Fearful Symmetries

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28 April, 2015

Smells Like Victory: Kirsch Gose by Victory Brewing Company



I must admit that I am not familiar with Victory Brewing beyond having had the occasional Prima Pils. But I was intrigued when I read that they would be releasing a kirsch gose. I like gose beers. I like cherries. A truly tantalizing combination.

Although most closely associated today with the German city Leipzig, the gose originated in the town of Goslar in north central Germany at some point in the 16th century. (The river Gose flows through the town.) A cousin of the more popular Belgian witbier, it is a top-fermenting sour wheat beer flavored with salt and coriander with the sour coming from the addition of lactic bacteria these days. The style was extremely popular in the 19th century but is now on the endangered species list. It went into decline after World War I, seems to have gone extinct in 1945, but has been revived in fits and starts ever since. For a much more thorough history of the gose, read Ron Pattinson.

Being a fairly rare style, I've not had many a gose. The only German iteration I've had is Leipziger Gose. As for American versions, my first experience came by way of Gordon Biersch's take on the style at the Great Taste of the Midwest. Schell has tried their hand at it as well and Anderson Valley with mixed results.

Closer to home, Next Door Brewing here in Madison brewed a gose called Egon's Revenge last year. I rather liked it and head brewer Bryan Kreiter says that it will be brewed again this summer with a tweak here or there. For instance, instead of using acidulated malt to create tartness he hopes to "culture some wild yeast/bacteria from raw grain and sour the wort pre-boil."

On their website, Victory proudly proclaims of Kirsch Gose "European tradition and American ingenuity come together in the truest sense..." I am not sure what they mean by this but assume that they are saying that adding cherry juice to a gose is a unique example of American creativity. Or some such thing. While a fine idea, it is not paradigm-shifting. If you go here, you can see how it is common to quaff a gose in Leipzig mit schuss, that is, with a shot of raspberry or woodruff syrup just like a Berliner Weisse. Caraway schnapps is also traditional. (N.B. – the website has graphic photos of tasty beers and may lead to the impulsive purchase of plane tickets.)

I served my Kirsch Gose in a tulip glass because I bought a couple at Goodwill and hadn't used them yet. That and I hoped this beer would have a nice cherry-laced aroma that would be concentrated by the glass. Traditionally gose is served in a vessel that is essentially a graduated cylinder. (See photos at above site.) Despite my lousy photography (it was cloudy outside), Kirsch Gose is an exceptionally pretty beer. It is a touch hazy with a gorgeous light-orangey/hibiscus red hue. Bubbles made their way up to the generous pillow of pink foam atop the brew.

My choice of glass was fortuitous as there was indeed a luscious cherry aroma to be had along with a hefty dose of lemony tartness. Also present was a hint of biscuit. Goses have a modicum of hops but I could detect none of the German Spalt hopfen in the nose.

On the tongue the beer unleashed a wave of lemony tartness as to be expected. It was very pronounced but I've had beers that were even more sour. The tartness finds a friend in the cherry flavor which was sweet, but only just. The fruit flavor let the sourness predominate but the cherry made sure you knew it was present. Underneath all these flavors was a bit of bread. What brought everything together was the salt. The salinity was obvious but not overpowering. Not only did it make a nice counterpoint to the sweet and sour but also gave the beer a nice complexity. The mouthfeel is medium-light and the wheat makes it smooth but the salt added a depth of flavor that belied the overall lightness of the beer.

Kirsch Gose finishes on the dry side with the cherry, tartness, and salinity all lingering on the tongue. And my glass was left with some wonderful Schaumhaftvermoegen. Victory nailed the visual aesthetic here on the head.

To my palate and that of my significant other, Victory has hit one out of the park with Kirsch Gose. It has a wonderfully complex mix of sweet, sour, and savory yet it remains light and refreshing. It is easy drinking as witnessed by the rapidity at which our 4-packs were emptied.

Junk food pairing: Pair Kirsch Gose with Chinese shrimp chips. They're the chips that look like Shrinky Dinks before you fry them and then turn into light, crispy chips after a bath in the oil.

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|| Palmer, 5:30 PM

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