Before reading along, head to your nearest bottle shop and pick up whatever bottles or cans of Gose you can find. If you haven’t had this citrusy-sour wheat beer spiced with salt and coriander yet, you’ll thank me. And then pour yourself a tall, slender glass of this refreshing beer and read Part I on the history of Gose and its rejuvenation, and Part II on the contemporary understanding of this beer closely associated with the city of Leipzig. What follows is a selection of tasting notes. The Tasting Sessions
I tasted the following beers this past spring and summer under different circumstances each time. The 750mL bottles of 2012 and 2013 Choc Signature Series Gose (Oklahoma), along with the 330mL bottle of Bayrischer Bahnhof Gose (Leipzig) were tasted blind and in the company of an ever-reliable drinking compadre. I sampled the 12oz cans of Westbrook’s Gose (South Carolina) and Anderson Valley’s curiously named “The Kimmie, the Yink, and the Holy Gose Ale” (California) in a non-blind session.
And this just in: I managed to get my hands on a 500mL bottle of Original Ritterguts Gose and a 12-oz bottle of Boulevard’s Hibiscus Gose during a recent trip to Kansas City. Check out the end of this article for an indication of how these beers stacked up against the ones I tasted earlier in the season.
Anderson Valley and Westbrook
Both the Westbrook and Anderson Valley beers were crowned with frothy ivory caps of foam, but the Westbrook was hazier, with a with a more burnished and deeper golden colour that contrasted with the Anderson Valley’s near crystalline clarity and less intense yellow-gold.
On the first approach, the beers exuded fairly similar aromas that took on quite different tones after opening up for a few minutes. The Westbrook was the more cheerful of the two beers. Candied orange peel laced itself together with lemon curd, while mild coriander and a suggestively floral note gave way slowly to hay, a suggestion of marzipan, and a briny minerality. (Of note was a vaguely off-putting cooked asparagus aroma that was detectable only when going from Anderson Valley back to Westbrook.) On the palate, Westbrook’s wheat-citrus tang reminded me of lemon juice spiked with Orangina and the merest presence of salt. Light-bodied and highly carbonated, the beer finishes with the citrus out in full regalia. A touch of tangy nuttiness and a mild citrus-pith bitterness keeps the lingering sweetness in check.Alongside the Westbrook, the Anderson Valley was both more brooding and more complex. The panoply of aromas ranged from a flinty whiff of brimstone to a woody, sherry-like nuttiness pushing up against the threshold of oxidation. In excess concentrations, these aromas would constitute decided flaws. But in combination with an almost earthy doughiness laced with tart green apple, the dominant aroma profile combined the characteristics of an aged Chenin Blanc with those of the saline and herbal-vegetal Manzanilla sherries of Sanlúcar. As a matter of fact, Manzanilla wouldn’t be an inappropriate descriptor at all, resolving the isolated “faults” into a more complex whole: slightly herbal-vegetal––some fennel bulb and some pear––with a distinct nutty, mineral-saline, and oxidized grape component. Next to the Westbrook, the Anderson Valley carries a few more grains of salt as ballast, and projects a shade more body. Just a tad less carbonated but still light-bodied and effervescent than its opposite number, the Anderson Valley is more tart (yet less lemony), bringing more malt presence to the tasting.
Both of these beers make great summer sippers, but when you spend a bit of time with them, you begin to notice a few of the discordant notes that give the respective beers their character. The Anderson Valley grew on me, replete as it was with a nuttiness hinting at oxidization and the salinity of a light sherry. And despite the canned veggie notes that occasionally broke the surface of Westbrook’s aroma profile, the beer was an admirable foil for the heat of the day on which I drank it. Tough call. A virtual tie, with the Anderson Valley pulling ahead with its complexity, and the Westbrook making up ground as a straightforwardly refreshing summer drink. Advantage: Anderson Valley.
But there’s better Gose to be had, and not all of it involves airfare to Leipzig.
Choc and Bayrischer Bahnhof
As it turns out, some of these beers do develop with age, if treated well.
Unfortunatelty, the Bayrischer Bahnhof Gose was not one of those beers that had been treated well, arriving in our glasses much the worse for wear. But under a heavy off-note of cardboard-like oxidation, the burnished deep-golden beer featured a mélange of pleasant floral-herbal chamomile, coriander seed, jasmine and honeysuckle floating on top of a solid bed of malt. Raw almond combined well with the effervescent carbonation and tingly saline character to keep the beer dry. What was striking about this beer in relation to all of the others was the robustness of its malt profile: citrusy wheat cut by grainy-sweet Pilsener malt and the rich bready and cherry-plum “malt-fruit” character of toasted malts.
The two vintages of Choc from Krebs, Oklahoma, on the other hand, were wonderful renditions of the style, the only drawback being the steep price of each 750mL bottle. The 2013 vintage was apricot-hued and hazy gold, with lemon grass, coriander, and an almond nuttiness accenting stone fruit, a steely, slate-like minerality, and a fleeting trace of “horse barn-like” Brettanomyces yeast. Palate-cleansing and refreshing, the light-bodied ale offered up zesty lime, lemon-pepper piquancy, a peach-like richness, and the merest sensation of salt.
As compelling as Choc’s 2013 Gose was, the 2012 vintage was all the more intriguing. Murky golden orange, the beer was beginning to exhibit some of the “diesel-papaya” character of an older German Riesling. The citrus character in the bouquet had mellowed to orange blossom and peach marmalade complemented by a faint exhale of herbal-spicy noble hops, a baguette-like yeastiness, and a sweet honey-grain note suggestive of Pilsener malt. But nothing in the aromas hinted at what was to come: the 2012 had bulked up its body somewhat, yet was more lively, zippy, and sour-tangy than the 2013, exhibiting a grapefruit juice-like sourness and a hint of salinity, along with a champagne yeast-like breadiness, pepper, and orange zest. A fine example of the style, and an excellent case for experimenting with moderate durations of cellaring.If the Westbrook and the Anderson Valley were too close to call, the 2012 Choc comes out on top.
But none of these renditions bested my memory of the Gose I drank back in Leipzig in 2009 on that breezy spring day on the terrace of that repurposed 1842 terminus of the train line from Bavaria. And we all know how infallible memory is … .
In place of a hearty Prost, I lift my stein and say Goseanna to you all!
Sipping on a hibiscus iced-tea, the Boulevard arrived at the table bearing a bouquet of fruity aromas (rhubarb, tart cherry and cranberry) folded together with a mild slate-like minerality, briny coriander, tarragon, and a delicate undercurrent of flowers. Crisp and refreshing on the palate, Boulevard’s Hibiscus Gose was slightly lighter in body than the Ritterguts Gose, delivering appetizing sea salt, geranium flower, papaya, and citrusy cream of wheat through the finish.
Every bit as appetizing and quaffable as the Ritterguts Gose, the Boulevard, with its floral tart-cherry signature, might just edge out the Westbrook and the Anderson Valley in a blind tasting.
And the Original Ritterguts Gose? No contest. This three-tankard beer is Gose nirvana. I’ll have an in-depth profile of this beer ready for 9 November. Why 9 November? Check back then.
*Goseanna, incidentally, is the toast that Leipzigers use in place of the more common Prost or zum Wohl.
Related Tempest Articles
Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt (on the history and revitalization of this style)
A Dash of Salt: F.D. Hofer
Westbrook logo and label: www.westbrookbrewing.com
The Kimmie, the Yink, and the Holy Gose: https://avbc.com
Glass of Gose: www.bayrischer-bahnhof.de
Choc logo and Signature Series glassware: www.petes.org
Boulevard: F.D. Hofer
Original Ritterguts Gose: www.sheltonbrothers.com
© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.