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Home / German Beer Styles / Gose

German Beer Styles:
Gose

Gose bottles and glasses

"Die Gose" takes its name from the town that originated it, Goslar. It became very popular in the nearby town of Leipzig but almost vanished in the early-to-mid twentieth century. Thankfully, due to the determination of a few brewers, the Gose style has not been lost forever and is undergoing something of a revival, being produced by three breweries after an absence of over 30 years.

Gose is a top-fermented wheat beer, sometimes including oats, with added coriander and salt. The inclusion of coriander and salt is contrary to the excessively strict beer purity law ("Reinheitsgebot") but as the law was a Bavarian one and Gose originated outside Bavaria, this wasn't a problem until the unification of Germany and the wider application of the Reinheitsgebot. Gose was traditionally spontaneously fermented, like Belgian lambic ales or Berliner Weisse, with fermentation being initiated by natural wild yeasts carried in the air, instead of the addition of particular strains of yeast but today's brewers use their own yeasts.

Gose is traditionally bottled in a flattish, near semicircular bottle, with a tall, narrow neck. The neck was designed to trap the foam of fementation and thus produce a natural bung. Gose is incredibly difficult to find, unless you visit Leipzig or Goslar. The Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken tavern (www.gosenschenke.de) was until recently the only place in the world where it is served. In July 2000, the Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof (www.bayerischer-bahnhof.de) reopened as a Gose brewery and there are now several pubs in the city that sell Gose again, including Sinphonie on the Gottschedstrasse, just outside of the Western edge of the Altstadt. Gose has also come home to Goslar, brewed by Odin Paul at the Brauhaus Goslar (www.brauhaus-goslar.de). The brewery's website includes a list of places in Goslar where you can sample Gose. I'm told there is also a butcher (Fleischerei Kluss) and a baker (Bäckerei Braun) in Goslar that use Gose in their produce.

In October 2005 I visited Leipzig and Goslar in search of Gose, as I couldn't find any way of getting it in the UK. Luckily, the Leipzig hotel that we booked (www.kosmos-leipzig.de) was on Gottschedstrasse, the same road as Sinfonie, an excellent little bar/café that serves Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose on tap, so this was my first sampling. It's a fine pub, as recommended by Ron Pattinson's Leipzig pub guide and the Döllnitzer is an excellent beer: cloudy and yeasty, refreshing and zingy, with a sharp but eminently drinkable, grapefruity bite and some lactobacillus notes that partly reminded me of Brussels Gueuze. I didn't notice any strong flavours of coriander and couldn't detect any noticeable saltiness. Overall, I found it to be somewhere between a gueuze and a Belgian Witbier in style. It's certainly a fine beer that I'd happily have more than one of but we didn't have long to spend in Leipzig so went in search of other sources. I didn't find a lot of it in evidence and the only outlet I found for Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose in bottles was a souvenir shop in the middle of the arcade at the front of the ground floor of the Altes Rathaus, facing onto the Markt square.

We had to choose between the Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken and the Bayrischer Bahnhof. They both serve the same Gose so we headed to the Bayrischer Bahnhof as it's an easy walk South out of the Altstadt from the Neues Rathaus. The Bahnhof is another fine pub, a converted station with a decent menu, and not only has Gose on tap but also sells 75cl bottles and 0.5 or 0.3 litre glasses to take away. This is quite a different beer from the Döllnitzer. It's still cloudy, distinctively wheaty and yeasty and has less of the lactobacillus taste but certainly more coriander flavours than the Döllnitzer. Again I failed to notice any saltiness. I thought I would have difficulty distinguishing this Gose from a Belgian Witbier so I began to feel a bit confused about what Gose should really taste like, as the two I had tried were quite different. As far as I know, these are the only two brands of Gosebier available in Leipzig, so it was time to move on to Goslar.

