Article

Gose

We’ve all seen those advertisements depicting people on vacation south of the border, holding a beer bottle in their hand. More often than not, this bottle has a lime wedge sticking out of its neck. Some folks decide to take their condiment crazed addiction one step further and enjoy dumping salt into their cerveza. Between those funky 3-day old lime wedges the bartender is probably using and the heart seizing dose of salt your sun soaked brother-in-law added to the beer he just handed you, I’d have to pass.

But what if I told you there was a style of beer that is brewed with a gentle hand, using this concept of sour and salty? In addition to that, the floral notes of coriander contribute to a unique flavor and refreshing quality that the style is known for. The beer is called Gose (pronounced goes-uh). It’s a style with an interesting history, and perhaps some hope for a future.

Despite the tropical reference above, it isn’t likely you’ll find this beer at your favorite Caribbean getaway. Before we get into where you can find it today, we must look to the town of Goslar, Germany to find its roots. It has been over 1,000 years since this ale was first brewed. The name itself comes from the river Gose that runs through the town, and rightfully so considering the large contribution that the local water has on the beer’s flavor. This particular area was known for mining and one of the most abundant minerals present was salt. Not surprisingly, some of this salt dissolved into the local groundwater which was used during the brewing of their local beer. Since they didn’t have water softeners or bottled water, they just used what they had and made it work.

After centuries of dominating the local beer market in Goslar, the popularity of Gose fell. Lucky for us, the town of Leipzig picked up the torch in the early 1800s. Despite the heavy damage done to the local breweries from the bombings of World War II — and the not so brewing friendly attitude of the communist regime in East Germany that followed — Leipzig is still the Gose capital of the world today.

Some of you reading this might be wondering how a sour beer with salt and coriander got past the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law that states beer must only contain water, barley, hops and yeast. The area that brews Gose falls outside of Bavaria, where this law was first enforced. After the unification of Germany, there were hurdles that needed to be overcome as this law was then applied to the entire country. Special considerations were eventually made, as they should be for a style that has been brewed for such a long period of time.

The reason a lot of people don’t even know this style exists, is that it is extremely hard to find outside of Germany. My first experience with it was about a year ago after obtaining a bottle through some online beer trading. I have never seen it in any of the specialty stores I’ve been to in Southern California and my only success since was ordering it through an online retailer based out of New York. If you can find it, I recommend the Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Banhof Gose, although I don’t recommend trying to say that three times fast. The limited availability of this style is just one more reason why making it at home just makes good sense.

Speaking of senses, let’s talk about what ours should experience when cracking open a Gose. (Despite the ever growing number of styles being added to the BJCP guidelines for us to reference, Gose has yet to make the cut.)

The aroma of the style should be clean, with a detectable level of floral/spicy notes from the use of coriander during brewing. Esters and fusel alcohols should be very low. The unmistakable noble hop character found in most other German beers should not be present in the least bit. As with most beer styles, the signature buttery smell of diacetyl should also be absent from the aroma profile. Generally speaking, the flavor of a gose is moderately sour, crisp, with a slight hint of salt and spiciness from the coriander in the background. Citrusy flavors such as lemon and grapefruit are often present. Bitterness should be very low and hop flavor can range from barely perceivable to non-existent. The mouthfeel of the style is dry, refreshing, light to medium bodied, with a fair amount of carbonation. The appearance can be straw to deep gold in color (3–6 SRM), with clarity that varies from cloudy to semi-translucent.

The traditional base malts for a Gose are wheat and Pilsner malt, used in a 60:40 ratio. The grain bill for a Gose is very simple and in the brewhouses of Leipzig these two grains are the only ones used during the brewing process. For us homebrewers, that may also be the case depending on how we decide to introduce sourness to the beer. The haziness that is often associated with Gose is provided by the high protein levels of the wheat, which also lends itself to some of the fruity flavors that we are looking for in the final product. The Pilsner malt gives us that very familiar crisp, clean flavor that many pale German beers are well known for. Extract brewers will want to use dry or liquid wheat and Pilsner malt extracts in the same ratio mentioned earlier. If you can’t get your hands on any Pilsner malt extract, you could use standard light malt extract as a substitute, although I am sure that some of the signature flavor will no doubt be missing from the finished beer. As is always the case in extract brewing, you need to find the freshest malt extracts available. When calculating the amount of grain or extract necessary to brew a successful Gose, you are looking for a beer that weighs in at about 3.9–4.9% ABV.

One of the trickier parts of brewing this style of beer is how you decide to bring lactic acid to the party. Traditionally, the brewers used to spontaneously ferment the beer. A mix of yeast and Lactobacillus would float into the open fermenters and provide them with the flavor profile and attenuation they were looking for. These days it is a more exact science. A specific strain of yeast is selected and pitched into the wort along with a measured amount of Lactobacillus. We as homebrewers can do the same thing. Just as with many other aspects of brewing, adding the use of bacteria to your arsenal takes practice. Pitching rates, fermentation time and special attention to sanitation are just a few of the extra considerations you need to be aware of when using any bacteria to ensure you get the flavors you are looking for. If you have experienced successful results using them before, there’s no reason not to here.

