This list is part of a Paste series of bottom shelf liquor and craft beer style tastings. Click here to view all entries in the series.
Back in 2015, the Paste faithful had themselves a little blind-tasting of goses. It was modest—in those days, our press list was not nearly so robust as it has become today. We were trying to shine a light on gose as a style that had recently come into its own, but all in all, we only gathered 12 beers. It was won by South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing, which has been producing one of the hallmarks of the style for years now, and afterward we set the idea of a gose tasting aside for quite a while, until the time seemed right to return to it.
That time, clearly, is now. With a bigger list of press contacts, but more importantly a veritable explosion in the popularity of gose in the past two years, the number of entries increased more than fivefold—from 12 to 64. The conclusion to draw is obvious: Gose, like so many other sour beer styles, has clearly arrived in the mainstream. This is no longer a style being consumed primarily by the intense craft beer geeks—EVERYONE is drinking gose in 2017, and nearly every brewery with any kind of sour program is making them. You could argue that on some level, they’ve stepped into the same market space that Berliner weisse was thriving in a couple of years ago, adding a pinch of salt but otherwise playing in much the same way.
It’s rather remarkable to step back and consider how gose came into vogue. Five years ago, this style was all but forgotten to most people who weren’t beer historians. It was an archaic German wheat beer, distinguished primarily from Berliner weisse by the additions of coriander and a minimal amount of salinity. There were very few commercial examples available in the U.S., and if there were, it was necessary to explain the purpose of this unusual “salted beer.” It’s not the kind of thing that anyone at the time would likely have predicted would become a phenomenon—it would be like saying today that “Sahti will be all over the American craft beer scene in 2021!” Probably not going to happen.
But the revival of gose, on the other hand, fit perfectly into the American adoption of sour beer styles. We took this German style, which was lightly tart at most, and lowered the pH to bring it in line with other styles that the American palate determined as “sour.” We decreased the reliance on coriander as the signature flavor spice, while bringing a dizzying array of fruits into play. We imperialized it (naturally) and hopped the shit out of some examples, because that’s what American brewers do, son. We made the style our own in short order, to the point that gose is now already old hat to many passionate beer geeks. Such is the craft beer industry, which moves on to new fads with frightening alacrity.
Regardless, is there any more perfect summer style than gose? It may very well be the ultimate front porch/beer garden brew, combining thirst-quenching tartness with typically low ABVs, citrus and a little bit of lip-licking salinity. It’s like the Gatorade of craft beer styles.
So let’s get into it!
As in most of our blind tastings at Paste, the vast majority of these goses were sent directly to the office by the breweries that choose to participate, with additional beers acquired by us via locally available purchases and the occasional trade. We always do our best to reach out to breweries we’re aware of that make exemplary versions of particular styles, but things always do slip through the cracks. We apologize for a few significant omissions that we couldn’t acquire, either due to seasonality or market shortages. There will never be a “perfect” tasting lineup, much as we continue to try.
- This is a tasting of goses, largely determined by how the breweries chose to label their products. To be admitted, the beer had to describe itself as a gose, or at least fit the general definition. There was no ABV limit. When in doubt, we simply allow a brewery’s marketing to define a beer’s style, and expect them to stick to the designation they’ve chosen.
- There was a limit of two entries per brewery. The beers were separated into daily blind tastings that approximated a sample size of the entire field.
- Tasters included professional beer writers, brewery owners, brewmasters and beer reps. Awesome, Paste-branded glassware is from Spiegelau.
- Beers were judged completely blind by how enjoyable they were as individual experiences and given scores of 1-100, which were then averaged. Entries were judged by how much we enjoyed them for whatever reason, not by how well they fit any kind of preconceived style guidelines. As such, this is not a BJCP-style tasting.
There were some great beers in this tasting, and there were also some seriously “WTF am I drinking, mate?” beers. Compared to the last time we blind-tasted goses, the changes that the style has gone through are obvious. There are fewer “traditional” goses on the market these days; i.e. examples that simply use coriander and salt. An overwhelming number of the entries were fruited in some way, while a handful had spent time inside some variety of barrels. It’s a fairly obvious response to the growth and popularization of the style—you can’t have every brewery making the same type of gose, or no one is going to be able to move them. For many breweries, this has become an invitation to use gose as a blank canvas for experimentation with fruit and spices. As in any frontier-type style, some of their results are excellent, while some of them have gone horribly awry.
