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?
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