Going for the Gose!

Thanks to wonderful brewing texts like “Brewing with Wheat“, I’ve known about the existence of Gose (pronounced goes-uh), though I can’t say I ever gave it too much thought until I recently enjoyed my first taste of a Gose. The Gose from Westbrook Brewing is fantastic! It melds all the flavors one should expect from the style with a great balance. What flavors should one expect? Well let’s back track a bit and talk about what exactly a Gose is.

Gose is an obscure, nearly extinct German style of wheat ale. It is definitely not a beer that was brewed under the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law of 1516). It’s a wheat beer that is brewed with additions of sea salt and coriander. Modern interpretation have a lactic tartness to them(historically examples likely also had a tartness to it as well, though that was likely unintentional due to sanitation conditions) – the tartness which can be pretty aggressive, more-so than another small German style, the Berliner Weisse. Both the salt and coriander should be noticeable, though they shouldn’t be dominate in the beer. This is a wheat beer after all and the softness of the wheat malt should come through. It’s a low gravity beer with most examples around the 4% abv. mark. This is a great, easy drinking summer ale with a lighter body, pale golden color, and a refreshing dryness.

glass of Gose
Glass of a homebrewed Gose.

After cracking the last can of the Westbrook Gose I knew that this was a style that I had to learn to brew. While I enjoy sour ale, I have very little hands-on experience with actually brewing them. This seemed like a good style to get my feet wet. I spent some time online doing research about the style and modern day recipes. Most recipes were simple enough – close to what one would expect from a hefeweizen or a Belgian wit (in regards to malt bill and hops). While I found a couple breweries that make one using a hefeweizen yeast, it seems most breweries that do this style (or homebrewers who have experimented with it) are using more neutral yeasts such as a German ale yeast or a very clean American ale yeast. Seems overall that the yeast should take a backseat in the brewing of this style. Most of these will do a fermentation with Lactobacillus before moving on to a brewers yeast to do the bulk of the fermentation after the desired level of acidity is reached. I decided to go with the lazy brewer’s method by using a hefty dose of acid malt in the grain bill. Without further ado, here is the recipe for my first go at a Gose.

Gozer the Gose
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Batch size: 6.5 gal (5.5 gal in to the fermenter)
Original Gravity: 1.038
Final Gravity: 1.010
Calculated IBU: 11.6
SRM: 3
ABV: 3.8%

Grain Bill:

4 lbs. 4 oz. White wheat malt
2lbs. 15 oz. Pilsner malt
1 lbs. Acid Malt

Hops:

1 oz. Hallertauer at 60 min.

Other Ingredients:

.75 oz. crush coriander seed
.65 oz. sea salt

Brewing instructions:

Perform a 60 minute mash at 146F – however grind the acid malt separately and do not add it to the mash until after 45 minutes. I perform a batch sparge, filling the kettle to 7.25 gal (I lose approximately .75 gallons an hour during the boil)

While I generally do a 90 minute boil when using Pilsner malt, this time around I only went for a 60 minute boil because there is so little malt in this beer. The only hop addition is added right at the start of the boil. The salt and coriander are added with 10 minutes remaining in the boil.

I used by a whirlfloc tablet and Wyeast yeast nutrient, also with 10 minutes remaining in the boil.

Using a sanitized spoon I whirlpool the kettle and let it settle for about 15 minutes. I then run it through a plate chiller. During the summer I can only get it down to about 70F. I then oxygenate and pitch Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast (a 1.2L starter was made with a fresh smack pack).

I chilled the fermenter down to 64F. After 5 days I let the fermenter free rise up to 68F for an additional 5 days before dropping the fermenter down to 38F over a 3 day period. After this it was kegged and force carbonated to 2.8 vol of CO2.

Tasting Notes:

I’ve been drinking this beer for a few weeks now and I am mostly happy with how it came out. It pours an incredibly pale yellow with a pillowy head of white foam. The foam fades fairly quickly leaving behind little lacing. The aroma is strong of wheat, an almost white bread like aroma.

On the first sip I get a fair amount of the salt – though I wouldn’t call it salty, but it is pretty hard to miss. After that a light grainyness and a soft wheat flavor come through with just a touch of tartness at the finish of the beer. It certainly isn’t a beer that comes across as sour, or strongly tart. That tartness is just a small amount at the finish of the beer. The beer is quite dry and easily drinkable. At under 4% abv this is an easy beer to drink. It’s nice to have a beer that you can put back a couple and still get some work around the house done.

My two problems with this beer are the lack of an assertive tartness, and the sea salt level. About the sea salt I go back and forth on whether or not I want to reduce the amount. It certainly isn’t overwhelming, but it is quite pervasive throughout the drinking of the beer. I do, however, know this beer needs more lactic tartness from it. I’m not sure I can get what I need through use of the acidulated malt alone, so I think I might play with running off a half gallon next time I brew it and souring that in a growler and then blending it back to the main batch. If I do this, then the salt contribution might be just about right as more sourness comes through. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do before doing another attempt at Gose.

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