Are international beer styles a source of confusion for you? Frankly, it’s not easy to get a handle on every style that’s out there. For my part, I kept hearing about “gose” and “gueuze.” I saw these beers at the bottle shop or online and my confusion only grew. When I mentioned gose and gueuze to friends, they seemed to know about one or the other, but not both. Was there a sense of malaise around this topic in the beer universe?
All this got me to wondering:
Are gose and gueuze the same beer?
Are they completely different?
Where do they come from?
What do they have in common?
I found the time, between work at two Los Angeles breweries, to sit down and do some research. I read about the beers in the BJCP Style Guidelines, The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garrett Oliver, and other resources. I bought and tasted both styles. Here’s what I learned.
Gose is a highly carbonated, tart and fruity wheat ale with a touch of coriander and — believe it or not — salt! It’s a wonderful style, and the beer’s light sea salt aroma reminds me of the summers I spent camping at South Carlsbad State Beach in San Diego County when I was a child.
This medium yellow beer is low on the alcohol scale — under five percent. It’s the perfect beer to drink when you are outside on a warm day reading a book. The high effervescence is restorative — like when your mom gave you a ginger ale to settle your stomach — except so much more delicious. The world is right when you are drinking this beer.
It’s an unfiltered beer, so it’s got that hazy look that’s becoming popular in the beer world right now, especially with IPAs, but don’t look for dramatic hop flavor in this beer — you’ll get next to nothing and very low bitterness. A beer like this relies on tart, fruity acidity to balance out the malts.
On the nose, you’ll discover a bready, sourdough character to balance out the spiciness of the coriander. You’ll taste the fruitiness of pome fruit, stone fruit or lemons in this beer. This beer style originated in the middle ages in the German town of Goslar on the Gose River. I’ve been enjoying Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose, Sierra Nevada Otra Vez with cactus and grapefruit, and Boulevard’s Hibiscus Gose. This is one rough research assignment.
Gueuze is a fruity, highly carbonated wheat ale — these are characteristics in common with the gose. However, they are very different beers. While the gose comes out of Germany, the gueuze was born in and around Brussels in Belgium.
The gueuze is a complex, sour but well-balanced beer that is traditionally created by blending one- , two- and three-year-old lambic. Now, let me tell you about lambic: It’s a funky, wild and sour Belgian wheat beer that is spontaneously fermented. Many people believe that the gueuze, a blend of lambics, provides a more exciting and complex flavor than a lambic.
Clearly, the gueuze is a creative opportunity for a master blender — in that way, it’s a bit like wine. In fact, the gueuze is called “The Champaign of Belgium.” The artful blender has to strike a balance between taste and acidity, all while taking in the technical aspects of getting to that high carbonation that is a hallmark of this style.
The youngest lambic in the blend helps with getting that carbonation going in the gueuze while the older lambic in the blend provides deep complexity and flavor. It’s like sending a child out to play with a professional basketball player and an old coach. Each of the three lambics in the blend has something to offer: the first, youthful vibrancy; the second, a strong and mature body; and the third provides an older, wiser and more mellow contribution. That multi-generational combination is complex — and delicious. After the blending is done, the bottle is laid down for half a year or so . . . or for much longer.
This golden beer is crystal clear and has a thick white head. Let’s talk a bit about the nose on a gueuze. We’re talking barnyard aromatics here, somewhat like cheeses with a washed rind. The taste varies from barrel to barrel and bottle to bottle because, well, we’re dealing with wild fermented yeast. What you are likely to pick up, flavor-wise, is a moderately sour beer that’s in balance with the malt, along with the beguiling barnyard characteristic we talked about in the aroma.
As with the gose, don’t look for much hop action here. The hops, which are often aged, are used mostly to preserve the beer. And, as with the gose, the beer’s acidity will balance out the maltiness of the beer. The gose is a historic beer, and so is the gueuze. The gueuze comes from a farmhouse brewing and blending tradition in Brussels going back for many centuries. Examples of gueuze include Cantillon Gueuze (good luck getting that), Lindemans Gueuze (much easier to find), and Boon Oude Gueuze.
