Catawba Beer 101 - Gose - Catawba Brewing Co.

Catawba Beer 101 – Gose

Watermelon Gose

As the Reinheitsgebot (“German Beer Purity Law of 1516”) dictated that beer would be made with only water, barley, hops, and yeast, German brewers found other ways to introduce creativity into their craft. The Gose (pronounced “goes-uh”), an unusual beer style from Goslar, is a prime example. In honor of the release of our Small Batch Watermelon Gose this Thursday (July 27), here’s a little history on the style!

The Gose is an old sour beer style originating in Goslar, Germany in the early 16th century.

In the beginning, this was a spontaneous fermenting brew, meaning no yeast was added since the beer fermented all on its own. However, sometime around the 1880s as the style became more popular and the understanding of yeast more sophisticated, brewers needed a way to control the fermentation. Their solution was to add top-fermenting yeast and lactic acid bacteria – lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is like yeast in that it “eats up” the sugar in the wort, but instead of converting sugar to alcohol, it converts sugar to lactic acid. This in turn lowers the pH of the beer, giving it a clean, sour taste.

Historically, the Gose was delivered in barrels while still fermenting. The barrels would then be stored in cool cellars with a hole left open in the top for spent yeast and krausen (foamy head formed during fermentation) to escape. Brewers knew the beer was ready to bottle when the krausen stopped pouring out of the hole. The beer was then emptied from the barrels into tanks and from there filled into traditional long-neck bottles. The bottles were not closed with corks or caps but with a flor (yeast plug) that rose up the neck of the bottle during secondary fermentation.

Watermelon Gose

As with many older German styles, the production history of Gose was inconsistent.

During World War II there was only one brewery, Rittergutsbrauerei Döllnitz, left producing the Gose style, and that brewery closed in 1945 – perhaps in part due to having no hope of ever fitting its name onto a T-shirt. Regardless, the brewery closing seemed to signal the end for the Gose. Or maybe not.

Four years later, a small pub opened called Friedrich Wurzler Brauerei. Friedrich happened to work at Döllnitz and knew how to brew Gose. Before he died in the late 1950s, he passed the recipe on to his stepson to continue the tradition. But after his stepson’s death in 1966 and another brewery closing, it seemed yet again that the Gose was destined to go the way of the dodo bird. It wasn’t until the 1980s that production resumed at a different brewery in East Berlin. Outside of a brief disappearance in 1988, the style has continued to be brewed in and outside of Germany to this day.

Similar to the Berliner Weisse in its tartness, this moderate ABV wheat beer has a clean, sour, and salty flavor profile.

Salt and coriander are added to the mix to give it a sharp lemony, herbal character. No hop character is present, and sometimes fruit or syrups are added to tone down the acidity and give it a softer flavor. Our Watermelon Gose employs a non-traditional ingredient, the forbidden fruit, to up the ante on this summer thirst-quencher – a sessionable sour beer infused with a big juicy slice of salted watermelon.