Union Craft Brewing makes a whole lot of gose. Did you know that? It’s kind of easy to be unaware of it. For a brewery that has made a lot of national headlines with IPA (Duckpin) and DIPA (Double Duckpin), it would be easy for those who don’t know the brewery very well to simply pigeonhole them into the “hop-forward” brewery category and file them away in the old brain until further notice. Count us at Paste among those who don’t know the brand very well—until recently, we didn’t have a chance to showcase many of their beers in our blind tasting series.
But then came our recent tasting of 64 goses, and with it, some very impressive submissions from Union. But it wasn’t just the quality, it was the quantity. These dudes sent us no fewer than FIVE different goses. That’s more than any other brewery.
Unfortunately, we have a rule in the blind tasting series that we always accept only two separate entries from any given brewery. So we asked the Union folks which of their goses we should use for the competition, and they picked wisely—their Tee Time Peach came in at #5 out of 64. BUT … that still left us a few more goses to try.
I immediately noticed that two of those goses were barrel-aged, so I decided to sample the two together. They’re both spin-offs of Union’s original Old Pro Gose, dubbed “Older Pro” as a result. One is sporting a guava addition, while the other is featuring passionfruit. Both have spent time in chardonnay barrels, but both still clock in at a mere 4.5% ABV. So let’s get to it.
The guava variant of Older Pro is the funkier of the two on the nose and the palate; woody and a touch wild, with plenty of tropical fruit notes at the same time. The aroma is on the sweet side, with big guava, grapefruit and pineapple, but also a muskiness that is hard to put a finger on, along with some herbal influences. On the palate it’s a rush of fruit, although I surprised to find that there’s also a crisp, grainy finish that somehow pokes through—it’s almost weird that you can still get part of the malt profile with so much fruit in the beer, along with a decent amount of coriander spice and salinity. It’s light of body, but fairly tart, with a level of sourness that appreciates gently over the course of repeated sips.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is the barrel presence, which is quite subtle. Typically, you see “barrel-aged gose” and expect to be floored with massive flavors from whatever kind of barrel is being used, but the chardonnay barrels here were used with a light touch. There’s not a ton of wood or overt wine character, just hints of tannin that are supporting the primary players, which is the fruit. I’m impressed by the restraint.
Yum. In this variant, the fruit is a bit stronger and more pure in its presentation, and it’s even more a showcase for the fruit listed on the can.
Which brings us to the subject of passionfruit. Confession time: The gose tasting, along with last month’s tasting of 143 sour/wild ales, taught us that we had very little ability to correctly identify passionfruit beers in a blind tasting. To my nose in particular, passionfruit has a tendency to come forward with strong impressions of more familiar stone fruit, such as peach and apricot. However, as time goes by I believe we’re getting better at parsing passionfruit’s unique blend of tropical/stone fruit qualities.
Irrelevant to that point is this fact: This beer has a beautiful nose, with loads of passionfruit/apricot sweetness that is bright and inviting. You might perhaps call it less complex than the guava, but in another context it’s that much more focused. On the palate, the flavors are a bit bigger than in the guava, perhaps a touch sweeter and more assertive, with a corresponding bump in perceived tartness as well. As in the guava, the chardonnay barrel influence is quite subtle. It’s another fruit showcase, but a very clean and crowd-pleasing one.
All in all, two lovely beers from Union, which has apparently unlocked some kind of key toward consistently making next-level gose. We’ll be keeping an eye on them in the future.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter.