Gose beer is popular during the summer months

Gose beer is popular during the summer months

Thanks to the wild popularity of craft beer, the beer market has been inundated with new products in recent years. But calling a product "new" may be a matter of perspective, as one of today's hotter flavour trends in beer is also one of the oldest beer styles in existence. Gose – a style of beer that dates back to the 16th century and almost died out after World War II – is staging a comeback. Craft beer manufacturers are nearly tripping over themselves to introduce new varieties of this salty- and sour-flavoured wheat beer that hails from central Germany.

The summer months pose special challenges for makers of craft beer. Traditional craft beers tend to be hoppy, bitter, dark, and heavy, out of step with the demand for lighter-tasting, thirst-quenching beverages like lemonade during the hot summer months. Lighter and more refreshing beer styles like pilsner or lager often enjoy the summer spotlight, but craft beer manufacturers searching for the "next big thing" for the summer season may have found salvation in an old, lesser-known style of beer that will not be mistaken for the same old boring pilsner or lager.

Gose – which is pronounced 'goes-uh' – owes its name to its birthplace, the small mining town of Goslar located in the Lower Saxony region of central Germany on the Gose River. Water from the Gose River that was used to brew wheat beer in this region was rich in minerals like salt, giving the regional beer a distinctive tart and sour flavour that caught on with the locals. Over time, Gose beer spread to nearby cities like Leipzig, which soon emerged as the centre of Gose beer production in the 1800s.

Unlike other types of beer that were popular at the time, Gose beer was spontaneously open-fermented (in which the wort is exposed to open air) and would continue to ferment in open bottles at distribution points like taverns. Today, the beer is top-fermented at relatively high temperatures (instead of bottom-fermented at cool temperatures, like pilsner), is soured with lactic fermentation (using bacteria to create acidity), and is flavoured with ingredients like salt and coriander. The result of this complex production process is a beer with a bright, crisp, salty, citrus flavour hailed as a thirst-quencher. Gose also tends to be lower in alcohol than most other craft beer styles, with abv levels ranging from around 4% to just over 5%.

Until just a few years ago, Gose was largely unheard of outside of Germany. Even in Germany, Gose did not begin its comeback until early in the new millennium. The Oxford Companion to Beer, published in 2011, didn't even have an entry for Gose. Since then, Gose has staged a remarkable resurgence. According to Google Trends, searches on Gose beer tripled between the summer of 2014 and the summer of 2017, albeit from a very small base.

Flavour trends

Gose beer today has become a nexus of flavour innovation combining salty, tart, and fruity flavours. Watermelon, blood orange, lemon, key lime, passion fruit, cranberry, sour apple, and hibiscus are just a few of the new flavours of Gose hitting the market today. Some of the more unusual new Gose variations take flavour cues from other categories, including cocktails. North Carolina's Appalachian Mountain Brewery goes that route with margarita Gose, which is brewed with sea salt, fresh lemons, and limes to create a "refreshingly tart beer". 

Gose is a style of beer that also welcomes savoury flavour innovation. That explains somewhat bizarre flavours like Urban Artifact's new pickle Gose. The Ohio-based brewer says that
each 30 barrel batch of its pickle Gose includes 1,000 pounds of cucumbers, two pounds of fresh dill, nine pounds of sea salt, and 25 pounds of coriander. It adds up to a taste experience said to replicate biting into a fresh dill pickle. The label for this 4.3% abv brew says the drink is a "perfect complement to a burger or Reuben [sandwich]". 

As far as unusual flavours go, no beer comes close to new Cup O' Beer noodle-flavour Gose beer, from Texas-based Collective Brewing Project. The name says it all; this beer
really is made with ramen noodles.  Collective Brewing uses 55 pounds of actual ramen noodles to brew Cup O' Beer, and describes the 4.4% abv concoction as "light and tart". Ginger, lime, lemongrass, and seaweed-cured sea salt give the US$7-a-bottle beer a taste that will evoke images of Asia for some.

Because many Gose flavours are inspired by fruit, the provenance of fruit ingredients has become a new way to stand out. Connecticut-based Two Roads Brewing Company sources Persian lime juice from a local craft juicer for its Persian lime Gose, blending the ingredient into a classic Gose with the added twist of flaked rye. Part of the brewery's 'Tanker Truck Series', the beverage is kettle-soured in the brewer's own tanker truck trailer, which is a former milk tanker parked on the grounds of the brewery. Persian lime Gose has a "strikingly vibrant fresh lime aroma and a flavour that shouts refreshment".

Vegetable and floral flavours also offer potential for Gose-style beer as they can add flavour without tipping the calorie scale. Michigan-based Arbor Brewing Company recently introduced cucumber lime Gose as a new way to cool off this summer. Missouri-based Boulevard Brewing is one of a handful of brewers offering hibiscus Gose sour ale, a product brewed with sea salt, coriander, and hibiscus flowers. The hibiscus flowers are added at the end of the brewing process to give the beer a distinctive pink hue.

Floral flavours are among the most obscure of all beer flavours. According to a GlobalData Q1 2017 consumer survey, just 1% of Americans said that floral or herbal flavours appealed to them the most for beer or cider, ranking the duo in a tie for last (with vegetable) among 15 different flavour choices. In comparison, 7% of Americans said that the trio of sour, tart, or tangy flavours appealed to them the most in beer and cider, ranking these mouth-puckering flavours number six among 15 different flavour choices.

The latter numbers suggest that the Gose beer trend has room to run.