If you’re prone to claiming that you “just don’t like beer that much,” well, we get where you’re coming from. After all, if what you’ve mostly been exposed to are bitter IPAs or the watery, bloat-inducing light beers that permeate college campuses, it’s totally understandable that you’d prefer wine or cocktails to a good old fashioned brewsky. But even if you think you can’t stand beer, Anne Beccera, beverage director at Manhattan’s Treadwell Park, wants you to try out gose this summer.
“They have that really light, refreshing, tangy taste and are still really easy to drink, especially as the summer comes,” she tells Refinery29. “And I think because so many beer drinkers are getting excited about [them], people are able to say hey, if you like wine, try these styles.”
While you may or may not have heard of it before, gose [pronounced goes-uh], is actually one of the oldest styles of beer in the world. First brewed in Germany in the 16th century, it enjoyed popularity in the region for hundreds of years, briefly went extinct during World War II, and was revived in 1949. In the late ‘90s, it began gaining recognition among experimental American brewers and hardcore beer-heads, many of whom just viewed it as a novelty beverage. But suddenly, in the past couple of years, everyone from Dogfish Head to Sierra Nevada has begun offering at least one gose-style beer, many of which can be found at your local grocery store, bar, or bodega. Samuel Adams even has one.
Gose is a type of sour beer; other sours you may have heard of include Berliner Weisse and Lambic. These styles can be expensive and difficult to brew, and thus have become a jumping-off point for many American craft breweries to create their own unique riffs, which are often collectively referred to as American-style sour beers. Often, they’ll be labeled as gose-style, or simply, sour.
Pretty much any professional brewer or self-proclaimed beer snob can talk your ear off about the history, mechanics, and complex flavour profiles of goses. It’s fascinating, if you’re into that sort of thing, but all you really need to know about goses, and sours more generally, is that many of them are delicious and far more drinkable than your average beer. Which is probably why many people in the industry think they’re about to really blow up. After all, as the rosé rage begins to wane and IPAs feel a bit passe, many are looking for a new, exciting way to quench their thirst and catch a buzz, and sour beer seems to fit the bill.
“If you look at almost any other popular drink, most of them would be in the sour range,” Michael Lenane, who works on the formulation team at the Brooklyn-based Sixpoint Brewery, tells Refinery29. “Many wines… Margaritas are sour, most cocktails are sour. It’s pretty natural. People ask us, do you really think this sour beer thing is gonna catch on? And I think it definitely will [because] people love sour drinks.”
That being said, Lenane notes that what’s pleasantly puckering for one person might feel like way too much for another. Sourness is one of those things that people tend to perceive differently. If you think back to childhood, weren’t there always those kids who went straight for rogue lemon wedges and black cherry WarHeads while another contingent wanted nothing to do with it?
Most commercial sour beers are nowhere near WarHead levels of sour. (Then again, not too many things made for adults are.) Most goses actually also have a decidedly salty element. But nevertheless, it may take some time to identify the flavour profile you most prefer, just as with wine or whiskey or even weed. It’s also likely that the more gose you drink, the less sour it will taste to you over time.
“People seem to really have a different perception of [sourness] in particular. I think, in part, it’s because people haven’t been as exposed to it as much,” Lenane says.
Beccera suggests thinking about other tart or tangy things you like to drink or eat — stuff like kimchi, pickles, salt and vinegar chips, and lemonade — and using these as jumping-off points when you ask your bartender or bottle shop worker to point you in the direction of a good gose. Most industry professionals, especially in spots that specialise in good beer, will be more than happy to oblige. Chances are, they’re excited about goses, too.
Fal Allen, brewmaster at California-based Anderson Valley and the author of a forthcoming book on gose published by the Brewers Association, certainly is. Anderson Valley, in addition to being the maker of my personal favourite range of sour beers, is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in bringing gose to the mainstream. But, Allen tells Refinery29, their decision to make it, at least initially, pretty much came down to a bunch of brewers messing around.
“Quite often, craft brewers just make brews that they like. They experiment with things that they find interesting, and then if they catch on with consumers, then okay,” he explains. “When we made our first gose and my boss looked at me and said, ‘I think this has legs.' I thought, what? It’s sour! It’s salty! But he was certainly right and I was certainly wrong about that.”
While Anderson Valley wasn’t the first company to make a modern gose, or even the first to put it in a can, they’ve enjoyed a much wider distribution net than some of their rivals. For frame of reference, the company’s legendary Briney Melon Gose and G&T Gose (yep, based on the classic bar drink) are sold at my very own grimy local grocery store, a place that simultaneously fails to stock basic necessities like non-white bread and non-overripe avocados.
Beccera also recommends seeking out Brooklyn-based brewery KCBC’s Beach Zombie, which is brewed with strawberry and guava, as well as Colorado-based Avery Brewing’s goses and sours, and Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez gose, which roughly translates to "another one" in Spanish. As in, this is so good, gimme another one.
From its storied history to its unusual flavour, it’s understandable why insiders and beer newcomers alike are excited about gose. But perhaps the most fascinating thing about goses and sours, however, is their ability to rewrite the rules when it comes to who drinks beer. While beer in its more typical forms has long been associated with frat bros, dads, and really, just dudes of all stripes, according to a 2015 survey by Harris Poll published by Nielsen, women are 75% more likely than men to prefer sour beers. While the notion that a majority of women dislike beer is, of course, a stereotype — albeit one with some apparent statistical backing — if sour beers can become a gateway for women to feel included and open to experimentation, that may all be poised to change.