Thursday, May 19, 2016

Gose – Grand Teton Brewing

                For three of the past four years the May release in the Grand Teton Brewing Cellar Reserve series has been a sour with 2012’s Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, 2013’s OudBruin, and 2015’s Sour Grand Saison.  This year’s May release is, once again, a sour beer, a Gose.  Gose, pronounced “Goes-uh” is in all respects an ancient beer style that is believed to be over 1,000 years old.  Only a few short years ago, the first Gose most people would think of when, or if, they thought of Gose was most likely Leipziger Gose, with its well-recognized bottle.  The premise behind a Gose is simple, it’s brewed with salted water, using light malts (pilsner or a light pale) and wheat, lightly hopped, and coriander is added during the brewing process; Lactobacillus is then added either during the primary or secondary fermentation to develop the style’s characteristic lemony tartness.  The premise seems simple, but as with any good beer style, there’s a vast difference between a delicious beer and a poorly thought out mess.  Heck, it wasn’t too long ago that Thrillist trashed Gose and declared it the style that killed craft beer.  Since then of course, the style has only become more popular.  I would say, “Take that Thrillist!” but honestly, aside from seeing the article pop up in random Facebook feeds, who cares, to each their own, drink what you like, and all that.

                Before getting to a review, let’s meander through the long, storied history of Gose, much of my discussion of which can be attributed to the wonderful German Beer Institute’s write-up on the style, because when in doubt, turn to the experts.  The style was originally brewed in Goslar, which lies on the river Gose, the river after which the style is named.  By the mid-11th century, Goslar had become one of the wealthiest and more important mining towns in the German Empire, producing copper, lead, zinc, salt, and silver.  The mineral rich runoff from the mines, and the local, mineral rich aquifers from which the water was drawn to brew beer in Goslar provided a rather saline rich water source.  At the time, medieval alchemists debated the health effects of the minerals and the “white salt crystals” that formed as the water evaporated, referring to them as blanc de Goslar, or vitriolum zinci Goslariense, literally the zinc salt of Goslar.  When the blanc de Goslar was dissolved in water, the resulting tincture took on an astringent, sour flavor commonly referred to as “copper water”.  The slightly salty water used to brew Gose makes it entirely unlike any other style of beer, and can be directly attributed (as is the case with many historic beer styles) to the local water source in the region or town that first brewed the style.  Water, as they say, is one of the most important ingredients in beer, one which can have a drastic impact on the finished product.

                While the town of Goslar had become one of the wealthiest towns in the German Empire by the mid-11th century, the Gose style was celebrated by Emperor Otto III who ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 996 – 1002 AD.  To already be a celebrated beverage by the Emperor during his reign towards the end of the 10th century, it would seem that the beer style was already relatively well established prior to the 11th century, although who’s to say for sure.  Heck, the Wikipedia page for the style claims the beer wasn’t brewed until the 16th century, which can’t possibly be true if the style was enjoyed by an Emperor who died in 1002 AD.

                By all accounts the town of Goslar produced its popular Gose well into the late Middle Ages when the mines finally gave out.  The German Empire still needed its Gose however, and the style was picked up in Liepzig, which became the largest market for the style.  According to the German Beer Institute, the oldest preserved license for brewing Gose was issued to an innkeeper named Giesecke in 1738 by the Leipzig City Council.  As Gose took off in Leipzig, the brewers in Gosler no longer found Gose production to be economically viable and the city abolished the brewing of Gose in 1826.  Meanwhile in Leipzig, Gose had become the most popular beer style with over 80 licensed breweries in the city by 1900.  Production of Gose in Leipzig became so prevellant that the style is often colloquially referred to a Leipziger-style Gose when it’s brewed in the US.

                Sadly, as with many historic styles, Gose virtually disappeared in the 20th century as a result of the two World Wars, and the rise of Communism (Leipzig is in, what was Soviet East Germany).  Under communist rule, Eastern German beer styles began to disappear.  For some reason the Communist regime in East Germany decided that it was more important to devote the small amount of grain that was grown to food production rather than using it to brew beer.  So, unfortunately by the late 1950’s the last pre-unification (of Germany) Gose was brewed in Leipzig.

                The collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 led to the style making a comeback as breweries in and around Leipzif started to brew it again.  Leading the revitalization of the style was Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof which opened its  doors in 2000.  More recently American craft breweries have done their part to revitalize the style with many embracing the style and increasing its popularity with an American craft beer crowd that is always on the lookout for the newest style to tantalize its taste buds.  Gose is certainly a unique beer, and one which stands removed from the vast majority of craft beers and even the vast majority of sour beers in that it is brewed with salted water.  Perhaps the best way for craftbeer to move forward is to go backwards, exploring traditional styles that have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.  If for no other reason, it will provide a new and unique beverage to a movement that is constantly searching for the next big beer style.

