Beers like the Gose, Berliner Weisse, Alt and Kölsch are great old styles of German beers with hundreds of years of brewing tradition behind them. Because they are fairly rare around Wisconsin, they might seem like new inventions, especially when a craft brewery offers a modern twist on a venerable classic.
The Gose is probably the most challenging of these styles to find. Even in Germany, where you might think it would be more commonplace, this brew can be obscure. Last fall on a beer trek from Berlin to Bavaria, it proved to be one of the most elusive brews on my list of must-finds. So, when MobCraft Beer announced a few months ago that it was working on a Gose, I was excited to imagine what might happen here in my own backyard.
Hop Gose the Grapefruit, a modern twist on the light-bodied Gose, is the latest in a special line of beers from Mobcraft that are developed via the whimsy of social media and weight of crowdsourcing.
What is it? Hop Gose the Grapefruit from MobCraft Beer of Madison, Wisconsin.
Style: Gose (pronounced "gose-uh,") can be traced back in legend over 1,000 years in Germany, and gets its name from the river Gose which flows through the town of Goslar in the German state of Lower Saxony. In recent centuries, the style became associated with the city of Leipzig, which is located about to the southeast in the state of Saxony.
Traditional versions of this beer can be quite sour and salty. The saltiness in original Gose likely derived from naturally saline and mineral-rich water from around Goslar and Leipzig that was used for brewing. The style is very similar to a hefeweizen in that it's made with high amounts of malted wheat. It has very low hop bitterness. However, this beer can have some dryness and spice from additions of coriander and salt.
The Gose is commonly fermented with both yeast and Lactobacillus. The style will range in alcohol from 4%-5% ABV. Gose is not a beer that's found or made regularly around the U.S. However, one German import that is occasionally found in Madison's more extensive package stores is made by the Gosebrauerei located at the Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig.
Background: Hop Gose the Grapefruit is the ninth beer in MobCraft's crowdsourced offerings. These creative recipes are cultivated from the ideas of shrewd and very opinionated beer geeks, and make for a portfolio that hardly follows the standard style guidelines of many commercial breweries or even homebrewers. The idea for this beer was submitted online anonymously to MobCraft, and was subsequently selected via a vote by brewery fans in late April.
"I liked the sound of it right when it showed up," says MobCraft co-founder Giotto Troia. "People are submitting cool recipes and weird beer ideas that we've never heard of. Maybe they had a Gose and really liked it, and maybe the wanted a hoppier one," he says.
The style was new to Troia, who adds that before making a Gose, he had never actually drank one. "It shocked my taste buds," he notes. "I like sours, and I like hoppy beers, and the salt goes well with both of them."
Hop Gose the Grapefruit has many of the traditional elements of a Gose, yet it breaks from convention with a certain "zest." In this instance, it's made with grapefruit zest (from the peel) and puree (from the flesh and juice). Troia says the zest and puree are added, along with sea salt, while the beer is fermenting. It's soured with Lactobacillus, a bacteria commonly used in brewing, as well as other foods like yogurt, cheese and sourdough bread. The beer is also hopped with a light amount of Chinook and Cascade. At the core of this Gose is a light wheat beer that allows the fruity grapefruit and sour Lactobacillus to really shine through and even dominate, while hints of the sea salt are evident but remain in the background.
"Imagine it like a fruity, salty, grapefruity, wheat beer," says Troia.
MobCraft launched last summer, and has released eight crowdsourced brews so far. Like all of its beers, Hop Gose the Grapefruit is made at the House of Brews on Madison's east side. It finishes at 4.5% ABV and is sold in 22 ounce bottles for $7-$8/each. Along with the House of Brews taproom, this beer is currently available at Alpine Liquors, Trixie's Liquor, Riley's Wines of the World, Star Liquor, Party Port, Steve's on Junction Road, and Stoughton Spirits Hop Goes the Grapefruit is a limited release, and may not be made again.