The beers below were largely serviceable, but missing some quality that would have put them in the top 25, or sported notable off-flavors. They’re arranged below simply in alphabetical order, which means they are not ranked. I repeat: These beers are not ranked.
Avery El Gose
Anderson Valley Briney Melon
Anderson Valley G&T Gose
Destihl Brewery Blueberry Gose
DuClaw Brewing Co. Gose O’s
4-Hands Brewing Co. On Cue
Founders Green Zebra
Fremont Brewing Co. Cucumber Gose
Fremont Brewing Co. Lime Gose
Gizmo Brew Works – Gizmo Gose Wild Strawberry Gose
Grand Brewing Co. Teton Gose
Jackie O’s Gose
Lost Nation Brewing Gose
Night Shift Brewing Harborside
Noble Ale Works Gosebusters
Perennial Artisan Ales Suburban Beverage
Prairie Artisan Ales Flare
Proof Brewing Co. Blood Orange Hibiscus Kissing Giants
Reuben’s Brews Gose
Rhinegeist Brewery Maracuja
Rhinegeist Brewery Peach Dodo
Samuel Adams 26.1
Schlafly Ibex Cellar Gooseberry Gose
Second Self Beer Co. Margarita & Gose
Second Self Beer Co. Maverick & Gose
Seventh Son Brewing Co. Jorts and Sports
Southern Tier Cherry Gose
Terrapin Good to Gose
Terrapin Watermelon Gose
Three Taverns La Piña Gose
Two Roads Persian Lime Gose
Trophy Brewing Co. La Vie En Gose
Union Craft Brewing Old Pro Gose
Urban Artifact Keypunch
Wicked Weed PacificMost Gose
Yazoo Brewing Co. Summer Gose
Yellowhammer Brewing Gose
City: Asheville, NC
The verdict: Might as well kick things off with the straight-up weirdest gose of the tasting, right? Simply labeled on the can as a “black gose with orange blossom,” it’s the first time we’ve seen someone try to fuse gose with a dark beer style. It initially perplexed the tasters—one judge’s notes actually begin with “huh?”—but we were eventually brought around on this concept. Molly’s Lips is lightly roasty, with a nutty quality that reminds one of a good, crisp schwarzbier—I wonder if they used Midnight Wheat or Carafa malt to achieve this character, as many brewers use when makes schwarz. Tartness is fairly low, and the overall profile is an easygoing beer that is unexpectedly drinkable and balanced. To quote one score sheet: “Dry Irish gose?” It’s an experiment we might have expected to fail, but this strikes me as a beer that could really grow on us in time.
City: Blanco, TX
The verdict: To quote the first line of the brewery’s explanation of this beer: “When you brew a beer with salt and lime, it’s only a matter of time before you start thinking about tequila.” Well, we can’t argue with that logic. Before adding pureed limes, this beer is aged in tequila and mezcal barrels, which give it a profile that was fairly unusual for this tasting. Tasters noted the wood character of the barrel, along with some drying astringency that came along with it. Peppery spice is present, as is light citrus, and a hint of smokiness that is presumably derived from the mezcal barrel. “Boozy, big and complex, barrel-aged gose?” reads one of the taster’s notes. Kudos, regardless, for being the only tequila barrel gose in the finals.
City: Chico, CA
The verdict: Otra Vez is certainly one of the most important goses on the market today, as it represented a “big boy” craft brewer in Sierra Nevada going headfirst into the gose game when they first released it in 2015. As a result, it has probably been the first exposure to the style for many casual craft beer drinkers, and therefore done much to expand awareness of the style to new drinkers. On the palate it’s right down the middle—light of body and crisp, with gentle flavors of grapefruit citrus and the slightly vegetal, balancing note that comes from its inclusion of prickly pear cactus. From one score sheet: “Just a nice beer, lightly tart and tangy.” It could perhaps be slightly more assertive in its flavors, but that’s a minor quibble. If this is the first gose that many drinkers try, they’ll be in good hands.
