Going for the Gose!

Thanks to wonderful brewing texts like “Brewing with Wheat“, I’ve known about the existence of Gose (pronounced goes-uh), though I can’t say I ever gave it too much thought until I recently enjoyed my first taste of a Gose. The Gose from Westbrook Brewing is fantastic! It melds all the flavors one should expect from the style with a great balance. What flavors should one expect? Well let’s back track a bit and talk about what exactly a Gose is.

Gose is an obscure, nearly extinct German style of wheat ale. It is definitely not a beer that was brewed under the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law of 1516). It’s a wheat beer that is brewed with additions of sea salt and coriander. Modern interpretation have a lactic tartness to them(historically examples likely also had a tartness to it as well, though that was likely unintentional due to sanitation conditions) – the tartness which can be pretty aggressive, more-so than another small German style, the Berliner Weisse. Both the salt and coriander should be noticeable, though they shouldn’t be dominate in the beer. This is a wheat beer after all and the softness of the wheat malt should come through. It’s a low gravity beer with most examples around the 4% abv. mark. This is a great, easy drinking summer ale with a lighter body, pale golden color, and a refreshing dryness.

glass of Gose

Glass of a homebrewed Gose.

After cracking the last can of the Westbrook Gose I knew that this was a style that I had to learn to brew. While I enjoy sour ale, I have very little hands-on experience with actually brewing them. This seemed like a good style to get my feet wet. I spent some time online doing research about the style and modern day recipes. Most recipes were simple enough – close to what one would expect from a hefeweizen or a Belgian wit (in regards to malt bill and hops). While I found a couple breweries that make one using a hefeweizen yeast, it seems most breweries that do this style (or homebrewers who have experimented with it) are using more neutral yeasts such as a German ale yeast or a very clean American ale yeast. Seems overall that the yeast should take a backseat in the brewing of this style. Most of these will do a fermentation with Lactobacillus before moving on to a brewers yeast to do the bulk of the fermentation after the desired level of acidity is reached. I decided to go with the lazy brewer’s method by using a hefty dose of acid malt in the grain bill. Without further ado, here is the recipe for my first go at a Gose.

Gozer the Gose
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Batch size: 6.5 gal (5.5 gal in to the fermenter)
Original Gravity: 1.038
Final Gravity: 1.010
Calculated IBU: 11.6
SRM: 3
ABV: 3.8%

Grain Bill:

4 lbs. 4 oz. White wheat malt
2lbs. 15 oz. Pilsner malt
1 lbs. Acid Malt

Hops:

1 oz. Hallertauer at 60 min.

Other Ingredients:

.75 oz. crush coriander seed
.65 oz. sea salt

Brewing instructions:

Perform a 60 minute mash at 146F – however grind the acid malt separately and do not add it to the mash until after 45 minutes. I perform a batch sparge, filling the kettle to 7.25 gal (I lose approximately .75 gallons an hour during the boil)

While I generally do a 90 minute boil when using Pilsner malt, this time around I only went for a 60 minute boil because there is so little malt in this beer. The only hop addition is added right at the start of the boil. The salt and coriander are added with 10 minutes remaining in the boil.

I used by a whirlfloc tablet and Wyeast yeast nutrient, also with 10 minutes remaining in the boil.

Using a sanitized spoon I whirlpool the kettle and let it settle for about 15 minutes. I then run it through a plate chiller. During the summer I can only get it down to about 70F. I then oxygenate and pitch Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast (a 1.2L starter was made with a fresh smack pack).

I chilled the fermenter down to 64F. After 5 days I let the fermenter free rise up to 68F for an additional 5 days before dropping the fermenter down to 38F over a 3 day period. After this it was kegged and force carbonated to 2.8 vol of CO2.

Tasting Notes:

I’ve been drinking this beer for a few weeks now and I am mostly happy with how it came out. It pours an incredibly pale yellow with a pillowy head of white foam. The foam fades fairly quickly leaving behind little lacing. The aroma is strong of wheat, an almost white bread like aroma.

