Dominant flavours in Gose include a lemon tartness, a herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have prominent hop bitterness, flavours, or aroma. The beers typically have a moderate alcohol content of 4 to 5% ABV.
Because of the use of coriander and salt, Gose does not comply with the Reinheitsgebot. It is allowed an exemption on the grounds of being a regional specialty. It acquires its characteristic sourness through inoculation with lactobacillus bacteria after the boil.
Gose belongs to the same family of sour wheat beers which were once brewed across Northern Germany and the Low Countries. Other beers of this family are Belgian Witbier, Berliner Weisse, Broyhan, Grätzer.
Gose was first brewed in the early 16th century in the town of Goslar, from which its name derives. It became so popular in Leipzig that local breweries started to make it themselves. By the end of the 1800s, it was considered to be the local style of Leipzig and there were countless Gosenschänke in the city.
Originally, Gose was spontaneously-fermented. A description in 1740 stated "Die Gose stellt sich selber ohne Zutuung Hefe oder Gest" ("Gose ferments itself without the addition of yeast"). Sometime in the 1880s brewers worked out how to achieve the same effect by using a combination of top-fermenting yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
Gose was delivered, still fermenting quite vigorously, in barrels to the Schänke. It was stored in the cellar with the tap bung closed but the shive hole left open, so that the still-active yeast could escape. Only when the fermentation had slowed to a point where no yeast was emerging from the shive hole, was the Gose ready to bottle. The barrel was emptied into a tank, from whence it was filled into the characteristic long-necked bottles. These were not closed with a cap or cork, but with a plug of yeast (Flor) which naturally rose up the neck as the secondary fermentation continued.
By the outbreak of WWII, Rittergutsbrauerei Döllnitz, between Merseburg and Halle, was the last brewery producing Gose. When it was nationalised and closed in 1945, Gose disappeared. But only until 1949, when the tiny Friedrich Wurzler Brauerei opened at Arthur-Hoffmann-Straße 94 in Leipzig. Friedrich Wurzler had worked at the Döllnitzer Rittergutsbrauerei and was the only person who knew the secret of brewing Gose.
Before his death in the late 1950s, Wurzler handed on the secret to his stepson, Guido Pfnister. Brewing of Gose continued in the small private brewery, though there appears to have been little demand. By the 1960s there were no more than a couple of pubs in Leipzig and possibly one in Halle that were still selling it. When Pfnister died in 1966 the brewery closed and Gose disappeared again, this time seemingly forever.
In the 1980s Lothar Goldhahn, who was restoring a former Gosenschenke, Ohne Bedenken, decided that it was only fitting that the revived pub should sell Gose. After quizzing drinkers to ascertain its precise characteristics, Goldhahn began to search for a brewery to produce his Gose. None of the local breweries were keen on making such an odd beer, so eventually he chose the Schultheiss Berliner-Weisse-Brauerei on Schönhauser Allee in East Berlin. The first test brews were made in 1985 and production started in 1986.
After briefly disappearing again in 1988, Gose is today in better health than it's been for half a century. No less than three German breweries currently brew it: Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof and Familienbrauerei Ernst Bauer in Leipzig and Brauhaus Goslar in Goslar. The style continues to be brewed outside Germany as well. In the United States, Off Color Brewing in Chicago has the style available year-round, and Lost Nation Brewing in Vermont has been brewing Gose since opening its doors in July 2013. Other breweries across the world have released Gose on a limited or rotating basis.
- Gose Häppchen: 100 Jahre Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken, 1999, Leipzig, pages 13 - 63.
- Knaust, Heinrich (1575). Funff Bucher von der Gottlichen Und Edlenn Gabe Der Philosophischen Hochthewren und Wunderbaren Kunst Bier Zu Brawen. Erfurt, Germany.
- "Beers". Off Color Brewing. 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
- "Style:Gose". Lost Nation Brewing. Retrieved 25 February 2015.