What is a Gose Beer? Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve heard someone talking about gose beer – pronounced “goze-uh” – you may be wondering what it is. This specialist brew has a long history, but it’s only recently come to prominence amongst craft beer aficionados.

So what is gose beer? How is it made? And most importantly of all, what does it taste like?

We’re here to share the answers to all those questions and more! So settle in for our tour of everything you need to know about gose.

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What’s it made of?

Gose is a light wheat beer, usually the color of pale straw, and with a cloudy appearance. Originally, and unlike most beers, it didn’t use yeast in the fermentation process. Instead, the mixture was cooled in open-air vats, exposing the grain to bacteria in the air for spontaneous fermentation.

Today, gose is made with warm-fermenting yeast. The addition of lactobacillus bacteria creates its characteristic sour flavor.

At least half of the grain used for gose is usually malted wheat. It also includes coriander and yeast, making this beer something of a rule breaker.

In Germany, where gose originated, the ingredients in beer are strictly controlled by a set of regulations known as Reinheitsgebot.

These were instituted by the Duke of Bavaria in 1516 and limited beer ingredients to water, hops and barley. The rules were intended to ensure beer purity – but they also preserved more wheat for bread.

Although updated, the Reinheitsgebot is still in place, making it the world’s oldest set of consumer protection regulations. Fortunately for gose, its status as a regional specialty has seen it granted an exemption from the rules.

What does it taste like?

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Gose has a distinctive salty and sour flavor that’s not to everyone’s taste. One craft beer lover lamented its rise as proof that craft beer was dead, likening its flavor to sweat!

Others are better disposed towards it. In her book, Beer O’Clock: Craft, Cask and Culture Jane Peyton describes it as “tart” and “refreshing”. In advising why you might want to drink it, however, she suggests simply, “to keep the style alive”. Make of that what you will!

It’s certainly an unusual beer, well removed from what you might think of as typical German ales. The use of ground coriander seeds lends it dryness and spice, with a floral aroma. The addition of lactic bacteria gives it sourness. It’s medium-bodied with low levels of bitterness.

Modern versions of gose often include fruit-flavored syrups to balance the sourness. Indeed, more than half the goses available today have some kind of fruit component.

These days, gose is brewed in the USA as well as Germany. There are, however, distinct differences between the styles produced by the two countries. The general consensus is that American gose is more sour than German versions. Both styles have a typical alcohol content of around 5 percent.

The birth of gose

The origin of gose dates back the thirteenth century. It was brewed in the German town of Goslar, using salty water from the river. It is from the town that gose takes its name.

It grew in popularity, becoming a favorite in the city of Leipzig, around 180 kilometers to the west. Here, the local brewers began to copy the style.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Leipzig brewers were successful flatterers! By the end of the nineteenth century, gose had become known as a Leipzig specialty. And “Gosenschanken” – special taverns dedicated to gose – had sprung up around the city.

The earliest versions of gose did not use yeast, with the wort instead fermenting in vats open to the air. The beer would be placed in kegs and delivered to the taverns, where it would continue to ferment.

The shive hole at the top of the keg would be left open, allowing the foam to bubble out. When the bubbles stopped coming, the beer was ready to be bottled.

That wasn’t the end of the unusual gose approach, though. The beer entered a second fermentation in the bottle, with the active yeast rising to the top. That created an effective plug, so no cork was needed!

A decline in popularity

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Over time, the Germans sadly fell out of love with gose, increasingly turning to pilsners. By the time of the second world war, only one dedicated gose brewery was still operating in the country. Later, that closed down too, leaving gose brewed in only a handful of smaller taverns.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that it enjoyed a resurgence. It came thanks to the efforts of one Lothar Goldhahn. Goldhahn reopened the once-famous gose tavern “Ohne Bedenken”, which translates as “without misgivings”.

The gose he served was brewed in East Berlin, but production stopped after just a couple of years. Rather than abandoning the enterprise, Goldhahn purchased his own brewery and began producing gose. Economic troubles continued to plague him, however, and the brewery closed in 1995.

An amateur brewer named Tilo Jänichen then took up the cause, experimenting to produce his own gose. After years of trial and error, he successfully reproduced the recipe. In 1999, the brewery reopened under the guidance of brewer Armin Brandt, with improved production methods.

Since then, gose has gone from strength to strength. In Germany, the principal customer base remains in Leipzig, but from 2010 gose has been once again brewed in Goslar. After an absence of nearly 140 years, the beer was back in its hometown.

Increasingly, American brewers are also entering the market. At the last count, there were over 400 breweries making gose, of which more than half were in the US.

How should you serve it?

Gose is best served at a temperature of between 46 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Present it in a dimpled beer glass or stein for a touch of Teutonic style.

When it comes to food, gose works well with lighter flavors. Omelets and other egg dishes, white fish (including fish cakes), chowder, Caesar salad and quiche are all good pairings.

Top brands

With a huge variety of gose to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. But if you’re looking for some recommendations, website ratebeer.com has collected customer reviews of 50 different brands.

Top of their list is Stillwater Gose Gone Wild, produced in Maryland by Crazy Mountain Brewing Company. It has a tart citrus flavor, with a more pronounced hoppy finish than most goses.

Second place goes to De Garde Citra Hose. Another American gose, this one is from Oregan and has flavors of lemon and oak.

Top-placed among the German offerings is Original Ritterguts Gose, brewed in Saxony. It also bears the distinction of being the oldest brand of gose still to be produced. It has a well-balanced sourness and the characteristic apple aroma of German gose.

And if you want to try a gose from a non-traditional source, check out Falkon Saur und Salzig. This one is brewed in Czechia and offers a balanced aroma with classic coriander and lactic flavors.

Can you brew gose yourself?

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If none of these goses quite hit the spot for you, you might be tempted to brew one yourself. So is that possible? And what do you need to know to pull it off?

The inclusion of bacteria to aid fermentation makes gose a trickier prospect than most beers for the home brewer. You’ll need to pay extra attention to sanitation, as well as to pitching rates and fermentation times. But if you’re an experienced brewer, there’s no reason not to give it a go.

An easier approach than using bacteria is to add lactic acid after the fermentation process. Do this very gradually and taste it before you bottle. The sour flavor you’re looking for is very subjective, and you don’t want to overdo it!

Another option is to add some acidulated malt to your mash. If you haven’t come across it before, acidulated malt is the malt that’s been sprayed with lactic acid before drying. Different batches will have different levels of lactic acid. It usually forms between 1 and 3 percent of the malt by weight.

A reasonable rule of thumb is to use between 1 and 2.5 pounds of acidulated malt for each 5-gallon brew. If you don’t know the lactic acid content of your malt, aim for somewhere in the middle of that range.

Adding acidulated malt will, however, increase the acidity of your mash, so it needs to be done with care. This article from Brew Your Own magazine has lots of helpful guidance to walk you through the process.

So to sum up…

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about gose, this most distinctive of beers. With a history going back almost a thousand years, this is a beverage with an impressive heritage.

After years being largely forgotten, the growing interest in craft beers has seen gose once again come to prominence. And with so many brewers, particularly in the US, experimenting with exciting new approaches, the future for gose is bright.

While the flavor won’t be for everyone, this is a beer that’s well worth trying. And if you’re an experienced homebrewer, its distinctive fermentation process will give you an exciting new challenge.

We hope you sample gose soon. Bottoms up!

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1 thought on “What is a Gose Beer? Everything You Need to Know”

  1. I had no idea that gose beer was such an interesting and unique style! It’s great to learn more about it through this informative blog post.


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