Two sour wheat beers from Northern Germany that have made a surprising comeback in recent years | On The Rocks | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Two sour wheat beers from Northern Germany that have made a surprising comeback in recent years 

Sour wheat beers from Northern Germany have made a surprising comeback in recent years.

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What do you picture when you hear the words, “summer beer"?

Perhaps it’s a glistening Corona, garnished with the requisite lime wedge, nestled in the sand. Or maybe you imagine a cooler of ice-cold Miller Lite stationed beside a grill or a pool. But let me submit for your consideration a couple unlikely candidates for the perfect summer brew: sour wheat beers from Northern Germany that have made a surprising comeback in recent years.

Originating in Goslar, Germany, and named for the river that runs through it, Gose (pronounced goh-zuh) is a decidedly unique style. First brewed more than a thousand years ago, Gose was originally a spontaneously fermented beer and was likely more sour than modern versions. Unlike most German beers, which use only barley, water, yeast and hops, Gose is subtly flavored with salt and coriander. The result is a tart and refreshing beer with an effervescence that often draws comparisons to champagne.

Gose was once wildly popular in Leipzig and the surrounding region, with 80 gosenschenkes, or Gose houses, operating there in the 1800s. But war and changing tastes took their tolls, and the regional specialty effectively went extinct in the mid-20th century. Thankfully, brewers in Germany and beyond revived the style in recent years, and now Gose is everywhere. You can try a traditional Leipzig Gose from Germany’s Bayerischer Bahnhof, or sample American takes from breweries like Westbrook, Sierra Nevada, and Anderson Valley. Locally, Roundabout Brewery created the perfect brunch beer with their Mimosa Gose, which mixes orange juice with a slightly sour wheat beer.

Like Gose, Berliner Weisse is a regional German style that was nearly relegated to the dustbin of brewing history. Originating in (where else?) Berlin, Berliner Weisse is a wheat ale soured with Lactobacillus. Berliner Weisse is sharply sour, lightly bready, highly effervescent, and clocks in around 3 percent ABV. Berliners couldn’t get enough of the stuff and, at the height of its popularity in the 19th century, there were some 700 breweries in Germany cranking out Berliner Weisse. Often served with a splash of raspberry or woodruff syrup to balance the tartness, Berliner Weisse is the ideal choice for a hot summer day.

These days, just a handful of German breweries continue to make the style. Look for Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse for a classic (and delicious) German version. If you can’t get your hands on rare imported beer, however, don’t fret. Plenty of American breweries, from Dogfish Head to New Belgium, make readily available versions, often using fruits to add another dimension. Locally, look for East End’s seasonal Moonstomp or Hitchhiker’s Cultured Creature, a Berliner Weisse series that features a rotating lineup of fruits.


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