This month we feature two outstanding examples of the Gose style – one from Terrapin in Atlanta, the other from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both are made with watermelon; both delicious. Here’s the breakdown:
Gose is a German style, born on the river Gose, in the Harz mountain town of Goslar. Traditional gose has a 50 percent malted wheat content, and is flavored with salt and coriander. It was brewed commercially until the end of the Second World War, when the Iron Curtain and the Berlin wall destroyed the markets.
The last active brewery ceased production in 1966, and there was a 20-year drought until a brewery in East Berlin started brewing it again in 1988 for a restored brewpub. During the next 30 years, gose grew in popularity, and in fact, Mississippi’s own late lamented Luckytown Brewing produced a world-class gose that came in seventh in the most comprehensive review of American gose beers.
Watermelon beers are the great white whale of brewing. Most brewers have a horror story about the terrible watermelon beer they brewed, destroying the tastiest watermelons they’d eaten for nothing. Watermelons, more than most vegetables, are made of water, so if you add straight watermelon to a beer you add water, plain and simple. That’s why most watermelon beers are uninspired, to say the least.
TERRAPIN’S WATERMELON GOSE
These two bad boys are different, and approach the same goal from opposite directions. Terrapin’s Watermelon Gose is tight and salty and gives you bright clean watermelon flavor. It has the distinct flavor of a salted watermelon slice on a hot summer’s day. But you never forget that wheat is a component in this beer; it’s slightly astringent and enormously refreshing and definitely proteiny. You can drink it all day while you’re working outside. The color is a pale rose.
FOUNDERS’ GREEN ZEBRA
Founders’ Green Zebra is an overripe watermelon punch in the face, and there is no appreciable salinity. It’s just tart enough to prevent you from feeling like you’re drinking a watermelon Jolly Rancher. This is a beer for drinking aggressively and then following up with another until the caloric load puts you into a food coma. A great beer if you’re floating the river, but not if you’re doing the paddling. The color is a much brighter red than the Terrapin.
Both of these beers are proof that you can make an excellent watermelon beer, but not without state-of-the-art brewing techniques and attention to detail. Also, money helps. Terrapin is partially owned by Miller Coors, and Founders is wholly owned by Belgium’s Duvel. That’s how you turn a powerhouse regional brewery into a national player.