WHEN ASKED TO describe their ideal beer, most people do not say, “salty.” They also probably do not list their favorite tasting note as “coriander,” or extol the virtues of a low-ABV session brew (if the preponderance of high-ABV IPAs is any indication), and the practice of drinking beer warm is definitely not for everyone. But if you like Belgian lambics, warm ales and the tang of kettle-fermented sours, you might be the intended audience for the German beer style known as gose.


In the 1400s, beer production in the area now known as Germany switched largely to the “cleaner” process of bottom fermentation, which required controlled temperatures and long fermentations and resulted in a crisp, clear brew. Then, in the early 1500s, the Bavarians (and then, much later, the Germans, generally) adopted a set of regulations known as the Reinheitsgebot, designed to control and “purify” their commercial beers, and restricting brewers to only three ingredients: barley, hops and water. (Yeast is not mentioned, either because they viewed the almost-invisible action of the microbiome as a gift from God and therefore not an actual ingredient, or because its necessity was too obvious to bother listing.)

While other styles still were brewed in the region, including wheat beers and top-fermented ales, the prevailing style became clean, clear lagers and bottom-fermented bocks. While this in no way stopped Germans from making other kinds of beer, the prevalence of the bottom-fermented lagers in the American beer world definitely has influenced our palates in their favor.

Gose is the opposite: a rebellious brew made with a mash that incorporates wheat as well as barley (hearkening back to the wild old ways of beer production); flavored with coriander seed; and brewed with the local brackish salty water of the Gose River in Lower Saxony, Goslar, where it originated.

Gose (pronounced Go-ZUH) should not be (but is frequently) confused with gueuze (pronounced guhz), a Belgian lambic blended beer made with aged hops — a totally different beast. Gose once was kettle-fermented at room temperature in the gose tavern itself, wild-fermented by the yeast in the air, feral and unpredictable and herby.


As is frequently the case with drink origins, opinions differ as to how truly “antique” the gose style is. Some assert it was first developed in the year 1000 A.D., a suspiciously round number akin to “once upon a time,” while others say it was developed in the 16th century, ironically around the same time as the institutionalization of the Reinheitsgebot rules themselves. It remained a niche product, largely localized to Goslar and the city of Leipzig, where it was served in gosenschenke (gose taverns) consistently until World War II.

At which point the style was, for a time, lost. The few breweries in Germany that did make gose were upended by the war, and one assumes the people of Germany had other things to think about besides tinkering with finicky wild-fermented sours.

Gose is not for everyone; the cultural influence of the Reinheitsgebot rules is widespread, and many beer enthusiasts find the warm, sour brew bizarre and off-putting, particularly because of its pointed salty, maritime flavor. Some writers (like this one: thrillist.com/drink/nation/craft-beer-is-dead-gose-ruined-craft-beer) describe it unflatteringly as tasting like sweat (and that was the nicest thing they said).

But for others, the saltiness is a selling point; some adventurous brewers (including commercial ones) are even making gose with actual boiled and sterilized seawater to lend it a certain terroir.

In the 2000s, the beer began to make a comeback in Germany, brought back by a few willing, rebellious enthusiasts in its traditional base of Leipzig, and as of roughly 2015, it began to be adopted by brewers in the United States, who make the lion’s share of the gose in the world now. Here in the Pacific Northwest, local favorites such as Reuben’s Brews in Seattle and Kulshan in Bellingham make their own gose, flavored with the traditional coriander; with citrus for more brightness; or, emboldened by an increasing appetite for sours, with more exotic tart fruits such as passion fruit and guava, and many are intended to be sipped cold.

So if you want to bring something to the party that at least half your friends won’t like but that some of them will absolutely love, the move of a true rebel, consider a gose. If they don’t like it, more tangy, salty beer for you.