He features Breakside Gose as a rotating summer release and plans to eventually brew another batch of salt plum gose, but doesn’t see the barrel-aged version or the BLT Gose returning to his taps. Some beers, perhaps, are destined to remain experiments.
Elsewhere in Portland, Widmer Brothers bottled a Marionberry Hibiscus Gose, while Upright Brewing’s relatively traditional take was met with some excitement, receiving a bronze medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup. Owner and head brewer Alex Ganum discovered the style when organizing a homebrewing competition and has since released three batches. To achieve his desired result, Ganum used pils malt, wheat malt, raw wheat and salt, but only a minimal amount of coriander. He says that the Perle and Hallertau hops he includes give aromas and flavors when the beer is young, although they usually fade after a few months.
Among brewers at least, gose is still something to get excited about, even 1,000 years after its first appearance. When asked about the emergence of more historical styles and the introduction of Indigenous Beer to the categories judged at the Great American Beer Festival, Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, says. “The general consumer interest has exploded, and there are more opportunities for brewers to experiment. It’s wonderful to see support from the community for these beers.”
Calagione knows a thing or two about resurrecting beer varieties, having brewed an African t’ej in 1996 and a European braggot in 1997, before going on to explore the world of ancient ales with Dr. Patrick E. McGovern. McGovern is scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.
“Certain beers may go dormant,” Calagione says, “but they don’t have to go extinct. And giving drinkers more options is always a good thing.”
Another option Dogfish Head has offered adventurous drinkers is Sah’Tea, a beer based on a folksy Finnish relative that hails from the 9th century. Initially released in 2009, this modern take on sahti includes adjuncts such as black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper, in addition to the ingredients found in the traditional versions that survive in southern Finland. Ask a sahti brewer such as Pekka Kääriäinen of Lammin Sahti Oy, the country’s longest-operating commercial producer, and he’ll tell you a true sahti is a relatively simple recipe that can be boiled down to rye malt, barley malt, juniper and baker’s yeast. A small amount of local hops is optional, as are other grains, most often wheat. The resulting beverage can assume many colors, but is reliably cloudy and pungent with aromas that recall a damp forest floor. Unfiltered, unpasteurized and typically lacking hops, Finnish sahti is best when fresh and enjoys a fairly short shelf life. In the past, and even at weddings and other celebrations today, entire batches were quickly consumed at one sitting.
By tweaking the recipe to include ale yeast and a more pronounced hop profile, U.S. brewers have successfully introduced 21st century connoisseurs to this historical relic. Overall, the necessary updates and modifications have been thoughtfully conceived, with a number of contemporary versions of sahti staying relatively true to style.
“We always try and approach as authentically as possible,” Calagione says. “Our biggest liberty is that we brew in a modern, sterile brewing environment.” In the big picture, tea and spices constitute a somewhat smaller liberty. According to Calagione, historical beers “probably all would have shared bacteria and yeast and probably would’ve tasted like modern lambics.”
Jim Koch, brewer and founder of Samuel Adams in Boston, echoes this idea of adapting to modern methods when describing his company’s two newest releases, a gose called Verloren and a sahti, Norse Legend.
“Based on the history of the sahti and gose styles, it was important for us to make these beers as accurate and true to the traditional recipes as possible,” he says. “For both of these styles, we really did our research and took that rich history into consideration. We had been experimenting with the sahti for about eight years, frankly because we enjoyed the style and flavors so much. And we have a German brewmaster who really pushed us to create the traditional gose style.”