Berliner Weisse vs. Gose: Understanding Sour Beers
Sour beers have grown in popularity over the past few years with more breweries devoting more time and resources to creating these styles. Sour beer is a subset category within the larger grouping of "wild beers.” Wild beer is generally used to describe sour or funky beers made using unusual yeast strains, or by exposing the wort to unusual environmental conditions after boiling or before cooling.
If you're new to sour beers, you might feel intimidated by all the different, tart styles out there. Roughly classified as sour/tart, Berliner Weisse and Gose are two distinct styles. Let’s dive in and learn more about them!
What is Berliner Weisse and what does it taste like?
Berliner Weisse is a sour, wheat ale that originates from Berlin, Germany. This beer was historically brewed with lactic acid producing bacterial strain Lactobacillus brevis, which gives it its signature sour flavor. Berliner can be considered the first Berliner Weisse and was brewed in 1809 by Johann Gottlieb Benjamin, leaving Potsdam and arriving in Berlin as a brewer. The original beer he made didn't have much in common with how we would recognize it today though. It was more of a "Weiß-Bier" or white beer that didn't have many of the characteristics to be associated with modern-day Berliner Weisse. But what is most important is that this beer was the first to use Lactobacillus, which brought about the beginning of another style — Gose!
Berliners were dubbed The Champagne of the North by Napoleon as they were crisp, dry and refreshing like champagne is. Also, there is a tradition to serve Berliner Weiss "Mit Schuss", which means with syrup. They would serve these beers with Raspberry or Woodruff syrups to balance out the tartness, and that tradition lives on currently at the Oast as we serve Vivod with syrups made from Quinstock Farms. The evolution of Mit Schuss turned to fruited styles of Berliner Weisse which is where we are going in 2023. Starting with our next brew of Vivod, we are turning it from a base Berliner Weisse to a seasonally Fruited Berliner Weisse. This will be draft-only in the taproom.
What is Gose and what does it taste like?
Gose beer is a light, low alcohol-content beer that was originally brewed in Goslar, Saxony. Gose beer is typically characterized by an acid taste and a spice accent due to added coriander seeds and salt. The acidity of this beer can be perceived differently by various people. Some use the term "sour" when talking about it, others use the word "tangy" or "slight" instead. Does this mean Gose beer isn't sour? No, it means that Gose beer has less of a sour taste than lemonade or other sour drinks.
What is the difference between Berliner Weisse and Gose?
Before we get into the differences and how they're made, it's important to understand what sour beers are. Sour beers are fermented with Corynebacterium and Lactobacillus. This creates an acidic taste with fruity flavors like pears and apricots. These beers typically range at the lower pH of 3.2 on average, though certain styles can be quite a bit higher than that. Sour beers shouldn't taste like vinegar, but they are meant to be tart.
The Berliner Weisse and Gose are both sour beers, but they're different in some important ways. Berliner Weisse is a wheat beer that's typically brewed with lactic acid bacteria. It's light in color and has a very low alcohol content, usually between 2% and 3%. The flavor can be described as sour, but not necessarily bitter or salty.
Gose is also a wheat beer, but it's brewed with salt instead of lactic acid bacteria. Gose has more hops than Berliner Weisse, which makes it taste more bitter and salty than its counterpart. The purpose of adding salt to beer is to enhance its flavor by pulling out more aromatics from ingredients. The salt works in conjunction with the lactic acid present to invigorate more flavors into your beer.
How to enjoy a sour beer
The best way to enjoy a sour beer is by pairing it with food! Sour beers pair well with salty foods like pretzels or chips, as well as sweet foods like chocolate or fruit pizza. You can also try pairing your sour beer with different types of cheese--the tartness will cut through the fat in cheese and make for an interesting combination! Sour beers are a great way to explore the world of beer. They're tart, refreshing and often have a unique fruity flavor that you can't get anywhere else. If you're new to sour beers, here are some tips on how to enjoy them:
Berliner Weisse or Gose is the perfect beginner sour beer. These beers are generally low in alcohol and very low in bitterness, so they're easy to drink. They also tend to be more refreshing than other sour styles like Lambics or Gueuzes.