We chose das Altstadt Hotel Gosequell specifically because they serve die Gose from Brauhaus Goslar on tap. Goslar is stunningly beautiful. I've never seen anything like it. The town is full of beautiful, ancient, half-timbered houses, with 160 that were built before 1550! Hotel Gosequell is quite picturesque, wooden-beamed and family-run, just a short walk from the Markt square, near the stream called Gose, from which Gosebier gets its name. It has a good menu including local Harzer trout. We explored Goslar's churches, had Kaffee und Kuchen and then headed back to the Hotel for some Gose. This one was again of the appearance of a cloudy Hoegaarden-style Witbier but softer and fuller than the other two Goses, less sour and sharp, with a bready-yeasty quality, well-rounded, lemony (but not sharply so), refreshing, with a dryer, cleaner finish and full-bodied. Perhaps it's more like a cross between Bavarian and Belgian wheat beers. There were hints of coriander, but less so than the Bayrischer Bahnhof Gose. All three of the Gose biers were light on the hops, just as you would expect from either a German or Belgian wheat beer.

The only other outlet for Gose that we visited in Goslar was the restaurant/bar Worthmühle, just a few doors South of the Markt, by the pretty, babbling brook Abzucht, with a garden at the back that overlooks the brook. Inside, it's a charming, wooden-framed and panelled building with cobbled floor and low, wooden-beamed ceiling. The menu and cooking are excellent, specialising in locally-sourced game. On tap is the Brauhaus Goslar Gose, in both Hell and Dunkel (light and dark) forms. You can also buy both the Hell and Dunkel Brauhaus Goslar Gose in bottles, plus glasses (and, if you wish, Gose-bread and Gose-sülze) from the tourist information office on the main Markt square.

I found some useful information on the origin of the name Gose. Goslar's wealth in the middle ages was based on silver mining in the Rammelsberg hill above the town. Legend has it that a knight named Ramm was on the berg when his horse pawed the ground, revealing silver traces and giving the clue that mining should start. The brook Gose, that runs into the town from the South West and joins the Abzucht, is said to be named after Ramm's wife who was called Gosa. Much of this is, no doubt, merely legend. The story is related pictorially by the Glockenspiel in the Markt. In Goslar you can visit a preserved Gose brewery in the Siemenshaus, the home of the family that founded the electrical gadgets corporation, but the opening hours are quirky (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 0900-1200) so I missed it.

By the end of the trip I had tried draft Gose from three breweries as well as having seen some amazing German towns, and had also stuffed my rucksack with bottles of all three breweries' Gose and a couple of glasses. The tasting notes above relate to the draft Gose biers. Now here are the tasting notes for bottled Gose.

Tasting Notes: Bottled Gose

From my trip to Goslar and Leipzig, I had four bottles of Gose from three breweries: Bayrische Bahnhof Gose, Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose, Brauhaus Goslar Gose Hell and Brauhaus Goslar Gose Dunkel. I invited my friend Bob Thomson, a Baviarian Weissbier fan, to sample them with me. Another friend poured them into plain glasses so we didn't know which was which beer was which until after we had made these tasting notes. Bear in mind that we had only one bottle of each, and they had been lugged back from Germany in my rucksack on the Eurostar. We weren't sure if we were supposed to swirl the yeast to make the glass cloudy, as with a Belgian Witbier or a Bavarian Weissbier, but as the draught versions had been significantly cloudy, we guessed that giving the bottle a swirl to lift the yeast as it neared emptiness was the right way to go. Here they are in the order we tried them.

1. Brauhaus Goslar Gose Hell. 4.9%. Spicy and lemony on the nose, light and fresh, not very rich in character. On the mouth, tart and refreshing with dominant grapefruit, lemon hints, noticeable but not intense coriander, almost like a breakfast fruit drink. Low alcohol presence with a very significant backing of sweetness. Very low carbonation, quite flat, in fact. Doesn't taste like a beer at all. Sharp, fruity finish rapidly vanishes. Quite inoffensive, and could drink a lot of it on a hot day, but it's so unlike a a beer. Noticeable, but not challenging, acidity. The coriander follows through to the finish. Could be a huge seller if it had more sparkle. No overt hop presence. I sampled another bottle on a later date and found it quite similar: Sharp, spicy, lemony, dryish nose. Light head, rapidly vanishing. Not as flat as the other bottle, but only very gently sparkly. Light, bodied and refreshing in the mouth, significant acidity lemony, sherbety, with some lactobacillus characteristics, sharp and tart.