On the first sip I get a fair amount of the salt – though I wouldn’t call it salty, but it is pretty hard to miss. After that a light grainyness and a soft wheat flavor come through with just a touch of tartness at the finish of the beer. It certainly isn’t a beer that comes across as sour, or strongly tart. That tartness is just a small amount at the finish of the beer. The beer is quite dry and easily drinkable. At under 4% abv this is an easy beer to drink. It’s nice to have a beer that you can put back a couple and still get some work around the house done.

My two problems with this beer are the lack of an assertive tartness, and the sea salt level. About the sea salt I go back and forth on whether or not I want to reduce the amount. It certainly isn’t overwhelming, but it is quite pervasive throughout the drinking of the beer. I do, however, know this beer needs more lactic tartness from it. I’m not sure I can get what I need through use of the acidulated malt alone, so I think I might play with running off a half gallon next time I brew it and souring that in a growler and then blending it back to the main batch. If I do this, then the salt contribution might be just about right as more sourness comes through. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do before doing another attempt at Gose.

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The Value of Beer Naming

There are over 2,000 breweries in the United States with new ones opening each day. With each brewery producing several styles of beer it’s no wonder every week I seem to stumble upon an article about a lawsuit, or a cease and desist over a trademarked name of some beer. As the craft beer market swells with new beers it becomes vital to differentiate ones brand in the market place, but it’s becoming so much harder to come up with a creative name; and some of the names are getting out of hand. In many instances the name gives me no idea as to what to expect from the beer. In this dizzying array of beer names sometimes I can’t recall which beer from a brewer is which style and I simply start referring to them by their flavor profile instead, like, that hoppy amber beer from brewery x. The names, while sometimes creative (though often times downright useless), have lost their meaning.

The question then becomes this: what is the point of naming beers? In most breweries overseas the brewery is the name that people remember. You create your brand, your identity, and the beers are simply described by their styles. While this practical approach to calling a beer simply by its style doesn’t have the creative flair that has come to be the hallmark of the craft brewing industry, it does keep these wild names from getting out of hand; after all there are only so many hop puns out there. The consumer isn’t getting anything out of the name – and some of the untapped potential craft beer drinkers may be turned off by seemingly childish names and bizarre labelling. While craft beer is exploding it doesn’t seem like anyone seems to mind, but there are many who go in to their good craft beer bar and stare blankly at the beer menu, trying to figure out just what it is they may like. A good bartender or server goes a long way to helping the consumer know what they’re getting, but shouldn’t the beer itself help to set the consumers expectations?

There are some who contend that as brewers not only push the style boundaries, but outright defy them, that simply naming a beer by its style won’t work. But why does this mean that some marketing driven, or brainstormed session beer name will help the consumer to understand the beer better? True a lot of brewers will give some level of beer description on the bottle, but in a bottleshop filled with choices how many people are going to take the time to read each one? It’s also true that a lot of your better beer bars will have descriptions on their menu, blackboard, or some other location that will help to educate the consumer about what they’re ordering. But when you have dozens of tap handles I’d be willing to bet a lot of people will simply look for what is familiar, or what is new. In fact the information overload could serve to turn off those making their first forays in to the world of craft beer. When style names don’t apply to a brew that has defied all convention, giving it some kind of name that adequately conveys what the drinker can expect out of the beer is vital.

A brewery’s time is better spent working on their beer, not trying to find some name that no one has yet to use, or worse still, involved in a legal battle defending your trademarked name (or having to come up with an entirely new name for your beer because someone else got there first). Marketing time is better spent focusing on creating your brand as your identity. Your brewery name will be the reflection of what it is you are; that’s how the consumer is going to remember you and how you’re going begin to make yourself stand out in a crowded marketplace. There are certain breweries when they release something new I know I want to try it regardless of style because they have a track record of making beer that I absolutely love. They’ve built their reputation around their brand and I respect what they’re doing. Other times when I go to the bar I might be in the mood for a particular style – or perhaps I want the right style of beer to pair with my meal. Skimming a list of names that represent the style is a lot easier than reading a description of each, especially in a place that prides itself on its beer selection.