                On to the review:

They Say:

Grand Teton Gose is a light-bodied but flavorful quencher perfect for summer refreshment and wonderful with food. As is traditional, it was brewed with slightly salty water, soured with Lactobacillus, and spiced with coriander. Brettanomyces adds an additional layer of fruity complexity and ensures this beer will age gracefully for years to come. 

Our brewery water is Teton Mountain glacial runoff—clean, pure and slightly sweet. We’ve added Yellowstone Salt, naturally produced and hand-harvested from Salt Creek just outside the National Park, to provide a pleasant saltiness and rounded mouthfeel, while accentuating the other flavors in the beer and complementing most accompanying foods. Southern Idaho 2-Row Pale Malt contributes crisp, clean maltiness while German Pale Wheat Malt brings citric acidity and an attractive golden haze. The traditional addition of coriander completes the beer with an herbal lemony-citrus aroma and flavor. 

Gose enhances almost any meal. We particularly like it with full-flavored fish like salmon or trout, as the Gose supplies the lemon. Paired with roast beef or hamburger, Gose brings flavors reminiscent of the Western New York specialty sandwich Beef on Weck with its salt-crystal and caraway seed bun. Gose’s lactic acidity pairs well with pickled ginger or lemon custard.  

                Original Gravity (Plato): 15.0º
                International Bitterness Units: 9
                Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%
                Color (Lovibond): 2.8º

                Grand Teton Gose will be available May 15th, 2016 in bottle-conditioned 6/750 mL cases and 1/6 and 1/2 bbl kegs

I Say:

                Grand Teton Gose pours a crystal clear golden straw with a thin, small bubbled white head that holds low retention (less than 30 seconds) before fading to a thin collar that leaves very little lacing behind in the glass.  Subtle salty lemons lead in the aroma with herbal notes adding slight complexity.  As the beer warms, the aroma takes on notes of rising sourdough, and the saltiness fades as the lemon notes become more prominent.

                The first sip is led by tart/sour lemons with an underlying saltiness.  The initial sip was thirst quenching, and quite refreshing, with a very subtle breadiness.  The lemon notes transition into a slightly puckering acidity that lingers into the finish.  The aftertaste takes on slightly herbal and salty notes with a hint of lemon.  With a medium-light body and a moderately high level of carbonation, there is still some room for the Lactobacillus to eat the more of the remaining sugars without Gose becoming too light bodied.

                Grand Teton Gose is a very good beer that should age well.  The combination of Lactobacillus and Brettnomyces should allow this beer to age well, becoming considerably tarter and more lemony as time goes by.  The Brettanomyces, depending on the strain, could add tropical fruit notes or add funky flavors to the beer, but the only way to find out is to sit on this bottle for at least a year or two to give the flavors time to develop.

                The Gose style is not for everyone, but it is definitely a style everyone should try at least once.  After all, even though Thrillist famously hates the style, it is still a great summer beer, one which I enjoy.  The only way to find out whether Gose is the style for you is to try it yourself.  If you enjoy a salted rim margarita, you just might find you love the style.  I’ll leave that up to you, but I wish I had another bottle or two to add to my cellar for later in the summer when I need access to a great, thirst quenching beer on a hot summer day.

                That’s all for tonight, check back soon for another review!

                Happy Drinking!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Brett Saison – Grand Teton Brewing

            Over the past few years Grand Teton Brewing has developed a respectable sour beer program.  My first exposure to the Grand Teton sour program was the 2012 Cellar Reserve Release of Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, which is also the beer that led me to hunt down all Grand Teton releases.  To check out reviews of past releases, or to read my interview with Grand Teton’s Brewmaster Rob Mullin, click the tags at the bottom of this post.  Given the limited availability of Grand Teton beer in Wisconsin, I was particularly excited to be able to try the newest Grand Teton Sour, Brett Saison.

Released in February 2016, you might still be able to find a bottle or two lingering on liquor store shelves if you are lucky.  Brett Saison is a dry hopped, barrel aged saison that is 100% fermented with two strains of Brettanomyces, drie and bruxellensis, each of which provides different characteristics in the final beer, much the same way that different strains of Saccharomyces (brewer’s yeast) can.  The blending of different strains of Brettanomyces, or Brettanomyces and a strain of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, can produce remarkably complex beers that are often not for the faint of heart. 

