It is time to brew a Christmas-themed beer for the upcoming advent season, and on-deck this year is an Imperial Gose. This will be my contribution to my home brew clubs annual advent event. This is one of my favourite club events, and I look forward to it every year. For those unfamiliar with the concept, prior to December 1 you and 23 other brewers exchange beers, giving each brewer 1 bottle of 24 different beers. Starting on Dec 1 you drink the first beer, on Dec 2 you drink the second, and so on until Christmas eve when you enjoy the final beer. Its a great opportunity to try many different beers, and to find inspiration for next years brewing season.
The kinds of beers that people in my brew club submit to the advent exchange vary greatly. Some enter day-to-day styles, others brew your typical spiced winter ale, others use it as a chance to throw something unique into the mix – the later being my approach. My previous entries have included a brett, raisin & orange Bière de Garde, a spruce beer fermented with Kveik, and a Norse porter. This years beer is an “imperialized” version of last yeast “There Gose Christmas” (recipe, tasting notes), a modestly sour beer featuring the flavours of honey, oranges, hibiscus, cranberry and cinnamon. This was the best beer I brewed in 2016, and with a few minor tweaks I’m hoping for it to be the best beer of 2017.
Recipe – Gose of Christmas Past
- OG: 1.062
- FG (est): 1.012
- IBU: 12
- SRM: 8
- ABV: 6.7%
Ingredients (for 20 L):
- 48.7% 2-Row Malt (3kg)
- 14.8% Wheat Malt (0.91 kg)
- 14.8% Flaked Wheat (0.91 kg)
- 3.7% Flaked Oats (0.23 kg)
- 1.8% Aromatic Malt (0.11 kg)
- 12 IBU Warrior Hops (7.5g, bittering, 60 min)
- 0.5 Whirflock tablet (10 min)
- 0.75 g/L non-iodized salt (15 g, 60 min)
- Peels of 3 oranges (flame-out)
- 0.5 Cinnamon Stick (flame-out)
- 65 g dried hibiscus (flame-out)
- 1 kg honey (flame-out)
- 1 kg cranberries (10 days secondary)
- Lactobacillus blend (kettle sour)
- WLP 644 (Sacc Trois)
Mash, Brew & Ferment
Brew day 1 (Day 1):
- Brewed 20L/5 gal:
- Mashed at 68.9 C (156 F) for 45 minutes
- Collected 25 L of wort
- Heated to 80C and held for 5 min, then cooled to 44C
- 4 ml of 88% lactic acid added to reduce pH to 4.5
- Pitched house lactobacillus blend, insulated kettle and allowed temperature to free-fall over 48 hours
Brew day 2 (Day 3):
- Brought beer to a boil
- Added hops, salt, whirflock, honey, cinnamon and hibiscus as per the recipe
- Cooled to 24 C and pitched a 1.5L starter of WLP644.
- Held temperature at 22C for first two days, then dropped temperature at 0.5C/day, until beer was at 19C
- Transferred to secondary after 14 days
- Added 1 kg of frozen, halved cranberries for 2 weeks
- Added 1/2 cinnamon stick 4 days prior to packaging.
- Transfered to a keg and carbonated to ~0.8 volumes CO2
- Added 2.4g of table sugar to each 350ml bottle, then filled bottles from tap (est. final carbonation of 3.2 volumes)
- Let sit 1 week until advent exchange, recommended beer sit warm at least 2 additional weeks prior to serving.
As I hoped, this Gose is excellent.
Appearance: Brilliant red with a slight haze. Pours with a coarse white head that lasts for several minutes.
Aroma: Lactic sourness with a floral/fruity character.
Flavour: The flavour starts with a bright but not overpowering lactic acid flavour/acidity, combined with a tingling sensation from the high carbonation. This is layered over an interesting fruit flavour; the combination of hibiscus, orange peel, cranberry and yeast esters gives a flavour similar to that of candied mincemeat. The flavour of honey can be found in the background, especially as the pint warms, but is very subtle. The cinnamon has provided a subtle spiciness – it isn’t recognisable as cinnamon, and could easily be mistaken for a Belgian yeast-like spiciness. Salt was added to this Gose at a modest rate; as a result it acts more to bring out flavours than providing a salty flavour itself – which to my mind is the role of salt in a gose. The aftertaste is a combination of sour and fruitiness.
Mouthfeel: The beer is bright and effervescent, light bodied, and crisp.
Overall: This is an excellent beer; complex enough to be enjoyable as a sipper, but also easy drinking for those holiday parties. The character is unique, complex, and almost wine-like in nature.
Changes for next time: The beer is excellent as-is, but could be given a few minor tweaks…not necessarily to make it better, but rather to make it more holiday-esque. Even in the amounts used the honey was barely perceptible; for future batches I would go with sugar syrup, or perhaps a bit of medium candi sugar. And while I’m not normally a fan of spices in beers, I would double the amount of cinnamon I am adding – especially if re-brewing this for the holiday season – to make its character stand out a bit better.
This would also be an excellent beer to brew as a classical sour, and/or as a wood-aged beer. The complexity of Brett would work well with the fruit and spice, as would the vanilla and tannin flavours from oak. I wouldn’t want it any more acidic, but a touch of acetic acid character would be an interesting counter-point to the intense fruit character of the beer.