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German Sour Ales

Gose (pronounced Go-suh) is one of the oldest styles brewed, dating back till at least the 11th century A.D. Originating in the mining town of Goslar, Gose is a mild, sour, and salty beer with exceptional complexity and drinkability, owing to its low alcohol content and dryness. The salt and mineral content of the water in Goslar were responsible for the initial saltiness of the beverage, while a lactic top-fermentation gives the beer its tartness. As the mines of Goslar gave out in the late middle ages, production of Gose migrated to Leipzig, where by 1900 it was the most popular beer style in Leipzig, and there were over 80 distinct gosenschenke (Gose-Taverns). The beer was sometimes served fortified with Cumin liquer or caraway schnapps, lending more flavor and a stronger alcoholic kick to the beverage. Unfortunately the 20th century was not kind to this beverage. The lager craze was sweeping the world so that many breweries were beginning to transform into lighter beer producers. Almost all beer production ceased entirely during World War II, and after the smoke cleared from the war, Leipzig found itself in the communist half of Germany, where all barley production was diverted to making bread rather than beer. The last Gose brewery was confiscated and closed by the state in 1945. Leipzig’s Friedrich Wurzler Brauerei revived gose in 1949, but when the owner died in 1966, so did the style. So the style of Gose lay dormant until the 1980s, when it began to make a comeback with the revitalization of Ohne Bedenken, once one of the city’s most famous gosenschenke. Now, there are several Gose breweries in Germany, and the recent sour craze in the U.S. has revived interest in German sour styles.