I'm not the sort of person who naturally tends to drink beer seasonally. In recent weeks when my nearby beer bars featured limited edition stouts like Founders KBS, their Breakfast Stout aged in bourbon barrels, or Westbrook Mexican Cake, an Imperial Stout brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and fresh habanero peppers, I simply pointed at the item on the list, looked the bartender in the eye and did my best Mr. Big imitation saying “Absol-f-ing-lutely.” Did I care that it was 88 degrees and humid outside? Not anymore.
But as a beer buyer for a store located in a great beer-drinking neighborhood, I do pay attention to such matters as seasonality and during the summer that means I'm never without a good Gose or three. I love introducing my clientele to Gose; it's so not what you expect from a German beer. With its salinity, lean texture and finishing overtones of citrus and sour cherries, it's about as far from a lager as you can get in flavor profile, but it's about as perfect a second beer as you can get after a Helles Lager on a boat trip or anywhere else under the sun on a summer afternoon.
Gose has a glorious history that stretches back a millennium, but contemporary Gose owes much of its existence to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which reinvigorated the brewing tradition in cities like Leipzig, the birthplace of the style. Also, relaxation of certain tenets in the Reinheitsgebot to allow for wheat may have assisted in the revival. Ironically, my three favorite Gose hail from the United States: Westbrook Gose from South Carolina, Almanac Golden Gate Gose from San Francisco and Off Color Troublesome from Chicago.
The Westbrook was my introduction to the style, and it remains a favorite. It's straightforward and lean with the salinity up front and a powerful hit of sour cherry in the finish. The Golden Gate is more restrained and citrusy. When I'm sampling it, and a customer tells me, “oh, I'm not a beer drinker,” I ask them if they are into sparkling wine. If they are, I insist that they try it and they are usually pleasantly surprised. With its citrusy overtones and gently sour finish, the Golden Gate has much more in common with ciders and cavas than most grain driven beers. The Troublesome is anything but; it's a lean, effervescent beer with subtle overtones of salt and citrus and a distinct but not overpowering finish of sour cherry.
Am I ever faced with a quandary of Gose or Stout? No, I start with the Gose and finish with the stout. As with all good things in life, I never settle for an either or when both or rather “both!” is the right answer.
Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.