City: Richmond, VA
The verdict: The Veil sent us two goses for this tasting, and I won’t be using the word “subtle” at any point to describe either of them. Both of them were carpet-bombed with fruit in the same way that the brewery tends to bomb their IPAs with hops, and the execution was just as strong as it tends to be in their hop-forward beer game. Never Gonnagetit is the berry-themed offering, featuring a blend of raspberry, blackberry and boysenberry that combine to form what the brewery calls “purplebeer.” For us, it’s the raspberry that is easily the most persuasive of those three, delivering very fresh, juicy fruit flavors, although a few tasters called for more tartness. There’s a pretty good amount of residual sweetness here, which some tasters might find to be too much, but the only real criticism from any of the tasters was simply that it didn’t come off as particularly “gose.” That’s to be expected when you’re working with this much fruit, though—all in all, it’s a treat for berry lovers.
City: Milton, DE
The verdict: This beer very quickly went from “new toy” to “big deal” for Dogfish Head’s bottom line, a much-needed and very popular offering of the sort that is getting harder and harder for regional breweries to produce these days. They’re not willing to 100% label it as a gose, but considering the presence of the sea salt, that’s the easiest place to put it. Lime juice and “black limes” are the calling cards here, but they curiously didn’t show up in a huge way for us on the palate—especially compared to another lime beer that was on the table during the same day of tasting. Rather, we enjoyed the herbal and spice impressions of Seaquench, including a dill-like flavor note and something almost akin to nutmeg—strange, I know. It’s also slightly maltier than most of the other goses in the tasting, which is a quality we didn’t typically appreciate elsewhere, but it works here.
City: Denver, CO
The verdict: The more Denver breweries finish highly in these tastings, the more Denver entries we receive, in what has become a deliciously self-perpetuating cycle at this point. The latest Denver newcomer is Baere, a brewery with a fairly balanced portfolio, who gave us one of many dry-hopped goses that we sampled during this tasting. This one was better than most: Resinous and perfumey hop notes on the nose, without being crazy about it (and there are certainly some crazy hoppy ones in here). It’s slightly bitter, having actually acquired a bit of hop bitterness unlike some of the others, with fairly considerable sourness like the pucker of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Overall, it’s a pretty good template overall for what we would expect if someone said “hoppy gose.”
City: Denver, CO
The verdict: Look, what did I just say about Denver? Right? Right. This is another lime-infused gose, which were a popular substyle in this tasting, although this version seems to primarily get its citrus charge via freshly grated zest rather than juice or puree. On the palate, a few of the tasters were actually tricked initially into thinking that this was some kind of cucumber gose (which were also common), thanks to substantial tartness and especially salinity, although there is a prominent lime note as well. Salt is big here—rarely in this tasting is the salinity something you write notes about, but every taster noted the salt level in Major Nights, which is almost too much. In the end, tasters were drawn back in for more, despite the salinity.
City: Berkeley, CA
The verdict: If you make a hoppy gose with Mosaic hops, what else can you call it but “Gosaic,” right? I have to be honest in saying that it was impossible to not know that this was the Fieldwork beer as soon as you smelled it—few breweries in the country are producing beers that are as over-the-top ridiculous in terms of hops as these guys are right now. I can only imagine that this beer would be divisive in most tastings, because it is outrageously hop forward. Massively green and resinous, with tons of tropical, citrus and melon-like fruit flavors, it’s hard to deny that it overwhelms the “gose” beneath, but it is very tasty. If you marketed it as “sour IPA,” people would buy the hell out of it. The fact that it’s a mere 4.4% ABV is almost shocking as well, considering the sheer volume of flavor packed into that frame. But that’s what Fieldwork seems to do; they take no half-measures. Everything is huge and bold; even the session beers.
City: Bloomington, IL
The verdict: Destihl has built all of its hype (and considerable expansion, which we recently wrote about) on the back of its bigger and bolder sour beers, but this tasting was a nice way to step back and appreciate a Destihl sour that wasn’t hugely tart. Note, that doesn’t mean Here Gose Nothin’ is lacking in acidity: In fact, one of the taster notes actually reads “Has just the right level of tartness.” The wild fermentation imbues this one with a nice degree of complexity, and it shows flavors of grapefruit citrus, tropical fruit and even a little bit of light funkiness. All tasters agreed that all of its elements were nicely synced up—from one tasting sheet: “ideal salt/sour balance.”
