While “hop-pocalyptic” IPAs and boozy barrel-aged stouts may be kings of the American craft beer scene, two classic German styles have recently surged in popularity: Berliner weisse (pronounced “Bear-LEEH-nuh VICE-uh”) and gose (“GOES-uh”).
The styles are tart, thirst quenching and low in alcohol, which make them ideal session beers as the weather warms. Because of a characteristic lack of bitterness, they’re also a great gateway beer for wine drinkers looking for a refreshing, low-alcohol alternative as we head into spring.
So, what’s the difference between a Berliner weisse and a gose?
Both are wheat beers soured by lactic cultures. These impart a green apple-like acidity with no discernible hop bitterness, and their alcohol levels usually hover around 4%. The major difference is that Berliners tend to have a lemony citrus aroma and flavor profile, while goses are brewed with coriander and salt, which deliver a savory edge.
In Germany, both are served traditionally with a side of raspberry syrup or Woodruff syrup (made from local Galium odoratum flowers) to tame the sourness. Stateside, they’re increasingly cut with fresh fruit. That’s good news for wine lovers, who will find familiarity in these beers’ acidity and fruit-forward flavors.
These session beers present a wonderful canvas for experimentation, which craft brewers seized upon to make refreshing, thirst-quenching ales. Here are a few notable examples to try.
Sierra Nevada Otra Vez Gose; $10/12-ounce, 6-pack (4.9% abv). This beer offers prickly pear and grapefruit, native ingredients to Sierra Nevada’s home state, California. The ale balances citrus tartness with sweet notes, and finishes evenly with spice derived from coriander and salt.
Dogfish Head Festina Pêche Berliner Weisse; $11/12-ounce, 4-pack (4.5% abv). Craft-beer mavericks Dogfish Head Brewing refer to Festina Peche as a “neo-Berliner weisse” because, unlike the traditional method, they add real peach purée during fermentation. The result is a slightly hazy, straw-colored brew with notes of green apple, fresh peach and earthy funk from the lactic culture. Pair it with a caprese salad for a nice alfresco meal.
Anderson Valley Briney Melon Gose; $15/12-ounce, 6-pack (4.2% abv). If you love a little salt on your watermelon, then this is the beer for you. The melon notes and salinity come together, leading to a clean, cool, cucumber-like finish. An excellent accompaniment for grilled scallops.
The Veil Never Never Mind Mind Gose; $22/16-ounce, 4-pack (5.1% abv). Based in Richmond, Virginia, Veil produces this murky, purple-red gose that could be mistaken for fresh-pressed juice rather than beer, thanks to a hefty dose of plum and pink Himalayan sea salt. Its flavor remains consistently tangy, but a heavy fruit rounds out the sourness nicely, while a dash of salt adds intrigue. It’s unlike any beer out there—a true wonder for the eyes and palate.
Evil Twin Tropical ‘Itch Berliner Weisse; $15/12-ounce, 4-pack (4.5% abv). Evil Twin has long been known for their “nomadic brewing” practices, in which they travel the globe crafting their beers at an array of existing breweries. However, with their first official brewery under construction in Queens, New York, Evil Twin has finally found a home for their sprawling lineup of world-class beers. Their take on a classic Berliner weisse, Tropical ‘Itch, is refreshing and fruit-forward with hints of sourdough, pineapple and lemon. It’s the perfect beer to sip while mowing the lawn—or watching someone else mow the lawn.