Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hot on the Gose trail

Following up on my Gose post earlier this week, I can't believe I didn't think to search Ron Pattinson's site sooner. Sure enough, here's the most comprehensive history of the style that I've found to date. Unfortunately, it doesn't answer my questions but actually raises more. Pattinson's description of the secrecy surrounding Gose explains why I can't seem to find much information. However, check out this passage:

The tricky part was getting the addition of the lactic acid bacteria right. Sometime during the boil, the precise moment was of great importance, a powder was added to the wort (according to a source of 1872).

This is quite perplexing for two reasons... First, presumably if you added some powdered form of lactobacillus (or any other souring agent) the boil would kill it. I mean, lacto bacteria is naturally found on grains, and part of the reason we boil the wort is to kill off nasties such as that. So what could they have added that would have survived the boil? Was it a bluff? Or something completely foreign to any other known method of brewing sour beers?

Second, Pattinson goes on to write:

There was no long period of lagering at the brewery. Gose was delivered, still fermenting quite vigourously, in barrels to the Schänke. It was stored in the cellar with the tap bung closed but the shive hole left open, so that the still-active yeast could escape. Only when the fermentation had slowed to a point where no yeast was emerging from the shive hole, was the Gose ready to bottle.

. . .

The minimum period for a bottle to mature was around a week. In warm weather a Gose would be considered undrinkable after about three weeks. The trick for the landlord was in serving his Gose at just the right degree of maturity. Some went so far as to have stocks of beer of different ages, so regular customers could have their beer just as they liked it.

Even if the Gose brewers were adding some sort of superlacto that could survive a boil, what kind of lacto would mature in only a week and be undrinkable in three? At first this led me to think they were indeed adding some kind of powdered lactic acid (or otherwise using acid malt) to sour the beer, but the latter comment about different stocks of beer clearly indicates some kind of live cultures. Maybe I'm just underestimating how long lacto takes to sour a beer. If I could readily get my hands on some bottles of Döllnitzer I'd love to let one sit around at room temp for a year and see what happens. Unfortunately, since I don't live near Leipzig, it's next to impossible for me to get my hands on a bottle, and when I do I'm not sacrificing it for an experiment.

So now I'm back to considering pitching lactobacillus instead of using acid malt. Of course that gets me back to the problem of final gravity... I suppose the ultimate solution would be to brew side-by-side batches, though with different grain bills that would be one long brew day. What to do, what to do...


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