Salty, sour beer. Sound good?
I first read about Gose style beer in the book Brewing with Wheat (order it here), by Stan Hieronymus. It hales from Leipzig, and almost faded from existence during the grim days of the cold war. No brewery produced it regularly from 1966 until 1999. While a few craft breweries produce examples in America, it is a rare beer without clear style guidelines.
The only time I have tasted a beer that purported to be a Gose was with my son at one of the top beer bars I’ve ever been to – Spuyten Duyvil in Brooklyn, home of “rare and obscure” beers. It was fantastic. Huge mouthfeel, almost chewy, but refreshing and drinkable. There was certainly a lactic tartness, but it was not overwhelming at all. It had layers of flavor, with citrus in the nose and salt on the tongue to go with the tartness and a surprisingly full malt flavor. I don’t know whether it was a good example or not, since I’ve never tasted another, but it didn’t taste exactly like what Kansas City’s own Wort Hog describes in a jealousy-inspiring account of a visit to Leipzig.
Now I want to brew a Gose, and there is very little reliable information out there on how to do it. I’ve thought about it, and here’s what I’m going to try.
First off, I’m going to do only 5 gallons instead of my usual 10. This is an experiment; if it comes out great, I’ll make more. I’m also going to use extract in this batch, rather than starting solely with crushed malted grains, because this beer is made with mostly wheat malt, and wheat malt is kind of a bear to work with, for reasons you either know or don’t care about.
First, how much salt to add? I want the salt to be present, but not dominating. I tried salting a quart of water and scaling up from there. 3 grams in one quart seemed like a good amount, and there are 20 quarts in 5 gallons, so 60 grams it is.
Now, how to add the sourness? The traditional way would be to inoculate the beer with lactobacillus bacteria, and let them go nuts. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to play with bacteria in my brewery space. They can be persistent and infectious, so that I would be risking a future of all-sour beers.
I want to play it safe, so I am going to use a product called acidulated malt, a product made by adding lactic acid to regular malt. I’m going to use 3/4 of a pound, since I’ve never used this stuff before. I’ll soak it in 150 degree water for an hour or so, in the hopes that it will convert its starches into sugars (beer geek talk – I don’t know whether it has diastatic power, but I’ll give it a whirl). I strongly doubt that this will add enough lactic tartness to the beer, but I have lactic acid I plan on adding post-fermentation to boost the tartness to a level I like.
For the first time in years, I will be relying on dried malt extract for the vast majority of the fermentation. If you’re new to homebrewing, malt extracts are the easiest way to get started, and you don’t need nearly as much equipment as you would if you were using only crushed grain. Around 4.5 pounds will give me a pretty light beer in terms of alcohol, which will make this a nice spring beer when it’s ready to drink. This particular extract was chosen because it is composed of 60% wheat and 40% barley, which is in line with the original beer.
This beer should be very lightly hopped, so I’m going to use 1 ounce of some American hops I have around, and boil them for 30 minutes.
Now for the extras. Coriander is a common ingredient in wheat beers, and I’ll be adding a quarter ounce of the seeds, ground up in the blender. I’m also going to go out on a limb and add one fluid ounce of Orange Blossom Water, not at all a traditional ingredient, but I find that it adds a nice aromatic when I bake, and I hope that it will increase the citrus notes of the beer.
For yeast, I’m going with a traditional German wheat yeast, Wyeast Weihenstephan Weizen #3068, a specialty yeast used for the refreshing wheat beers of southern German, redolent with clove and banana esters. I’ve seen recipes that call for a neutral yeast as well, but I love the flavors this yeast can produce.
After a couple weeks of fermentation, this beer will be ready for kegging. I’ll add lactic acid to suit my taste, and hope for the best. It’s rare for me to make a beer with so little guidance regarding the style, or even a recipe. I’m kind of winging it here, but I’m hopeful that what comes out will be palatable. If not, easy come, easy gose.