile and is very approachable for people who’ve never tried that kind of beer.

    It also has great cross-over potential for people who say they ‘don’t like beer’. The lower acidity is reminiscent of a dry cider or white wine, and it seems to get a lot of love from women and people who aren’t usually beer drinkers.

    I will often choose it if I just want a half after work particularly if its hot as its very refreshing but despite to my mind it being a pretty inoffensive beer it does seem to divide opinion.

    1. I’m not usually keen on fruited berliners and goses but I thought Salty Kiss was one of the exceptions where the gooseberries and sea buckthorn just worked really well with the beer. Salty Kiss also still had a bit of “beer flavour” whereas some of the other fruited beers just taste like carbonated sour fruit juice.

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