City: Tallahassee, FL
The verdict: Not all of these goses need to be particularly complicated. Sometimes, it’s just fun to have a really nice, authentic-tasting raspberry beer, which is what this version of Proof Brewing Co.’s Kissing Giants is. Where we found the blood orange variant too sweet, the raspberry Kissing Giants is juicy, tart and easy drinking, without a ton of residual sugar. There are hints of malt and other red fruit in there (pomegranate?), but mostly it’s just a very quaffable raspberry show. It’s not often that you ever use a word like “thirst-quenching” when talking about a raspberry fruited beer, but this one manages to do it via salinity and well-balanced, moderate tartness. Good stuff.
City: Oakland Park, FL
The verdict: Funky Buddha are masters of theming and “flavored” beers—they have a way of throwing together big, often sweet flavors that other breweries would stumble on, while making them work. We can only hope that won’t be affected by the brewery’s acquisition by Ballast Point owners Constellation, which broke last week. Their entry I Want it Now, which I can only hope is a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory reference, is more or less the type of gose you would expect from FB, which is to say that it’s packed with big, bold fruit flavors. The brewery only says it’s made with “tropical fruit” on the label, so we’re not sure exactly what the true ingredient bill is, but tasters cited everything from passionfruit to guava to peach nectar. It’s certainly on the sweeter side, and stands out for having a more hefty, almost syrupy texture compared to many of the others in the same ABV range. Definitely one of the biggest-tasting beers we found at 5% ABV.
City: Patchogue, NY
The verdict: Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t make a perfectly good kettle sour gose, because this beer from Blue Point is fine proof. Making use of several ingredients from their shoreline home (beachside plums and seaweed), its lovely pink color is immediately inviting. On the palate it’s subtle and delicate, with a hint of residual sugar and very light, balanced red fruit and stone fruit flavors, along with mild tartness. This is a great example of how beers with various profiles can score good places in Paste blind tastings—this beer is far less assertive than several of the ones that preceded it, but tasters were very pleased by its balance. Subtlety and drinkability are an equally good approach.
City: Cincinnati, OH
The verdict: This entry from Ohio’s Urban Artifact drew a few specific comparisons: Most notably, multiple tasters deemed it “mimosa gose.” That confused us at first upon seeing after the tasting that it was a kumquat gose, until we realized that kumquat is actually a citrus fruit quite similar to orange—I mean really, when’s the last time you had a kumquat? Regardless, this is some refreshing, light-bodied, citrus-forward stuff, which drinks very easily and finishes dry. Fresh, juicy orange (or kumquat) is present on the palate, along with some notes of pine resin and grass. There’s also a strong impression of lemon citrus at the same time, which likewise drew comparisons to a radler. Overall, the initial “mimosa” impression wasn’t all that far off—this is supremely refreshing beer that would be perfect for a leisurely brunch.
City: Berkeley, CA
The verdict: Rare Barrel seems to go out of its way not to use the word “gose” in describing this beer, preferring to say that it has “whispers of a style almost lost in time,” but the ingredient list pegs it as a gose right away. As is not surprising, considering that this is The Rare Barrel we’re talking about, this beer is wonderfully complex. There’s something almost hoppy on the nose, although perhaps that’s the woodier aspects of oak aging shining through, but it combines with soft, light citrus flavors to give a distinctly white winey impression. Drier than many of the other goses, it brings some light tannins from the wood-aging that give it an elegant sort of structure not seen in many of the other goses that are just “fun for the sake of fun.” This is certainly an example of the style that benefits from an extended drinking session and time for dissection.
Note: Our apologies for the ugly, unclean glass on this one. Sheesh.
City: Atlanta, GA
The verdict: Atlanta’s esteemed Wrecking Bar Brewpub isn’t a brewery we’re always able to get into these tastings, but they consistently seem to do very well whenever we have an entry. This beer, Sea Shanty, is a pitch-perfect example of Americanized gose; a nearly perfect, straight-down-the-middle execution of what this style is like at its best, and without any other flavorings or adjuncts. Clean, crisp malt is more present than in many of the other entries where fruit takes complete control, giving it a slightly grainy, bready quality not dissimilar to a good kolsch or helles. Lightly spicy notes of coriander are balanced by moderate tartness, but it’s the salinity that is the element furthest from the center. This was definitely one of the saltier goses in the tasting, but it works beautifully with the clean maltiness and gentle sourness to make a beer that invites repeat sipping. All in all, an excellent example of modern gose.
