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  • Gose Riders in the Sky

    What a time to be alive.  I recall the bleak days when Alberta craft breweries could be counted on the fingers of one hand, when macrobrews ruled the earth.

    Today, Alberta has 125 craft breweries, with more opening every week.  My goal of visiting every craft brewery in our fair province is falling further and further behind, as new breweries are opening faster than I can plan weekend trips to far-flung location across Alberta.

    If you have been visiting tap rooms with any regularity, you may have come across a unique beer style named Gose, which hails from the German town of Goslar.

    The history of the Gose beer style dates back to the 13th century, where it quickly spread from its small town origins to the nearby metropolitan centres like Leipzig, where it became particularly popular, with the city boasting numerous Gosenschänken, or taverns that only served Gose beer.

    Like many German beers, Gose is a wheat beer, and typically uses at least 50% wheat, with the remaining grains being barley, rye, or lesser substitutes like corn.

    In centuries past, Gose was spontaneously fermented using whatever wild airborne yeasts happened to be floating around the brewery, so the flavours varied significantly from batch to batch.  These were the days before the discovery of yeast, when fermentation was thought to be some sort of magical gift from heaven.

    As the centuries passed, the science behind fermentation became more widely understood, so brewers were able to isolate their preferred yeast strains for a consistent brew from batch to batch.

    Gose is a unique style that adds coriander and salt for flavouring, then inoculates the brew with lactobacillus for a sour finish.  The end result is a beer with herbal notes, a lemony citrus, and a salty finish.  Hops are used mostly for aromatics, and result in very little hop bitterness.

    If you are a fan of the Belgian Witbier or Berliner Weisse styles of beer, Gose will be right up your alley.  If you were raised on a steady diet of Coors Lite, Gose will probably not be the beer for you.

    Gose beer is for adventurous boozers, as sour is not typically a flavour that comes to mind when ordering a beer.  Do not fret, as the flavour is clean and only slightly tart, with hints of lemon being a typical flavour.  There will be no Gose beers that remind you of pickle juice!

    The Gose beer style is undergoing a revival of sorts at the moment, both in its ancestral home of Germany, and in craft breweries across North America.

    The style disappeared briefly during WWII when all the breweries were conscripted into the war effort, but rebounded in 1949, then disappearing again in 1966 due to changing consumer preferences.

    The epic decade known as the 1980s, noted for hair-metal bands and terrible fashions, also saw the return of the Gose beer style, which grew slowly in Germany, then spread to North America during the craft beer boom, and has been increasing in popularity ever since.

    Here in Alberta, Calgary’s own Wild Rose Brewing first brewed a Gose beer way back in 2013, and has released a seasonal Gose for the past few summers, so look for them again when patio season finally arrives.

    Also in Calgary, Banded Peak Brewing put out Gondola Gose as a summer seasonal, which I enjoyed on several patios last summer, and hope to see again if we ever see an end to this eternal winter.

    Looking west to Vancouver Island, faithful readers will not be surprised to learn that Phillips Brewing, long a favourite in this very column, released Sweet Tart Passionfruit Gose a few months ago, and can be found at well stocked booze merchants near you.

    The slightly tart flavours in a typical Gose beer seems to be an irresistible call to crafty brewers to play with the flavour profile, adding tropical fruits or herbal infusions to tantalize your taste buds.

    The slight lemony tartness and salty aftertaste makes Gose easy to pair with food.  I like to match it with my world-famous homemade ceviche, or a soft cheese like chevre.

    If you have never tried a Gose or other sour beer, look for one where beer nerds tend to gather, or ask at your local bottle shop.