Salty Gose-Style Beer Is The Latest Trend In Brewing
Julia Sexton on the history of briny beer, how it’s made, and how to pair it.
Here’s the thing about beer fads: They’re all about extremes. As you may remember, there was a long moment when aggressively hopped beers were all the rage. These were big, bitter brews that beer geeks called “hop bombs” and whose intensity was actually measurable in IBUs (International Bittering Units). The fad for extreme bitterness eventually yielded to a fad for pale sours, whose puckery acids spelled few (to no) hops. Instead of coming from hops, the distinctive flavor of the sours came from an intentional dose of lactic bacteria that was similar to the painstaking funkification of sourdough bread with a long-fermented starter.
Well, folks, there is a new beer in town whose most distinctive characteristic is that it’s salty—and when I say salty, I mean noticeably salty. Like sour beers (with which they share their tartness), Gose-style beers bear little to no hop flavor and also have a distinctive, pale, cloudy hue. This shouldn’t be surprising, as Goses are—like cloudy weissbiers—made primarily from malted wheat and barley, though Goses are brewed with salted water and spiced with coriander. Tradition holds that the style (which is pronounced Goes-uh) was developed a millennium ago in the German town of Goslar on the banks of the Gose River in Lower Saxony. The beer’s distinctive saltiness likely emanates from the saline aquifer found around that city. By the 18th century, Gose-style beer had become the regional variation most closely associated with the Saxon city of Leipzig. But when the Allied Forces leveled the Saxon industrial centers (which included Dresden), the production of the traditional salty beer was halted. Then, after the war—when the city of Leipzig fell under the communist rule of East Germany—wheat was deemed too precious a commodity to be allocated to brewing the niche beer.
Happily, the recipe for Gose beer was retained, and after the reunification of Germany, several Saxon craft breweries revived the local tradition. In particular, Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof is creating its Leipziger Gose in its historic city. Even better, the beer is available in traditional bulb-shaped large-format bottles at DeCicco Family Markets in Pelham and Armonk (when it’s not sold out). Among the Gose-style beers being produced in the US, the white, black, and gold cans of Westbrook Brewing Co.’s Gose (also at DeCicco Family Markets) are gaining fans. Look for this beer’s quaffable tartness and crisp minerality to pair perfectly with summer foods like oysters, lobster, and simple grilled fish.