Sunday, March 6, 2011

Part 4: Leipzig

It was a several-hour drive to Leipzig, quite possibly because there was major freeway construction going on that led us to follow detour signs which disappeared after about 20 minutes of driving down country roads. (you try reading construction signs in Czech!) We had a GPS unit, but it kept trying to take us back to the (completely closed) freeway. So, we decided to follow the car in front of us since it had been following all the detour signs … that was working so well (for about 45 minutes!), until it stopped for gas. Thankfully, we started seeing road signs for Dresden, so I knew we had to be getting close.

For reference, here's a map showing our trip to this point (Frankfurt, Bamberg, Plzen, Prague) and through to Leipzig:

We arrived in Leipzig just in time for lunch, but stopped to check in at our hotel and drop off our stuff and the car. Then – Gose time! The only other time I’d had Gose was when I picked up a small bottle of Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose at Lukas Liquor. And there we were in Leipzig, just a few miles away from the Bahnhof itself.

The brewery is one of the only Gose breweries in the world (yes, I know many US craft breweries make Gose, but that’s far from their specialty) and is housed in the old main train station that served eastern Germany and Bavaria, and on south through Italy – hence, Bayerischer Bahnhof (Bavarian train station).

Gose is an old German style that was originally brewed in Goslar but has since been adopted by Leipzig. It nearly became extinct after WWII as a result of brewery nationalization, but experienced a revival in the 50s, near-extinction in the 60s, and second revival in the 80s. Despite its roller-coaster history, the style is likely to stick around for a while now that US craft breweries have picked it up.

The style is traditionally packaged in bottles that are round at the base with a long, slim neck at the top, which we don't really see here in the states (although I did see one at a natural foods shop in Jacksonville). Since Gose's traditionally bottle-conditioned, yeast from the secondary fermentation would rise up in the neck and create a yeast plug. I suppose breweries saved on bottle capping equipment that way...

Traditional Gose bottle
Of course, we started with glasses of straight Gose (so hardcore, I know). It had a prominent citrusy lemon flavor with a tart finish from lactic acid that was only lightly puckering. The lemon paired well with the pils malt grainy flavor and the softness of the wheat. It had medium-high carbonation with medium body & fullness, but the acidity kept it light & refreshing. Absolutely delicious, and perfect after our three-and-a-half mile walk.

Gose, served in its traditional footed glass
Gose is brewed with salt and coriander, but it’s not salty and the coriander is much more subtle than that of a wit. The tartness is quite refreshing, and makes the beer all too easy to drink. That being said, it is commonly served with a shot of syrup in it, much like Berliner Weisse. After having it “pur”, I naïvely ordered a glass with a shot of woodruff. Think liquid Ricola. With a straw.

Bad idea
Because I apparently don't learn a lesson very well, I also ordered a "Regenschirm" (umbrella), which is Gose with a shot of Kümmel (caraway) liqueur - also a regional specialty. Not that it was bad, but the delicate nature of the Gose is completely overwhelmed by any additives. I suppose that’s the point if you’re not a fan of the sour nature of the beer (but then, why drink it?).

Cue more walking. Mildly buzzed and enjoying the sights, we noticed a small wine & liquor store that specialized in scotch. Figuring we’d check it out, we walked in & talked to the proprietor for a little while – and walked out with a bottle of the only Bavarian whisky he had. Note to readers:  Germans don’t make great whisky.

Just around the corner from our hotel (yes, this was intentional) was the famous Ohne Bedenken. This is the destination for Gose in Germany – and, most probably, the world. The owner has worked for decades to promote Leipzig’s distinctive sour beer, and he’s done quite well.  The place was quaint and we settled in to a table off to the side of the restaurant with a couple half-liters of Bahnhof Gose.

Gose = happy
Gorby (and a small pic of Putin on the right)
The owner came by and commented on us drinking it without syrup - "so sour", he said, but followed that with a comment that he gets a lot of Americans coming in & drinking it that way. This guy was a trip. He was highly charismatic and chatty, and very enthusiastic about the history of the pub and Gose. There were pictures of Putin and Gorbachev inside the pub, and the owner made a point to tell us about how Putin would bring his officers there to drink Gose between 1986-88 and 1991-93.

After our Bahnhofs, we ordered Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose and were nearly knocked out of our chairs. It was darker than the Bahnhof version and much more sour & lemony with less wheat character.  The mouthfeel was a bit lighter and we both enjoyed this quite a bit more than the Bahnhof one. We ended up buying several bottles to bring back to the states with us to share with others.

Owner of the Ohne Bedenkend
You can get some of the Bahnhof Gose around the KC area; Royal carries it, as does Lukas in Martin City. The bottles are small & on the bottom shelf, so you have to actively look for it. I haven't seen it on the KS side, but if you have please note such in the comments. The Döllnitzer Gose isn't distributed in the states as far as I can tell.

For more information on the style of Gose and its history, check out these posts/articles:

1 comment:

  1. Man I really love the Gose style. It's extremely hard to find them. Those bottles are just amazing, too.


Tasting Notes