Thursday, May 10, 2012

So, about Sam Adams' Gose...

If you're one of the six people that regularly read this blog, you know that one of my brewing obsessions is an obscure soured wheat beer from eastern Germany called Gose. It was originally brewed in the small town of Goslar, but migrated to nearby Leipzig. I would say there are four elements that define a Gose: (1) it's roughly 50% wheat, (2) it's sour, and it's brewed with (3) salt and (4) coriander. It also nearly went extinct when East Germany fell into communist hands, and today (well, at least as of a couple years ago) only three German breweries--two in Leipzig and one in Goslar--produce it.

Given the rarity of the style, I was quite surprised when I learned a couple months ago that Samuel Adams would be brewing Verloren Gose as a one-off release. Now, ordinarily I don't review commercial beers on my blog. However, since for most Americans this will be their introduction to the style, and I'm probably one of a handful of American bloggers who have actually tried all three German Goses (two of them while visiting Leipzig), I wanted to share my thoughts on this particular beer. So here it goes...

As I poured the beer into my glass, I noticed it's slightly darker than traditional German Goses--more of a honey color than the pale Hefeweizen-like shade of other Goses. It's effervescent with a quickly-dissipating head. Surprisingly, the beer almost looks like it's filtered (I had to hold it up to a light to conclude that it's slightly opaque rather than clear), whereas German Goses are noticeable cloudy like a Hefeweizen.

Sticking my nose in the glass and taking a deep breath, the smell actually reminds me of our Gose. Floral notes, almost cider-like, intermingling with a slight herbal aroma from noble hops and the coriander, along with a slightly-grainy sweetness. German Goses have more yeast character, but obviously you won't get that out of a filtered beer.

My big surprise came when I took a sip. The beer is very clean; there's no sourness to speak of. You get a bit of salt up front, not necessarily briny but definitely noticeable. It's not terribly malty, though the wheat is noticeable. It finishes dry and moderately hoppy (at least by German wheat beer standards). The salt and coriander combine for an almost-soap-like quality in the finish. After a second sip, and then a third, the salt becomes more prominent. I might need to reconsider my initial thought that it isn't briny.

Four sips in, I'm not sure if I want to finish it. Leah (who probably loves Gose even more than I) told me she's dumping the rest of her glass. While I could nitpick about little things, there are two huge problems here. First, IT'S NOT SOUR. You don't brew a beer that's not hoppy and call it an IPA. You don't brew a beer that's not roasty and call it a stout. You don't brew a beer that's not sour and call it a Gose. And second, salt was initially added to Leipziger Gose to emulate the mineral quality of the water in Goslar. I've found that the saltiness also works to balance out the sourness--the more sour the beer, the more salt you can add. But without any sourness, it just tastes salty.

All in all, I don't understand how Sam Adams can call this a Gose. I understand if they don't want to mess with souring their beers (though they do brew a lambic), but if you don't want to sour the beer then don't call it a Gose. And beyond that, this just isn't a good beer. With no sourness and no maltiness, the salt becomes a one-trick pony, and not a good one. So to those of you out there who try this and recoil in disgust, please don't judge the style by this example. And to those of you out there who are thinking of brewing a Gose, please don't turn to this for guidance. I've always thought of Sam Adams as a brewery that doesn't always brew amazing beers, but always turns out solid beers that fit the style. This Verloren Gose is making me reconsider that thought.