City: Asheville, NC
The verdict: We had good and bad examples of hop bomb goses in this tasting, but this one from Hi-Wire was likely the best. In terms of the current American craft beer market, you’re probably not going to go wrong while dumping some Citra into a gose, right? It should be noted that the Citra doesn’t solely present as fruity in this beer—it’s also very green and intensely resinous, and almost a little “woody,” which works well. Lemon citrus comes through big after that, and more exotic tropical notes. From one score sheet: “Bright, lemon-fresh hop-bursted gose.” Regardless, it’s impossible to miss the big hops on the nose in particular—you might well mistake it for IPA, except for the tartness. It’s another very solid beer from Hi-Wire, who have been showing us some versatility lately with an equally impressive finish in the sour/wild ale tasting.
City: Anaheim, CA
The verdict: Rosé wine seems to be the clear inspiration for this Bruery experiment, which also happens to boast one of the better names of the tasting. On first taste, you might peg the red fruit character as cherry or some sort of red berry, but this beer rather spends times in oak foudres with an addition of wine grapes, which impart a pop of fruity intensity. This is a fairly sour entry for the style, and one of the tarter goses on the table during its day of tasting, but nothing overwhelming. The subtle oak plays nicely with minimal coriander spice and a touch of salinity, giving the whole thing a “white wine, tinged with red fruit” quality. It’s almost reminiscent of an old school Champagne cocktail—except, you know, sour.
City: Huntsville, AL
The verdict: Alabama, represent! Straight to Ale’s new Ramones-inspired gose doesn’t deviate too much from the classic gose profile, although compared with many of the other American ones on the table, it’s noticeably less tart. Crisp, clean malt is a nice feature, while hints of lemon citrus, grassy and floral/orangey hops make for a lovely nose. Quite refreshing—chuggable, really—it’s a very easy-drinking entry that is clearly prioritizing ease of consumption and approachability. It’s the kind of beer where a crowler could reasonably be labeled as a single serving vessel, because it’s unlikely to exhaust the taste buds with intense tartness or excessive salinity. It’s just balanced.
City: Jackson, MS
The verdict: Woah woah woah, it’s not just Alabama up in this top 10—it’s Mississippi too. This beer actually has much in common with the previous entry from Straight to Ale, and they both did well on the score sheets for essentially the same reasons. Like the previous, it’s an extremely drinkable, easy-going gose, although it has a more substantial backbone of tartness that seems to slowly build through repeated sips. Slightly funky and almost wild on the nose, the beer features bright citrus flavors and moderate salinity. Every tasting sheet reads practically the same: “Right down the middle gose.” “Right on target.” “Straight over the plate, easy and approachable.” This is a style with a whole lot of crazily flavored examples (and there are some more of them to come in the top few beers), but a well-executed classic gose is a thing of beauty that gets a lot of points from us.
City: Mount Pleasant, SC
The verdict: We had a couple of attempts at lime gose throughout this tasting, but none of them nailed it quite like Westbrook did, which is no surprise. The regular Westbrook Gose is practically an institution at this point; this one is unsurprisingly excellent as well. On the nose it’s very citrus-forward, with a big melange of lemon-lime zest and the suggestion of considerable sweetness. It’s also a bit sweeter than most on the palate, with pronounced coriander and some herbal flavors (a piney, slightly savory rosemary quality) that don’t impede its impressive drinkability. It was a case where not every taster was aware of exactly what they were tasting, but everyone found themselves rating the beer highly for their own reasons. There are a handful of “margarita”-themed goses out there, but this one could easily step in and dominate in that arena.
