The German-style gose beer nearly never was. Its origins date back to medieval Germany (some records go back as far as the 11th century) to a town called Goslar in Lower Saxony. Characterized by several unique ingredients, including coriander and salt, gose was a top-fermenting wheat beer that underwent a similar brewing process to ales (as opposed to a bottom-fermenting lager). Over the next several hundred years, the beer found its way east to Leipzig, defining itself within the cultural flavor of the city.
Later centuries in Germany, however, would prove less receptive to gose. Eventually, it fell out of favor after the rise of German lagers under the Reinheitsgebot, a law that
restricted beers’ ingredients to water, barley and hops. By the end of the 1930s, Rittergutsbrauerei Döllnitz was the only brewery in the world still producing the gose style; and in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, the brewery closed its doors.
The gose recipe faced near-extinction, dormant in the hands of two men who knew it: Friedrich Wurzler (an old employee of Rittergutsbrauerei Döllnitz) and his stepson, Guido Pfnister. After they died, the torch was passed to a man by the name of Lothar Goldhahn, who arrived at a definitive offspring from the original style in the late 1980s. Today, it can be savored at his revived tavern, the Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken. Three well-known brewers in Germany currently produce the beer, and it bypasses exclusion under the Reinheitsgebot thanks to its classification as a regional specialty with deep ties to Leipzig and the surrounding region.
The style has also landed in the American craft beer circuit, popping up in different parts of the country with bold, confident riffs on the German original. Though some breweries choose to offer gose-influenced beers year-round (as is the case with Troublesome from Off Color Brewing in Chicago), it’s best known in the US as a rotating summer seasonal, sometimes labeled as a “session beer”.
Modern gose is light, crisp and refreshing, with a touch of sourness that comes from the addition of lactobacillus bacteria mid brew. A gose’s level of tartness depends on the brewery, but you’ll find most of them to be less aggressive than related wild ales and lambics. Their color can also vary, most fitting between a pale, opaque yellow and a deep, rich amber.
Another defining feature of gose beers is their moderate alcohol content, which hovers between 4 and 5% ABV, and seldom above 6% — a good thing during the high summer drinking season, when a cold one easily turns into three. The savory profile of sour-meets-salty is easy to crave. Pair the beer with a couple of brats and a backyard full of friends, and you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it before. Chances are, you’ll also be glad to hear that the gose isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
August Schell Brewing Company Goosetown Gose
Origin: New Ulm, Minnesota, USA
Color: Light, clear
Tasting Notes: This is a mild interpretation of the traditional gose, conservative in its sourness. A bready quality melts on the tongue, reminiscent of a Bavarian helles lager.
Almanac Beer Co. Golden Gates Gose
Origin: San Francisco, California, USA
Color: Pale, hazy
Tasting Notes: The Golden Gates Gose is a thin beer, very drinkable and slightly tart with just a touch of citrus flavor. Its loudest quality is its level of carbonation, which shines bright like soda pop.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House Gose
Origin: Portland, Oregon, USA
Color: Pale, hazy
Tasting Notes: This gose comes on tart with heady notes of lemon rind, which are heightened by its brininess. These bright fruit flavors mellow into a very palatable, malted finish.
Victory Brewing Company Kirsch Gose
Origin: Downingtown, Pennsylvania, USA
Color: Pinkish red, clear
Tasting Notes: This red-tinted brew is fruity with sour notes of cherry preserves, balanced in a well-structured biscuit body. The beer lingers with spiced notes of nutmeg for a playful riff on the gose.
Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose
Origin: Hartmannsdorf, Germany
Color: Amber, muddy
Tasting Notes: This German import is tart yet reserved, developing a mineral salinity on the finish. Call it playing safe.
Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof Leipziger Gose
Origin: Leipzig, Germany
Color: Gold, opaque
Tasting Notes: From Leipzig’s most storied brewery, converted from a 19th century railway station, this gose is often considered to set the template of the German style. It’s simple and refreshing, crisp with lemon rind (but not sour) and structured with a malted body.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company The Kimmie, The Yink, & The Holy Gose
Origin: Boonville, California, USA
Color: Pale, slightly hazy
Tasting Notes: This is one of the most widely circulating goses in the United Sates. It’s sour with ripe citrus, but not tart; thin and fruity, with minimal wheat, it ventures into the realm of white wine, but its closest relative is decidedly the farmhouse ale.
Westbrook Brewing Gose
Origin: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, USA
Color: Gold, opaque
Tasting Notes: Though low in alcohol, the radical Westbrook Gose is aggressive on all flavor fronts. It contains sour citrus notes with a bold mineral brininess that carries a sweaty, barnyard smell. It can take some getting used to, but those that fall for this seasonal brew are loyally hooked.
Off Color Brewing Troublesome
Origin: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Color: Pale, cloudy
Tasting Notes: Troublesome is quiet on its defining characteristics as a gose, and actually tastes closer to a hefeweizen than its categorical ancestors. It starts dry and biscuity, finishing with an unexpected citrus tang.