At the end of the day we all have to go our own way and are going to see things differently. Some brewers honestly feel that their creative name is a reflection of the beer and has a personal connection to them. Does this connection carry over to the consumer? After all it is ultimately the consumer for whom this beer is made. It’s good and well to say you only brew what you like and you don’t care what other people want; that’s a recipe for a short-lived brewery. Craft beer is a business; yes it’s a highly creative and artistic business, but at the end of the day you want to be successful, you want people to enjoy your beers, and sometimes you have to give them what they want to get them in the door. Consumer confusion hurts the craft brand as a whole.

Anyway, that’s my two cents on the whole craft beer naming game.

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Grodziskie (Gratzer) Followup

It’s been a few weeks since I put the Grodziskie in the keg. When I kegged it, it had a solid smokey aroma, but not as overwhelming as some smoked beers I’ve had in the past – it certainly wasn’t “bacon in a bottle”.

Orlasky’s Farmhouse Grodziskie

Appearance – A very hazy beer, but that’s what I’d expect in a beer made with 100% wheat malt. It has a very thick, rocky head that lasts for a few minutes before receding, leaving behind a sticky lacing.

Aroma – A nice smokey aroma, reminiscent of the lingering scent of campfire on your clothing. No strong bacon smells, nothing that overwhelms. There’s a touch spice to the aroma, along with a light breadyness.

beer head

The head of my Grodziskie ale.

Taste – Upfront there’s a sharp bitterness. Not biting, nor overwhelming on the palette, but it leaned slightly towards to unpleasant. On the first sip or two everything takes a backseat to the bitterness, but that fades after a few more sips. The smoke comes out, at first only slightly perceivable over the bitterness, but as the bitterness fades the smoke comes on more strongly. It’s a pleasant smoke flavor that lingers on the tongue for awhile. The bread-like flavors of the wheat are fairly subtle and be tough to pick out underneath the more dominating flavors.

Mouth-feel – A fairly thick beer. Solid body, not at all thin and watery for a beer that finished out at 1.008.

Overall Impression – I like this beer, it’s one that gets better with each sip. At first I thought it might be difficult to finish a pint of it, but as I drank it, it became increasingly easier to drink. At only around 3.2% abv it was pretty easy to put down by the time I got half through the pint. The second pint was absolutely smooth sailing.

This beer, however, is not without its faults. As I said the initially bitterness comes on fairly strong. I’d cut down on the bitterness. Currently the beer sits around 40 IBU and I’d probably scale it back to the high 20’s. I have recently picked up some Lublin hops that I can use in place of the Saaz to go a little more authentic in that direction. I still like the late hop additions as they add an extra dimension to the beer so that the entire thing isn’t simply about the smoke. Speaking of the smoke I do feel I could go 100% oak smoked wheat malt on this one. The smoke flavor wasn’t so intense that it became distasteful – in fact it was one of the more pleasant smoked flavors I’ve had in a beer before. I also think instead of using the Wyeast 1056 that I’d move over to Wyeast 1007 (German ale). I’m not sure it will make that much of a difference, but I’d think it could be interesting to find out.

This is a beer style I definitely want to perfect. It’s a really interesting style, not like ones I’ve tasted before. It’s a great full flavored session ale, and having more of those is never a bad thing.

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Grodziskie – a Polish Original

It was about a year ago that I first heard about a beer called Gratzer (which I would later learn was the name given after WWII to a beer style known as Grodziskie, Gratzer being the German name for it). It’s a style of beer that appears to have been unique to Poland(originating in the town of Grodzisk). It was a beer that appears to have been made from 100% oak smoked wheat malt. While most smoked beers tended to eschew hop flavors for fear of them clashing with the smoked malt, the Grodziskie seems to have had a generous hopping rate with a fairly firm bitterness. The beer is also a low gravity, easy drinking beer with starting gravities around the 7 or 8 degree Plato range(1.028 – 1.032 SG). A low alcohol smoky beer with a firm hop bitterness? How could I not be intrigued by it!

