If there’s one rule we try to adhere to when we think about what we are going to brew, it’s that it has to be something we like to drink. Ranking high on that list are sour beers.
While we love our traditional, slow-fermented, barrel-aged sours, we aren’t quite there yet. Actually, it was only until recently that we even toyed with the idea of making a sour beer. We were still in the throes of learning our equipment and processes, but we always had it in the back of our minds that we would make something sour eventually. It’s tough to try something more adventurous and technical, especially when your time and finances are limited, and you can’t afford to mess up.
Sours are definitely more technical. But we had become confident enough in our abilities and had done enough research that we thought it was time to push the envelope a little further. One sour we have been drinking copious amounts of the past few years is gose (pronounced goes-uh), a German sour beer that is made with sea salt and coriander. This has been one of our favorite beers to brew and drink, and it’s also been one of our most-consumed in the tasting room, next to The Ruckus IPA.
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So here's how we made our Goseface Killah gose.
Brewing a gose requires more steps in the brew process. Everything is the same in the recipe: You’ve got your grain, hops and yeasts. We use a blend of German and New York state pilsner malt and wheat. You’re still mashing and heating your grains to convert all those starches to fermentable sugar.
But with gose, you’ve got to have sour — like mouth-watering, lip-puckering sour. And that can only be achieved by introducing the bacteria lactobacillus to your sweet wort (don’t worry, it’s the same bacteria that’s in your yogurt!) and keeping it in an environment friendly enough to let it do its magic, which is to bring down the pH (essentially raising the acidity) in the sweet wort.
So after we mash (convert the starches to sugar) and sparge (stop the conversion of starch to sugar and rinse all that sweet deliciousness off the grain), we do what we always do: move that sweet wort into our boil kettle. Except, unlike every other time we move wort into the boil kettles, it’s not in there to boil — at least not yet. This time, it’s in there to sour. So we keep that sweet wort nice and warm in there with our heating coils at an exact and steady temperature, and pitch a pure lacto culture into it.
Then we do something out of the ordinary: Instead of boil, we walk away. We leave it for about three days, to let the lacto naturally do its thing and sour the wort. This is a process called kettle souring, and a somewhat controversial one at that in the sour beer world (more on that another time). Over the course of these next days we are constantly monitoring it, tasting it and checking the pH levels, making sure the temps are steady and the pH of the beer is coming down.
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Once it gets down to the level we are looking for, and the level of sour we like, it’s time to finish off the beer by boiling it and adding our hops, sea salt and freshly ground coriander, and pitching it with a traditional German ale yeast.
The result is an intensely aromatic, citrusy, tart, mouth-watering and slightly salty brew with 4 percent alcohol that goes down like the best glass of lemonade you’ve ever had. One thing we love about our gose recipe is that it has all of the inherent aromatics and sourness of the style, but it’s got a ton of fruit-forward flavor and body in the mid-palate.
There’s a sea of gose-style beers out there, and many of the more well-known commercial breweries are trying to get as sour and austere as possible. But we think the balance of fruit and acid in ours makes it not only more interesting for the seasoned sour drinker, but also really approachable for the novice.
We have also been experimenting with the recipe, and just released a small batch that we dry-hopped (adding hops toward the end or after fermentation for aroma versus during the boil, which imparts more bitterness in the beer) with a New Zealand hop called rakau. It was really fun, and it sold out in the tap room in just about two weeks!
Our Goseface Killah gose is one of our staple beers, and we will try to keep it on tap always!
Cheers to all the Cayuga County beer lovers!