Tour of German Beer Styles Part Five: Sour Ales
For hundred of years, the Reinheitsgebot restricted brewing. During this time many local styles disappeared. Recently, German brewers have started producing them again. Among these were many regional and sour ales, specifically Berliner Weisse , Gose and Lichtenhainer.
By David Nuttall on Apr. 19, 2018
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Through an amalgam of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the American Brewers Association Guidelines, this series is exploring various beers styles which originated in different countries by examining their historical context and basic ingredients. This will also include a description of their various attributes of appearance, aroma, and taste plus a basic notation of the styles’ approximate vital statistics of ABV, IBU, and SRM.
Germany has over 1300 breweries and 7500 different brands available. They are the world’s fourth largest brewing country, and have created a large variety of beers which have become staples in breweries all over the globe. Germany is known for its lagers and wheat ales, mainly because for half a millennium, the Reinheitsgebot restricted brewing. During this time many local styles disappeared. Only recently have German brewers started producing them again. Among these were many regional and sour ales, specifically Berliner Weisse, Gose and Lichtenhainer.
This sour ale, once only a specialty from Berlin, is known for its low alcohol, high carbonation, light body, and lactic tartness. Without any hop presence, it is the sourness that dominates; so much so, that it is often served with fruit syrups such as raspberry or woodruff to give it additional sweetness. Made with at least 50% wheat malt and Pilsner malt, it is brewed with ale yeast and lactobacillus, a lactic acid bacterium, which contributes the sourness. It is usually stored for long periods, and then blended with different ages of the beer to achieve its desired flavour profile. The result is a pale, light beer with a fruity aroma that has a slightly acidic, crisp sour apple or lemon flavour to it. Now making a return in popularity in its native country, it has become one of the darlings of the sour beer category being produced in craft breweries.
Named after the Gose River which runs through the town of Goslar in northern Germany, this beer originated during the Middle Ages. Due to the high saline content of the water, Goses were known for their saltiness. Made with a combination of wheat and Pilsner malt, this style is highly carbonated, cloudy, and pale golden in colour with no hop aroma or flavour. Less sour than Berliner Weisse, it still has the same fruity qualities and acidity, albeit with a salty tang. A style that died out in the 1960s has seen a revival in both Germany and by craft breweries. Modern versions tend to add salt to their normal water to achieve the required astringency, and now often add real fruit essence or spices to balance that out.
Originating in central Germany from the town of Lichtenhain, this beer is the unusual marriage of smoke and sour. Using a combination of smoked barley malt, wheat malt, lactobacillus, and ale yeast, the result is golden coloured and moderately cloudy. It has a smoky aroma, with hints of fruit and sourness. Its flavour is unique and all over the board. You will find character of stone fruit, acidity, tartness, and smoke. It has a dry finish, with zero hop effect. While possible to pick out the wheat characteristics in the flavour, the sour and smoke dominate. This is another beer which today’s versions often have added fruit.
Thirsty for more? We’re leading up to Reinheitsgebot so check back soon for another great article by David Nuttall.
David Nuttall completed the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) in 2012, has served as Epicurean Calgary owner and president since 2002 and is the current Judging Co-ordinator for Calgary International Beerfest. If you’re interested in learning more about beer, you can register for the 4 week ABF Brew Ed course at The Brewer’s Apprentice.
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SRM: Standard Reference Method
Possibly the most confusing designation, Standard Reference Method measures the color of the beer in your glass—the higher the number, the darker the beer.
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Modified Malts refers to the length of the germination process and how many of the internal malt structures and compounds have already been broken down. Also see Modified/Under-Modified