Business has been good for MobCraft over the last year, so good that plans for its own brewery are well underway. Troia says that MobCraft is evaluating potential locations and hopes to relaunch in the Madison area with its own stand-alone facility within six-to-ten months. Once a site is found, Troia says the company will determine if it will follow a commercial brewery or brewpub business model.
In an effort to raise the necessary financing for anew brewery, MobCraft is the first business in the state to take advantage of new equity crowdfunding programs that allows companies to raise funds online. The approach is similar to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, though in this model investors get an ownership stake in the company for their share.
Earlier this spring, MobCraft purchased brewing equipment that was being used by the now closed LogJam Microbrewery of Unity, Wisconsin. Troia says that MobCraft has been storing this 10-barrel brewing system until it finds a suitable location. However, two of LogJam's former fermenters have been recently put into service at House of Brews. Those tanks will help MobCraft increase its output and help its products be more consistently available on store shelves.
MobCraft bomber bottles are already turning up in Milwaukee, and Troia expects to be in Green Bay by mid-summer. The company also just received is license that will allow it to ship its crowdsourced beers directly to 34 different states, starting later this month. It will use a liquor store in Rockford, Illinois to package and ship four-packs of 22 ounce bottles.
The next crowdsourced beer from MobCraft will be Mistah Tea, a medium-bodied ale made with black tea and hopped with Citra and Mount Hood hops. It should be available by early July. MobCraft is also expanding its line of standard beers. Co-founder and CEO Henry Schwartz says by the end of July, this lineup will add a Munich lager and a raspberry ginger sour called Sour Support.
For those who like sour brews, MobCraft will be making more of them by fall. Schwartz says these beers will be based primarily on a Lactobacillus souring program. The company intends to initially use a nearby warehouse, close to House of Brews, for making these beers. "Our goal is to have a separate facility to house our sour beers," says Schwartz. For this sour line of brews, MobCraft will break away from its bomber bottled packaging by offering them in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles.
- Aroma: Light grapefruit. Also, just a hint of yeast.
- Appearance: Cloudy orange-copper color with a thick, soft, light-tan head.
- Texture: Light- to medium-bodied and soft.
- Taste: Crisp, grapefruit with a light yeasty background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The grapefruit tones continue with a light dryness.
Glassware: Traditionally a Gose is served in a tall slender glass called a stick or stange (like a Kölsch). In Germany, it may also be served alongside a shot of raspberry or woodruff-flavored syrup (like the Berliner Weisse). Hop Gose The Grapefruit works well in the stange; however, with its sharp assertive grapefruit qualities, I much prefer the weizen glass because it holds the thick soft head and while allowing the aromas to expand under the nose.
Pairs well with: Hop Gose the Grapefruit is beer that is best on its own, and very cold at refrigerator temperatures to bring out the grapefruit and yeasty qualities. But when considering a cheese, it's nice with Sartori Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat Cheese.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers.
The Verdict: Most of MobCraft's beers to-date have seemed to offer irreverent consideration for traditional beer styles. So, I have to admit I was more than skeptical of what this latest crowdsourced beer might be like. But when I opened a bottle, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I just kept thinking, wow, this is a light-bodied summer treat!
Hop Gose the Grapefruit is yeasty, wheaty and salty, and those rather odd sounding combinations for a beer actually work really well with the crisp tropical-fruitiness of grapefruit and sourness of Lactobacillus. Despite having "hop" in the name, the bitterness of this brew does not stand out. That's okay, though, because the lighter wheat qualities emerge within the subtle background of sea salt. It all blends together nicely. When served at cold refrigerator temperatures, this is a very refreshing beer.
This brew is certainly not something that will appeal to everyone; however, the hints of salt and sour are fun to those who look for beers offering unique taste profiles. And, while it's not overly tart, there is still enough piquancy to be a beer worth noting for fans of sours. Any mention of the rather rare Gose from a local brewery inspires some fascination. Hop Goes the Grapefruit is not just about novelty, though, as it delivers with a light body and distinctive sourness, making it an enjoyable beer for summer.