For those of us that have little or no experience using bacteria, no need to worry. There are two other methods we can employ to sour the beer. First would be to simply add lactic acid to the beer after fermentation is complete prior to kegging or bottling. That is of course, assuming you can get your hands on some. Many online retailers have it in stock if you aren’t able to find it at your neighborhood homebrew shop. Since the perception of sourness can differ from person to person, I would recommend adding only a couple milliliters at a time to your beer and taste it just before bottling. This beer is supposed to be noticeably sour, but not to the extent of a Berliner weiss or a lambic. The third way to accomplish this is to add acidulated malt to the mash. Acidulated malt is a pale malt that has been sprayed with lactic acid and allowed to dry. The lactic acid content may vary from 1–3% by weight depending on which supplier you get it from. The information as to the actual acid content may or may not be present when you purchase it. As a general rule of thumb, I would use 1.0–2.5 lbs. (0.45–1.1 kg) of acidulated malt per 5.0-gallon (19-L) batch. If you aren’t able to get an exact lactic acid percentage, I’d shoot for somewhere in the middle.

Since the beer we are trying to create needs to be on the drier side, a mash conversion temperature of 148–150 °F (64–66 °C) is recommended. The base malts should be allowed to rest for a minimum of 60 minutes. If you use acidulated malt in the mash, there is a specific way you need to do it. The acid in this specialty malt brings down the overall pH of the mash and will have a negative impact on the enzymes that are responsible for the conversion of starches to fermentable sugars. If you add the acidulated malt too early in the mash, it could prevent you from getting the amount of sugars you are looking for. My recommendation is to wait until conversion of the base malts is complete, then add the acidulated malt and rest for another 45–60 minutes. Remember, the primary purpose of this malt is to provide sourness to the beer. You should get a higher amount of total extract as a result of more enzymes being available to work on the second malt addition. Stirring occasionally can help facilitate that. In the case of extract brewing, you can use a similar strategy by steeping the acidulated malt for the recommended time and temperature in 2 qts. of water per pound  of grain (~4 L/kg) prior to adding it to the brew kettle. Depending on how your system at home is set up, you may want to employ the use of rice hulls during the mashing process. Anytime you have a large amount of wheat or any other huskless grain in your mash, you increase the risk of the runoff getting stuck from the lack of space between the starchy endosperm of the kernels. Even if that has never been a problem for you, it can help ensure your wort flows into the kettle at the rate you are accustomed to. Using a half pound (227 g) of rice hulls per 5.0-gallon (19-L) batch should do the trick.

A 60-minute boil time will be sufficient for this beer, as we aren’t striving for much color pickup or extensive wort concentration. Hop additions should be minimal and done very early in the boil. A single addition of a noble German hop like Hallertauer, Tettnanger or any American equivalent hop variety will be sufficient to provide the limited amount of bitterness required (8–15 IBU). There should be just enough iso-alpha acids to offset any residual sweetness in the beer allowing the sour flavors to take center stage. You should shy away from adding hops when there are less than 30 minutes left in the boil.

Another area where personal preference can be exercised is the amount of salt and coriander you decide to use. In the case of salt, you have the added bonus of deciding what type of salt you want to put in your beer. These days you can find anything from Kosher, Brittany Gray, Hawaiian Red, to just plain old sea salt. All of them will have a unique mineral profile and flavor, but that may be a little difficult to detect with everything else that’s going on in this beer. Just be sure to stay away from iodized salt, for flavor reasons. 0.5–1.0 oz. (14–28 g) of salt should provide you with enough flavor without overdoing it. I would start on the low end and sample the wort quickly — after cooling it a bit  of course! — to see if any more needs to be added prior to the boil being completed.

The coriander seed you add should be fresh and freshly ground. You may even want to toast the seeds in a dry pan for 5–10 minutes like the chefs do to bring out the essential oils. To obtain the appropriate level of coriander flavor and aroma, I would use 0.5–1.0 oz. (14–28 g). When tasting the beer, it’s inclusion in the recipe should be self-evident, but never overpowering. Both the salt and coriander should be added with 10–15 minutes remaining in the boil. You can correct low levels of salt or coriander in the keg or bottling bucket — another reason to start at the low end.