As I discovered, the gose and the gueuze actually have several elements in common: they are both tart, sour wheat beers, and they are highly carbonated and very refreshing. They are both fruity with no hop flavor to speak of, and both are historic styles. And, of course, their names kind of sound alike. If you are unfamiliar with the styles, it’s easy to confuse them. But no longer, now that we have unraveled some of the mysteries of gose and gueuze. If you haven’t explored sours, you might want to start with the gose style and graduate to the gueuze. You’re a grownup — you can handle it, right?
See the accompanying video.
Have you heard about Gose and Gueuze beers? Are they the same? Are they completely different? Where do they come from, and what do they have in common? Watch this short video for the answers.
If you’re a brewmaster, you are very picky about how you make your beer. And you’re especially picky about the beer you buy, because, well . . . you’re an expert.
If you’re not a brewmaster, you can still buy a bottle of beer like an expert. Use these tips to get the freshest, most wonderful bottled beer on the planet, anytime you go to the store. First, though, let’s talk about beer’s enemies.
Be afraid, be very afraid. Let’s talk about when bad things happen to good beer. Beer is meant to be consumed fresh. Sure, you can cellar your beers like fine wine, but beers meant for cellaring are the exception. And that’s off topic today.
What you want is the freshest beer possible. Bottled beer has four silent killers: light, heat, oxygen and time. When shopping for a bottle of beer, we’re looking to avoid these problems. Here’s how.
Tip #1: Shop at a Busy Bottle Shop or Liquor Store
Shop for your beer where you know there’s a brisk turnaround. Beer that’s been sitting around for months — or years — is only getting worse over time. This is especially true for hop-forward beers like that IPA you love. Of course, there are exceptions. In any case, you want to buy from a bottle shop that treats beer with respect. Shops like that are generally the busy ones. Generally, the more fortified the beer — the higher the alcohol by volume (ABV) — the longer it will last on the shelf.
Tip #2: Look in the Refrigerated Section
What you’re looking for is a cold chain of custody: beer that left the brewery cold and stayed cold in transport and distribution and, finally, at the bottle shop. Of course, you can’t see what happened prior to the store you’re in, but you surely don’t want to buy beer that is sitting at room temperature — or worse — warm.
Tip #3: Look for Dark Bottles or, Better Yet, Cans
If ultraviolet light (bright sun or florescent light) strikes a bottle of beer, it causes “skunking.” This leaves the beer tasting like cardboard, cooking sherry or even like the scent of a skunk. If you see bottles of beer stored near a window, shop somewhere else. That beer may not only be skunked, it may have been boiled by the sun. Think about this: When you drink your beer outside in a clear vessel, skunking can happen in as little as 15 seconds.
Brown glass blocks 98% of the wavelengths of light that cause skunking.
Green glass blocks 20%.
Clear glass: 0%.
Best: Cans, ceramic bottles, and bottles in closed cases that completely block light.
Tip #4: Look for a Bottling Date
There’s either a bottling date or a best buy date on an increasing number of quality beers. You don’t know how long the beer has been sitting on the shelf at the bottle shop; the bottles may also have been sitting at the wholesaler or distributor’s location. Generally, a beer is tastiest within a month of being bottled. It may taste good for a few more months, but why not drink the freshest beer possible? Brewers release a beer when it’s ready for drinking — wine makers do the same, by the way. There are exceptions, but that’s what they are: exceptions.
Tip #5: Drink Local Beers
Many of your local breweries make bottled beers available, either at the brewery or local bottle shops. When you buy bottles crafted by local breweries, you are minimizing your risk of spoilage because there’s likely no long-distance travel and no long storage at the wholesaler or distributor. When you support your local breweries, you encourage the brewing community to start additional breweries nearby, and this results in a vibrant beer scene. The outcome: more beer for you and an improved local economy. Besides, you want to support your local brewery, right?
Bonus Tip: Seek the Unusual
As a brewmaster — or a beer aficionado — you are constantly on the search for something new, something you can’t get every day. True beer lovers look to expand their understanding of beer and to gain a more experienced palate. With that quest in mind, look for something like a Kellerbier or an Oud Bruin. You’ll have more fun and you’ll learn something new to share with friends.
See the accompanying video
Wine and beer event consultant at www.lynenoella.com