City: Baltimore, MD
The verdict: Union sent us no fewer than five different goses for this tasting, but unfortunately we’re only able to include two from each brewery. The regular Old Pro Gose finished just outside the finals, but the Tee Time Peach variant, on the other hand, lit up our taste buds with big, exciting flavors. This is some hugely flavorful stuff in general for 4.2% ABV, awash in big tropical and stone fruit flavors, and plenty of corresponding sourness. All aspects of the beer have been cranked up to a high degree of assertiveness—it’s on the sweet side, and the tartness is likewise fairly intense. The fruit is huge, although it doesn’t really come forward as exclusively peach to us, as tasters labeled it “island gose” for having notes of pineapple in addition to the stone fruit. But to think that this is the same ABV as a bottle of Bud Light, being as flavorful as it is—that’s just nuts.
City: Stratford, CT
The verdict: Watch out for Two Roads, people. Connecticut’s biggest craft brewery has been coming on strong lately in these blind tastings, putting up impressive entries in last month’s tasting of 143 wild/sour ales before landing this gose in the top 5. This one is part of the brewery’s “tanker truck series,” which apparently means that it was literally soured in an old milk truck sitting next to the brewery—hey, if it works, it works. This one is quite fruit-forward, with a lovely melange of tropical fruit, citrus and apricot-like stone fruit aromatics, buyoyed by moderate residual sweetness. Sourness is low-to-medium, as is salinity, making this beer very drinkable, if not necessarily the most “gose-esque.” Passionfruit goses in general performed quite well in this tasting, and Two Roads produced one of the best, topped only by the next beer.
City: Richmond, VA
The verdict: Mother of god … this is a lot of passionfruit. Certainly one of the most over-the-top fruity beers of the tasting, it was unsurprising to find that this one came from The Veil, and sported their “double word” nomenclature, which in this case means “double passionfruit.” There’s nothing subtle here; it’s all just about wish fulfillment and reveling in the purity of a single ingredient, while still being drinkable. That’s the nice thing about this beer—it’s not cloying or syrupy, but it is quite intense. Massive aromatics and flavors of tropical passionfruit juice and stone fruit light up the palate, along with substantial tartness. From one score sheet: “Yowza. Pure fruit satisfaction.” From another: “Tropical fruit and heavy passionfruit, with nice salinity. A true summertime drinker.” You could argue that this beer might actually be too intensely fruity to pound a full 16 oz can of it, but man is that initial sip a rush of satisfaction. If you love passionfruit, this is a must-try.
City: Mount Pleasant, SC
The verdict: Simply put, the most important gose in the history of American craft brewing, because nothing else is even close. The sheer impact of Westbrook’s gose on the revival of this style in the U.S. can’t be overstated. Since it was first released in 2012, it has gone a long way toward molding the U.S. concept of “gose” in its own image as a style significantly more tart than the classic German Leipzig goses, and it was simultaneously the first gose ever sampled by many American palates; or at least those on the east coast. You could put it this way: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is to APA as Westbrook Gose is to gose, except Westbrook Gose is still dominating blind tastings, so there! The profile is classic and style-defining: Moderate tartness (it actually doesn’t seem quite as tart to us as it used to, probably because the others have caught up), with pronounced coriander notes and firm hint of salinity. Lemon citrus and a touch of grassy hops rounds out the beautifully balanced whole. It’s an American classic at this point, and still as fantastic as ever.
City: Athens, GA
The verdict: None of us here at Paste are surprised to see Creature Comforts take home a #1 spot in one of these tastings—if anything, we’re surprised that this is the first time they’ve ever done so, despite plenty of impressive finishes over the last few years. Tritonia is certainly a deserving beer for the honor, though: It’s the ultimate summer refresher. It takes cucumber and makes it the star of the show, with a clean, incredibly refreshing cucumber note that shines through the beer from start to finish. At the same time, though, it never loses track of the other “gose” elements: There’s some pronounced coriander and a big twist of lemon-lime citrus, which provides just enough residual sweetness. Tartness is right in the middle—firm enough to be refreshing without getting excessive. For all intents and purposes it’s pretty much a classic gose in the mold of the Westbrook above … until the cucumber element comes in and takes the beer to the next level. I know that I called it the ultimate summer refresher above, but this beer is begging to exist all year round. Tritonia is #1 in the sense that it’s the gose that every taster wanted to drink more of—much more of, to be precise.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident craft beer obsessive. You can and should follow him on Twitter for much more drink coverage.