The world of craft beer is as expansive as it is diverse, offering a flavour and style to suit every palate.

In the realm of tart, refreshing beers, two styles often stand out – Gose and sour beer. These beer styles, both celebrated for their tangy profiles, can sometimes cause confusion among beer enthusiasts.

So, what exactly is the difference between a Gose and a sour beer?

Sour Beers: A Broad Category

Sour beers represent a vast category rather than a specific style.

They are primarily defined by their tart, acidic taste, achieved through a brewing process that encourages lactic acid production. Bacteria, most commonly Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, and wild yeasts like Brettanomyces, are often introduced to the fermentation process, resulting in the beer’s distinctively sour profile.

Sour beers are quite diverse, ranging from the fruity and spicy Belgian lambics and the salted sour beers of Leipzig to the wine-like Flanders red ales of Belgium. The broadness of this category means that a Gose can be a type of sour beer, but not all sour beers are Goses.

Gose Beer – A Unique Type of Sour Beer

In a previous article, we’ve already answered what is a Gose beer, but unlike the broad category of sour beers, a Gose has very distinct characteristics that set it apart:

Salt & Coriander

Gose beers are traditionally brewed with salt and coriander, two ingredients rarely used in other beer styles. The salt adds a subtle savoury note that beautifully balances the beer’s sourness, while the coriander imparts a mild, citrusy spice.

Lactic Acid Bacteria

Gose beers, like other sour beers, use lactic acid bacteria during fermentation to produce their tart flavours. However, in the case of Gose, the sourness tends to be softer and more balanced due to the presence of salt.

Wheat Content

Gose beers have a high wheat content (at least 50%), which gives them a hazy appearance and a slightly creamy mouthfeel.

Gose vs. Sour Beer: Understanding the Difference

The primary difference between a Gose and a sour beer lies in their brewing processes and the resulting flavour profiles.

Flavour Profile

While both styles share a tangy, refreshing quality, Gose beers have a unique saline character and a hint of spice from the coriander. This profile can make a Gose more balanced and less aggressively sour than some sour beers.

Ingredients

The inclusion of salt and coriander sets Gose beers apart from other sours. These ingredients provide a complexity of flavor that is distinct to the Gose style.

Souring Process

Although both styles use lactic acid bacteria to create their sour profiles, the methods can vary. Goses often undergo a process known as kettle souring, where the souring bacteria are introduced pre-boil, then eliminated during boiling to prevent further souring.

Non-Alcoholic Gose vs Sours

As the non-alcoholic (NA) beer market continues to flourish, brewers have begun to produce NA versions of both sour beers and Goses. While the overall difference between an alcohol-free Gose and a sour beer aligns with that of their alcoholic counterparts, a few distinct factors come into play in the alcohol-free world.

Non-alcoholic Gose aims to capture the unique balance of sour, salty, and herbal notes characteristic of traditional Gose, but with less than 0.5% ABV. This balance can be a challenging feat for brewers, given that the alcohol content in traditional brewing often contributes to the body and flavour of the beer.

Nevertheless, through innovative brewing techniques like arrested fermentation or the use of special yeast strains that produce minimal alcohol, brewers can create alcohol-free Gose that maintains the beer style’s distinct flavour profile. The result is a light, refreshing, and flavourful NA beer with the characteristic saltiness and coriander spice found in Goses.

Non-alcoholic sour beers, like their alcoholic counterparts, represent a broader category rather than a specific style. The primary goal in brewing NA sour beers is to achieve the tart, tangy flavor profile typical of sours, without the alcohol.

While it’s challenging to create the depth and complexity found in some sour beers without alcohol, many brewers are finding success through the use of mixed fermentation processes, specialty grains, and fruit and spice infusions. The resulting NA sour beers can offer a wide range of flavours – from softly tart and fruity to sharply acidic – reflecting the diversity of the sour beer category.

Conclusion

In the craft beer world, exploring the differences between styles can enhance your appreciation and understanding of each brew. While Gose and other sour beers share a delightful tanginess, the unique characteristics of Gose – including its saline twist, the hint of coriander, and balanced tartness – distinguish it within the sour beer category. Whether you’re a long-time sour beer lover or new to the scene, there’s an exciting array of flavors waiting for you in both these styles.

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