Craft Beer of the Week

"What's A Gose-Style Beer?" With Preston Theony of Wren House Brewing Company

Beer fans have probably noticed an increasing number of gose (pronounced “goze-uh”) beers popping up at breweries across the country. And while the style's name has likely created many an embarrassing situation familiar to fans of Bon Iver (it's pronounced “bone-ee-VARE” by the way), the roots of the style's name can actually be traced overseas.

In fact, with a rather tumultuous history involving an escape from extinction, several wars, a country divided, a crumbling wall, and, finally, an American craft beer revolution, gose might be more aptly coined "the little beer that could."

So, here's the deal: Gose originated more than 1,000 years ago in the town of Goslar, Germany. The beer was named after the Gose River, which ran adjacent to the town, but in the early 1800s the people of Goslar grew tired of their town's uniquely crafted beverage, so they abolished it. Luckily, a mere 100 miles away in a town called Leipzig, the brew had also become a favorite among locals — so popular, in fact, that traditional gose is now commonly referred to as Leipzig gose since the people of that town carried on the beer tradition. 

Near-extinction, however, loomed once again with the onset of World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the ultimate division of Germany. With destruction and devastation caused by years of war, grains became harder and harder to secure. Subsequently, any grain available was allocated to bread-making rather than beer. It wasn’t until 1989, when the Berlin wall came down, that gose made its comeback in Leipzig and eventually, slowly, the unremitting brew style made its way onto the American craft brew scene.

Characteristically, gose is tangy and slightly salty due to the fact that the primary water source in Goslar, a town known for mining, contributed an abundant presence of salt to historical gose brews. Along with barley, a large percentage (50 percent or more) of malted wheat is used to brew this style beer, which lends a tartness and smooth drinkability. The beer is then fermented with wild yeast and lactobacillus, a bacteria commonly found in yogurt and sourdough, which helps give the beer its tang. Finally, it's spiced with coriander and hops.

And while, historically, Gose has hard to find outside of Germany, modern brewing technology has allowed the traditional style to be achieved in craft-brewery settings here in the United States. Today, stateside brewers add salt to imitate Goslar's saline levels and use coriander to spice the beer in the final stages of production.

Here in the Valley, Wren House Brewing Company's head brewer, Preston Thoeny, is helping put gose on the map. With this year’s debut of Lady Banks Gose, Thoeny has brought the traditionally European style to the metro Phoenix area. An affinity toward nice, crisp sours brought gose to Thoeny's attention, and the result is a slightly salty, slightly tart, and rose-colored beer.

“They’re perfect for drinking on warm days,” Thoeny says. “It's a very approachable sour beer with low alcohol and not too much tartness, so it becomes a real basic introduction for the style but still has great flavor and color." 

The beer's name, Lady Banks, stems from Thoeny’s roots in Tombstone, Arizona. There, a rosebush known as The Lady Banksiae first made its appearance in Tombstone in 1885 as a gift to a homesick bride from her native Scotland. Often referred to as “Lady Banks," it's reported to be the world’s largest single rose bush, covering more than 8,000 square feet. It can be found at The Rose Tree Museum and Bookstore.

To make the gose, Theony used a mix of classic and modern brewing techniques. It's brewed with Celtic Grey Sea Salt, chosen for its “mineral grindiness,” Thoeny says, and used to mirror traditional water sources. Then, instead of using coriander, Thoeny used hibiscus flowers, rose petals, and chamomile to spice the brew.

“Hibiscus is naturally tart and makes the sourness more palatable,” Thoeny says. 

Thoeny used a kettle-souring technique during which the brew is left in kettles for 48 hours before boiling.

“It's nothing compared to a lot of sours coming out of breweries with larger cellar programs, especially out of places like California and Oregon," Theony says. "But it is definitely a nice representation of kettle-soured goses.” 

The success of Lady Banks has sparked the development of an upcoming barrel-aged version, as well as more sours and goses to come.

“We have a few sour beers aging in local Chateau Tumbleweed barrels coming out this year, and even more expected for next year," Theony says. "They take time and can't be rushed, so it’s always hard to get a reliable prediction.”

You can find Lady Banks Gose at Wren House Brewing Company in central Phoenix. For more information, visit the Wren House Brewing Company website or Facebook
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Sara Palmer is a local improviser, writer, teacher, and storyteller. You can commonly find her exploring the surrounding wilderness areas of Phoenix.
Contact: Sara Palmer