A couple of days ago I finally brewed my first one. Recipe formulation was pretty easy as ingredient-wise it’s a pretty simple recipe. I did make a few changes. First I used 5/8 oak smoked wheat malt to 3/8 white wheat malt. I made this change as I’ve had some smoked beers where it was like drinking a campfire. So I wanted to back off a bit on the smoked flavor for my first go at the beer. I can use this as a baseline as to whether I want to go with more or less on the next go around. Secondly I couldn’t readily get the Lublin hops that are typically used in this beer. I went with the closest substitute that I had available, Czech Saaz. My gravity also ended up being a little bit higher than is typical (1.036), this was due to the fact I just wanted to use the whole 5 lbs. bag of smoked wheat I had and keep all my numbers simple. I targeted about 36 IBU’s for the beer which seems pretty crazy on something that is only going to finish out around 3.5% alcohol, so I’m curious to see how that’s going to turn out. Finally, for yeast I just used the cleanest yeast I had available which was 1.056. I have it fermenting at 66F so that should keep the yeast profile pretty neutral.

When I ground the grain on brewday the smoke smell was pretty powerful. It reminded me of cooking bacon over an open flame. It wasn’t quite as intense as the German Rauch malt I had used in the past, but it was still pretty potent. I had a few moments of wondering whether it was going to be too much smoke or not. However by the end of the boil the smoky aroma had subsided to the point where it was no longer overwhelming and was much more subtle. The spicy aroma of the Saaz hops actually smelled wonderful with the subtle oak smoke aromatics. The color was incredibly light, a bit of a white hue to it making it appear lighter in color than many Pilsner beers.

With the low gravity and large pitch of yeast it should ferment out fairly quickly. On day 7 of the fermentation I plan on starting to bring down the temperature of the beer by a few degrees each day and will likely keg it on day 14. It’ll lager for another week or two (essentially until a tap opens up on my kegerator). I’m really excited for this beer and am hoping that it’ll be a good baseline for future batches of this nearly extinct style of beer.

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Wet Hopping an ESB.

This was not a good year for my hops. They started out strong, but there were a few dry stretches, and I didn’t trim them nearly as well as I should have so I’m not ending up with many hops on the bines. The Cascade did really well, but both the Nugget and Centennial sort of crapped out on me. However it looks like I should have more than enough hops to stuff in to a Hop Rocket to try and do some nice wet hopping via that.

Since I’m on a bit of a session kick I decided to do something a little different, a little experimental. I’m going to wet hop an ESB recipe that I use. Yes, American Cascade hops in an English ESB! Shock and horror, I know! But really that’s what homebrewing (and for that matter, craft beer in America) is all about. Doing something a little bit odd and a little bit unexpected. The recipe I’m going to use is pretty straight forward, and I think the aroma of fresh Cascade hops will place nicely with the biscuity malts, slight caramel, and a bit of esters from the English yeast.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Recipe Specifications
————————–
Boil Size: 7.77 gal
Post Boil Volume: 7.02 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 10.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 38.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 78.7 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
————
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
11 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 93.6 %
12.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 2 6.4 %
1.75 oz First Gold [7.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 3 38.6 IBUs
3.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Hop Rocket 15.0 min Hop 4 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg English Ale (White Labs #WLP002) [35.49 Yeast 5 –

The mash is conducted at 152F for 60 minutes. I’ll ferment it for 2 weeks at 67F. Since they are wet hops and you want to get the best of that aroma, package and serve right away.

I’m currently planning on the brewday taking place Wednesday night. I haven’t attempted a later brew in awhile, so I figured I’d give it a try. Between wanting to homebrew more so that I can perfect a few recipes, and brewing at Rogues Harbor on the weekends I need to find the time to squeeze more of the homebrewing in.

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