2. Bayrischer Bahnhof Gose. 4.5%. Nose of prominent coriander seed backed with lemon. Mouth packed with coriander seed. Light head, with noticeable carbonation and spritziness, sharp, refreshing. Maybe the coriander is too prominent and can't be escaped. Dominates everything. Finish is sharp and refreshing, again dominated by coriander, much to the exclusion of all else. Coriander has gone from being a flavour enhancer to a flavour dominator. This one, more than the others, is reminiscent of a Belgian Witbier. No overt hop presence.

3. Brauhaus Goslar Gose Dunkel. 4.9%. A sweet nose of dark banana and light toffee, again laced with coriander. Quite tart on the mouth. Again, quite low in carbonation. Slight liqorice hint. Citrus fruits become more prominent on the finish, again with a slight liqorice hint. More balanced and interesting than the first two. Colour is light brown, a little like a Darjeeling tea. Light-bodied. Some of the tartness is a bit reminiscent of a Brussels Gueuze. No overt hop presence.

4. Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose. 3.9%. Lemony nose, sherbet, gooseberry, cola, something slightly medicinal. In the mouth, sharp, lemony, but with noticeable leathery depths of flavour reminiscent of a Brussels Gueuze. Lemony, refreshing, noticeable acidity. Evident but not too prominent carbonation. Gooseberry/grapefruit prominent on finish. Certainly more challenging than 1 and 3 but more rewarding, too. Light-bodied, sharp and acidic. Characterful. Not a deep-quaffing session beer, perhaps, but worth seeking out and savouring. No overt hop presence. I tried a second bottle some weeks later and found the aroma to be quite similar to Gueuze in that it had noticeable clove flavours and aromas as well as the coriander. It has a lot more character than most Belgian Witbiers, I think. It has lots of depth and complexity. It's quite big on carbonation, and if you take a gulp, you can get quite a surprizing zing at the back of the mouth. Deserves serious respect. I think this is as close you can get to a Gueuze without actually drinking Gueuze; though, of course, you won't get coriander in the Brussels brew. I wish it was more easily available in the UK. This beer stands as a prime example of why the Reinheitsgebot is blödsinn.

So, all the four Gose beers that we tried were quite different from each other. Which is closest to the authentic taste of Gose? I have no idea. Gose was pretty-much extinct for a while, so I've no doubt that there would be some debate even among long-term, hardcore devotees of Gose. Should it have such a strong coriander character as the Bayrischer Bahnhof Gose? Should it have the leathery, lactobacillus, Brussels notes of the Döllnitzer? I don't know. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has any ideas. Either way, all of the Gose beers we tried had seemed a little more Belgian than German. No doubt the coriander plays more than a small part in this. As far as my own preference goes, of all the beers, I preferred Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose both on draught and from the bottle, because it was the most interesting of them all, with more complex and challenging flavours.

Gose breweries

Brauhaus Goslar,
An der Abzucht 1a,
38640 Goslar.
Tel. 0049-5321-685804
(www.brauhaus-goslar.de).

Bayerischer Bahnhof Brau & Gaststättenbetrieb GmbH & Co KG
Bayrischer Platz 1,
04103 Leipzig.
Tel. +49 (0) 341-12457 - 60
(www.bayerischer-bahnhof.de).

Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose
W. Goedecke & Co. OHG
Das Kirchenholz 8
06184 Burgliebenau
Tel. 03 45/ 7 82 08 32
(www.leipziger-gose.com).

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Last updated: 14th January 2006.

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