As for the yeast that is appropriate to the style, you’ll want to pitch a strain that is very clean and not too flocculent. Attenuation should be at around the 74–78% range to help achieve the dryness this style requires. A couple of commercially available strains that fit these parameters are White Labs WLP029 (German Ale/Kölsch) or Wyeast 1007 (German Ale). Fermentation should be conducted in a temperature range of 66–68 °F (19–20 °C). This will help keep the flavor compounds produced by the yeast to a minimum and allow the ingredients you added to do the talking when it comes time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Everyone has heard the overused cliché that when life gives us lemons, we should make lemonade. In relation to how this style was born, I think that that phrase certainly rings true. It is a testament to the human creative spirit in all of us that the good folks of Goslar were able to take their salty water and somehow figure out a way to use it as a foundation for a great beer. But don’t take my word for it. Fire up your kettle and see if you agree. I will say this (from my San Diego perspective), on a hot summer day at the beach there’s nothing quite like it. Next time you go on vacation, you may just want to throw a couple in your suitcase. Just make sure to check your bags!

Recipes

There She Gose Again
(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.048  FG = 1.012
IBU = 12  SRM = 4  ABV = 4.7%

Ingredients:
5 lbs. (2.3 kg) wheat malt
3.25 lbs. (1.5 kg) German Pilsner malt (2 °L)
2.0 lbs. (0.91 kg) acidulated malt (2 °L)
0.50 lbs (0.23 kg) rice hulls
2.8 AAU Santiam hops (60 min.)
(0.5 oz./14 g of 5.6% alpha acids)
1 tsp Irish moss or 1 Whirlfloc® tablet
(15 min.)
1.0 oz (28 g) ground coriander seed
(10 min.)
0.75 oz (21 g) sea salt (10 min.)
White Labs WLP029 (German Ale/Kölsch Yeast) or Wyeast 1007 (German Ale) yeast
0.75 cup (150 g) priming sugar

Step by Step
Mill the grains, but be sure to keep the acidulated malt separate. Do not mill the rice hulls. Dough in all but the acidulated malt using 4.0 gallons (15 L) of water with a target mash holding temperature of 149 °F (65 °C). Hold the mash temperature for approximately 60 minutes or until the conversion is complete. Add the acidulated malt to the mash for an additional 45 minutes. Try to keep the temperature as close to original mash temperature as possible using an available heat source. Anything between 144–149 °F (62–65 °C) will work. Raise the temperature of the mash to 168 °F (76 °C) and begin sparging with 170 °F (77 °C) water until you collect 6.0 gallons (23 L) of wort in the kettle.

The total wort boiling time for this recipe is 60 minutes. At the onset of a full rolling boil, add your scheduled hop addition. When there are 15 minutes remaining in the boil, be sure to add your Irish moss or Whirlfloc® tablet to help with precipitation of the hot break.  At 10 minutes remaining, add both the ground coriander seed and the salt.

Cool the wort to 68 °F (20 °C), transfer to your fermentation vessel and aerate the wort adequately. Add the contents of your yeast starter to the chilled wort. Ferment around 68 °F (20 °C) until the final gravity is reached, which should be in 5 to 7 days. Rack to a secondary vessel and allow the beer to mature another 5 to 7 days around the same temperature. Your beer is now ready to rack into a keg or bottles along with the priming sugar.

There She Gose Again
(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.048  FG = 1.012
IBU = 12  SRM = 4  ABV = 4.7%

Ingredients:
4.0 lbs. (1.8 kg) wheat liquid malt extract
2.4 lbs (1.1 kg) Pilsner liquid malt extract
2.0 lbs. (0.91 kg) acidulated malt (2 °L)
2.8 AAU Santiam hops (60 min.)
(0.5 oz./14 g of 5.6% alpha acids)
1 tsp Irish moss or 1 Whirlfloc® tablet (15 min.)
1.0 oz. (28 g) ground coriander seed
(10 min.)
0.75 oz. (21 g) sea salt (10 min.)
White Labs WLP029 (German Ale/Kölsch Yeast) or Wyeast 1007 (German Ale) yeast
0.75 cup (150 g) priming sugar

Step by Step
Mill the acidulated malt. Place it in a grain bag and steep using 1.0 gallon (3.8 L) of 154 °F (68 °C) water for 45 minutes. Rinse the grain bag with about 2 quarts (1.9 L) of water and allow it to drip into the kettle for about 15 minutes, but be sure not to squeeze the bag.
Add enough water for a pre-boil volume of 6.0 gallons (23 L). Stir in both malt extracts and begin the boil. The total wort boiling time for this recipe is 60 minutes. At the onset of a full rolling boil, add your scheduled hop addition. When there are 15 minutes remaining in the boil, be sure to add your Irish moss or Whirlfloc® tablet to help with precipitation of the hot break. At 10 minutes remaining, add both the ground coriander seed and the salt.

Cool the wort to 68 °F (20 °C), transfer to your fermentation vessel and aerate the wort adequately. Add the contents of your yeast starter to the chilled wort. Ferment around 68 °F
(20 °C) until the final gravity is reached, which should be in 5 to 7 days.

Rack to a secondary vessel and allow the beer to mature another 5 to 7 days around the same temperature. Your beer is now ready to rack into a keg or bottles along with the priming sugar.