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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