Gose Beer – a medieval beer from the heart of Germany!
Gose is a beer style having experienced a revival in the course of the craft beer hype. As a beer enthusiast, you will probably already have shown interest for Westbrook Gose, a craft beer from the US. Those of you how are real beer experts will surely be aware that Leipzig once was the Gose capital of Germany, but have you ever heard of Goslar? Probably not. Yet, it is the place of birth for Gose – an ancient city on the Northern boundaries of the German Harz Mountains. And once it was a place for emperors (Kaiserstadt Goslar)! We’ll tell you the real Gose story!
Have you ever before heard of Goslar? It surely is worthwhile getting to know this city as a beer enthusiast!
Gose – a small river of the Harz Mountains
There is a clear misunderstanding regarding the origin of the name Gose for this special type of beer. Many people believe that it was actually derived from the name of the city where it was first brewed respectively invented: Goslar, in the German federal state of Lower-Saxony. However, it is not correct, as both the names for Goslar and Gose beer result from a small river named Gose. The Gose river’s spring is located within the Harz mountains near the Bocksberg mountain – a skiing resort strongly linked with the touristic village of Hahnenklee-Bockswiese – at a place called Auerhahn (wood grouse). This small river gave the city of Goslar its name and it provided the city with fresh brewing water of excellent quality. That’s how the name Gose was derived – since it was not named after the city it was brewed in at first.
Gose is a small river with source in the Harz mountains. It provided water for brewing beer and it gave the city of Goslar its name. The same applies to Gose style beer!
A short history of Gose beer
Gose is actually a very traditional beer style with a long history – and many centuries older than other more famous types of German beer like Pilsner, Kölsch or Export. Knowing this, it is necessary to have a quick glance at the history of Gose.
It is said that the German emperor Otto III. liked Gose beer very much and used to drink it, when he visited his sister, the abbess of Quedlinburg. That was more than 1000 years ago!
Gose beer was initially brewed in the Middle Ages and it is said that emperor Otto III. was very fond of Gose – this was around the year 1000. There are further documents dating back to 1392 and 1397 that already mention Gose. Throughout the years, it became very popular in the Harz Region and its popularity spread east to the city of Leipzig, located some 200 km away.
Despite its popularity in old times, Gose beer production was stopped by Goslar’s city council in the 19th century due to declining sales and production issues resulting from the application of spontaneous fermentation. Bottom-fermented beers such as Pilsner were simply too popular for older beers like Gose to compete with.
Regardless of the situation for Gose in Goslar – there was only one unsuccessful attempt to reestablish it in the 1930s – Leipzig became the “Gose capital” by 1900. It was Johann Philipp Ledermann, a brewery servant, who had brought his knowledge on brewing Gose from Goslar to Leipzig in 1824. Leipzig thereafter experienced a “Gose boost”. The good old days of Gose in Leipzig were finally over when the Döllnitz brewery was demounted after the war in 1945. Small-scale brewery attempts failed in the 1950s and 1960s, until there was no Gose at that time – not in Leipzig, nor in Goslar.
Back to the roots: Gose revival
It was back in the 1980s, when Gose beer production was finally revived in Leipzig. In days of the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) respectively DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), it was hard to conduct business, but Lothar Goldhahn, a professor and designer, was successful in doing so and resumed the Gose beer culture of Leipzig. He opened the old Gose beer bar “Ohne Bedenken” (“without doubt”) which is still open today and serves typical German dishes and, of course, traditional Gose!
Gose is also back in its hometown of Goslar since the early 1990s. Currently, master brewer Odin Paul is responsible for the Gose brewery in Goslar. The “Brauhaus Goslar” is to be found at Goslar’s marketplace, and thus only a few minutes walk from the famous Kaiserpfalz. Nice traditional dishes and freshly tapped Gose in an old timbered house provide the perfect atmosphere for fans of great German beer!
Gose beer – a German sour wheat beer
Now it’s time to have a closer look at Gose as a beer! Gose beer used to be produced by using spontaneous fermentation. This means that the beer batch is left open, allowing wild yeast to contaminate it, and thereby allowing the fermentation process to begin. Nowadays, Gose beer is brewed with top-fermented yeast, just like you would brew a Hefeweizen or a Kolsch style beer. It is not filtered. In addition, lactic fermentation is also applied to generate the sourness typical for every Gose-style beer.
There are similarities between Gose beer and Berliner Weisse as well as Belgian beers of the Lambic-type and especially their sub-style Geuze.
Using top-fermentation, Gose is a wheat beer, but one which is not brewed in compliance with the German purity law. Why not? Because Gose contains coriander and salt, two ingredients which are usually not allowed to be used when producing German beer. Yet, they strongly contribute to the characteristic taste of Gose beer.
Gose beer – 11 interesting facts
- Gose beer originates from the old town of Goslar beneath the mountains of the Harz – home of the imperial palace Kaiserpfalz.
- The name Gose derives from the small Gose river which delivered water of good quality for breweries in the city.
- Gose is more than 1.000 years old – way older than most German beer styles.
- Around 1900, Leipzig was the “capital of Gose” and not Goslar, where at this time Gose beer was not brewed anymore.
- Traditionally, Gose was filled into long-neck bottles.
- Gose beer has become very popular in the US with numerous styles being brewed in the course of the craft beer scene.
- Due to the use of coriander and salt, Gose beer does not comply with the German purity law.
- Gose is known to be a fresh, sourly tasting beer being slightly indigestive.
- Regarding its alcohol content of approx 4 – 5 %, Gose beer is comparable to a normal Pilsner style beer.
- Today, both Leipzig and Goslar are famous for their Gose breweries.
- The Gose brewery of Goslar (“Brauhaus Goslar”) provides Gose beer in two variants: pale and dark (“hell und dunkel”).
Famous Gose beer brands
- Original Ritterguts Gose (Leipzig, Saxony)
- Gose-Brauerei Gose Hell & Dunkel (Goslar, Lower-Saxony)
- Ale-Mania “Gose Mania” in bottles & “Die Gose in der Dose” (“Gose beer in a can”) in cans (Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia)
- Westbrook Gose (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)
- Blood Orange Gose (Boonville, California)