Just five years ago, no one would’ve predicted that the gose would go full Hollywood. In fact, until recently, the style was so obscure, so nearly extinct, that in 2011 it didn’t even merit an entry in Garrett Oliver’s encyclopedic, 960-page The Oxford Companion to Beer.
Created more than a millennium ago in the German town of Goslar, gose is a wheat ale brewed with salty water, spiked with Lactobacillus via open fermentation and seasoned with coriander. There’s a reason hardly anyone on planet Earth outside of Goslar and, later, Leipzig—the modern home of gose—drank this beer for the last thousand years. But then a weird thing happened.
In the late spring of 2012, South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing Co. released a canned version of the style, sans the usual stateside flourishes. Tangy, low in alcohol and showing just a hint of coriander spice, it became a massive hit, setting in motion a trend that would lead to the release of dozens of American riffs on the style. Just like when Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission, the Germans had inadvertently launched an arm’s race on U.S. soil.
Craft brewers love to celebrate their own ingenuity, but they follow trends just as much as the macrobreweries do. Thus, Westbrook Gose’s massive critical and financial success gave birth to plenty of imitators. But in many cases, these were goses in name only. Too often the trademark salinity and spice was lost in the shuffle, and the balance between sourness and that hazy softness so indicative of wheat beers was tipped too far in one direction or the other. Some, however, have found a way to pay homage to standard bearers like Leipziger and Original Ritterguts Gose, while still, in true American fashion, introducing positive tweaks to the style.
In order to get a feel for the current state of the gose craze, we blind-tasted 20 American attempts at the style. For the tasting, I was joined by PUNCH’s Editor in Chief, Talia Baiocchi; Associate Editor, Lizzie Munro; and Editorial Assistant, Chloe Frechette. The pendulum swung quite widely between offerings that stuck close to the German archetype (with a few notable flourishes) and others that were nearly unrecognizable departures. Here are the five that were both undeniably gose and undeniably American.
Five Goses to Try
Lost Nation Gose | 4.5 percent ABV
A no-frills, traditional offering from rural Vermont, this canned crusher rounded out the expected tartness, salinity and coriander spice with notes of candied citrus, white flowers and a notable yeastiness. “If you could make a beer version of Gewürztraminer,” said Lizzie, “this would be it.”
Stillwater Gose Gone Wild | 4.3 percent ABV
Stillwater’s Gose Gone Wild is Westbrook Gose pumped up with Citra and Amarillo hops and Brettanomyces. The fruity hops and wild yeast round the beer out, making for a less biting and herbal version of the Westbrook.
Grimm Super Going | 4.8 percent ABV
These Brooklyn gypsy brewers make a series of intriguing goses, but this is their finest effort. One of the few wood-aged goses around, lightly toasted white oak counters the aggressive tartness of the beer, while dry hopping with German Mandarina Bavaria and Huell Melon, alongside orange zest, lends tropical aromas and flavors, all amplified by a notable salinity.
Modern Times Fruitlands Apricot | 4.8 percent ABV
We tasted goses fruited with everything from cranberries to cherries to mangos to cactus (is that a fruit?), but this was the only one we truly loved. The San Diego brewery calls this a “fruit-filled asteroid of flavor,” and while it indeed delivered on flavor, it was the beer’s restraint that impressed us. The funk of dried apricots melded perfectly with its sour notes and generous kick of salt.
Lost Nation The Wind | 4.5 percent ABV
The brewery’s more Americanized take on gose was easily the best beer we tasted all day—in fact, it’s one of the best beers I’ve had so far this year. This limited-release, corked-and-caged offering is Lost Nation’s standard gose put into stainless steel casks for a week with fresh grapefruit and Citra hops. Bright, explosive notes of fresh hops and sweet grapefruit carry over to the palate, where the yin and yang of juiciness and tartness are in perfect balance.