The 2015 Cellar Reserve release of the delicious Sour Grand Saison was a similar blended fermentation which used Saison yeast, Brettanomyces drie, and Lactobacillus, so it’s fair to say the Grand Teton crew has experience with blended fermentations.    In the case of Brett Saison, the two strains of Brettanomyces used have their own unique legacies.  Brettanomyces drie is a pro-only strain that was supposedly isolated by the Belgian brewery Drie Fonteinen, a world-renowned Lambic brewer, the strain is known for producing tropical, fruity flavors that offer a more pleasant invitation to sour beers.  Brettanomyces bruxellensis is supposedly the strain that Orval uses for bottle conditioning, and it imparts notes of horse blanket and barnyard.

  The combination of the two can produce a wonderfully complex beer that should only get better with age, as any good cellar-able beer should.  I am far from an expert on sour beers, but fortunately, if you are interested in learning more about the different strains of Brettanomyces and bacteria used to ferment beers, The Mad Fermentationist, The Brettanomyces Project, Milk the Funk, Embrace the Funk, and Funk Factory all have tons of great information on wild fermentations.  Of the blogs mentioned above, Milk the Funk is a well-respected source of information, and the founders of the others release their product professionally.

            On to the review!

They Say:

Our second release in the Brewers’ Series is a Dry Hopped Brett Saison aged in Wine Barrels. We brewed a Saison using traditional malts and hops. However, we decided to stray from traditional yeast and pitched a very simple yet complex strain: Brettanomyces Drei (Brett). Brett was recently classified as a brewer’s yeast and not a true Brett. At Grand Teton Brewing we feel the aroma and flavor profile is like nothing any of our typical brewer’s yeast produces, which is why we used Brett for our primary fermentation.

Once the beer reached an incredibly low gravity resulting in a crisp, clean and dry beer, we transferred it to wine barrels that house a healthy culture of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. It was at this point we waited for the Brett in the barrels to transform an already great beer into a truly special and delicious beer.

As the beer aged it took on more traditional Brett characteristics, we knew it was time to package this beer. A few weeks before packaging we added a blend of hops at a rate of 5 pounds per wooden barrel. We chose Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand and Hallertau Blanc hops from Germany. Both of these varietals impart complex fruit flavors and aromas as well as earthy undertones: pineapple, white grapes, gooseberry and black pepper.

The live Brett in this beer, as well as generous amounts of unique and flavorful hops, make this a great beer to drink fresh. It may also be cellared to develop for years to come.


Tyler Nelson

On behalf of the Grand Teton Brewing Team

I Say:

            Brett Saison pours a crystal clear golden amber with a moderately thin small bubbled white head.  The head lasts only briefly in the glass before fading to a ½” thick bubbly collar that leaves intricate lacing behind in the glass.  Gooseberries and white grapes lead in the aroma with a hint of pineapple rounding out the fruitiness.  Subtle woody notes, white stone fruits, and a hint of dry white wine round out the aroma. The rich fruitiness in the aroma provides an excellent introduction to this beer prior to the first sip.

             Passion fruit and gooseberry flavors lead in the first sip, with a slight barnyard funkiness.  Lime zest, grapefruit and peach meld with black pepper, white grapes and tart, fresh gooseberries round out the flavor.  The finish is tart with notes grapefruit, lime, and peach.  Tart gooseberries and a subtle funkiness lingers long after the first sip with the funkiness becoming more pronounced as the beer warms.  With a medium body and a moderately high level of carbonation, this beer fits nicely in where a young sour should be, yet there is still enough carbonation to provide a slight effervescence, which serves to enhance the tartness of the finish.

            At this stage in its development, the flavor and aroma of Brett Saison still retain the tropical fruitiness that Brettanomyces drie and the combined Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc dry hopping provides.  As the beer ages, the fruitiness from the dry hop additions will fade while the horse blanket character of Brett b. should become more dominant.  This beer has remarkable aging potential, but if you aren’t a fan of barnyard flavors in your beer you might not want to let this sit around too long.

            With Brett Saison, Grand Teton Brewing has released another excellent beer.  I can only hope that like Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, Brett Saison, or a similar beer, will become an annual seasonal offering.  I wish I had a few extra bottles on hand to track the progression of this excellent beer as it ages, but it is proving quite difficult to track down.  If you do find a bottle or two on a shelf in your favorite liquor store, this is definitely a release worth picking up.

            Be sure to check back early next week when I post my review of the latest Grand Teton Cellar Release beer, Gose.  Until then, Happy Drinking!