Allow me to indulge my geekery if you will. As craft breweries continue to push the limits of beer in an effort to impress customers, they look to little known styles from elsewhere in the world to revitalize and call their own. In most cases, they tend to bastardize the original under the creative license of brewing.
Most of those styles have an interesting backstory. Even more importantly, most offer up a fun travel destination for the rapidly growing community of beer tourists of which I am a card carrying member.
If you’re craft beer savvy, you may have heard of Gose – a salted sour wheat beer spiced with coriander. It’s the new gateway beer as craft drinkers and brewers start experimenting with sours. Like most styles, it has been so manipulated to appease North American palates that the story and taste of the beer has been lost. I kid you not, I had one brewed with oysters to acquire the salt from the brine of the oceanic aphrodisiac.
While the original Gose was brewed in Goslar, Germany and obtained its saltiness from the natural salinity of the mountain water used in the beer’s production, the style’s home moved to Leipzig, Germany when the mines closed. Salt was then added during the brewing process to lend the beer its unique flavor. The style then disappeared during WWII and didn’t return again until after the Cold War. Today, the most authentic German Gose is brewed at Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig.
Gueuze, not to be confused with Gose, is another little known beer style that will soon gather steam in the United States. Impress your friends by knowing about it before the hipsters do. Like Gose, Gueuze is a form of a sour. I know, more confusion, right? It’s probably just as complex as a gose, too.
A Gueuze is a blend of young and old Lambics that are aged 2-3 years. Lambics themselves are another type of sour ale, the most authentic of which are fermented with wild yeasts in open fermenters. Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels, Belgium brews one of the most authentic Gueuze on the market and has an awesome self-guided tour where you can see the open fermentation process firsthand.
Rauchbier is the Bamberg original that many craft breweries try to reproduce but none have been successful. That smoked amber ale your corner brewery produces is nothing compared to the campfire smoke you’ll taste in an authentic Rauchbier. Some even note hints of bacon fat. Let me say that again: Some even note hints of bacon fat.
Once you’ve have an original Rauchbier, you’ll never sip another smoked beer again (goes great with re-runs of Sons of Anarchy). The beer itself is very similar to an Oktoberfestbier. The difference is that the malts are dried over an open fire, lending the style’s strong hints of smoke.
While many breweries in Bamberg brew a Rauchbier, the best is brewed by Aecht Schlenkerla, where all their beers use smoked malts. Be sure to snack on a Bamberg Onion, the perfect food pairing with a Rauchbier.