In craft brewing, brew masters must choose between riding the wave of the next big trend, be it hoppy IPAs or sour beers, or brew fun styles they love to drink. Gose beers seem to sit squarely in the middle. The briny, long-forgotten style with an unusual history is on its resurrection tour, with several D.C. bars pouring them with gumption.
Gose derives its name from the river in Germany, located in a mineral-rich region centered around the town of Leipzig. In the Middle Ages, it’s where gose beer got its start, according to the German Beer Institute. It’s one of the few beer styles in the world that calls for high-salinity water, which historians attribute to the high salt content in the city’s water. After a dormant period, gose beers were brought back to life after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as Leipzig could once again divert some of its limited grain resources back to brewing beer.
Yet another factor makes gose beers stand apart from other German suds: The traditional style is brewed with coriander, a spice addition requiring a special exemption from Germany’s “beer purity law,” also known as the Reinheitsgebot.
These highly aromatic beers didn’t begin to work their way into American craft brewing until recently. Now, the savvy beer seeker can already find more than 200 of them on the market in the U.S., with even larger craft breweries like Sierra Nevada getting into the game. Perhaps the most telling sign of this style’s emergence is its appearance at SAVOR, a respected annual craft beer event. Still, finding gose on a beer menu in D.C. can be tricky.
Cue Greg Engert, Bluejacket’s beer director, who also serves as a managing partner of Neighborhood Restaurant Group. “When we first opened ChurchKey seven years ago, the only gose available was Bahnhof, which we were able to get on draft,” Engert says. It inspired him to brew his own gose called Ingenue—one of the first in the D.C. area. It debuted in October 2013.
Although the style was initially polarizing, Engert says consumers have become “much more open-minded to trying new styles of beer, and [are] actually seeking them out.” Bluejacket has gone on to brew a half dozen different gose beers, including several that incorporate fruit such as papayas, Meyer lemons, persimmons, and blackberries. The gose currently on draft, Anthem, features chrysanthemum flowers.
Another Gose advocate, Jack Rose Dining Saloon Beer Director Nahem Simon, vividly remembers his introduction to the style nearly 13 years ago. “It was actually very thirst-quenching, while leaving me wanting more,” he says. Simon views the style as a “great gateway beer for novice drinkers, allowing them to get into more tart beers without being overtly shocking.”
Jack Rose is currently featuring Off Color Brewing’s Troublesome gose, which he describes as “a more mild gose with notes of baking spices, bananas, and honey aromatics.” Nahem adds that the delicate, lemony finish and silky mouthfeel make the beer palatable to all levels of drinkers, including people in the beer business, who appreciate the relatively low ABV. Simon recommends pairing the brew with the bar’s smoked trout rillettes.
Other bars that have dabbled in producing or pouring gose beers includeMeridian Pint, Right Proper Brewing Company, Pizzeria Paradiso (Georgetown), and Roofers Union. You can also pick up Ready, Set, Gose by Uinta Brewing in six-packs at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, or check out Suburban Beverage by Perennial Artisan Ales, a gose-style ale brewed with salt, orange peel, lemon peel, and key lime juice, available in 22oz. bottles at Whole Foods Market’s P Street NW location.