I want to take you back, back, waaaaay back to a time before the purple or red can of Anderson Valley gose was a regular sight at your bottle shop or favorite beer bar. That long ago time? It was summer of 2013.
That’s when Anderson Valley Brewing’s owner/president Trey White and his brewers struck gold with The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose, a subtle, 4.2% version of the classic German style. Goses (pronounced go-zuh) are low-alcohol, lightly sour and salty wheat beers, with a traditional lactic tartness and some coriander spice. They flew under most American brewers’ radars until recently, as an interest in session beers rewards these lower-alcohol styles.
Intended to just be one in a series of quarterly release session beers, Anderson Valley’s gose quickly caught on and became a large focus of the brewery’s Highway 128 Session Series. There are currently two AV canned versions, the original and a blood orange flavor, but White says the brewery is currently developing and testing others. Those cans—along with another popular version from South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing—are the most visible example of the rise of this once-obscure style.
Their success was no sure thing, though. “With new products, you never know one way or the other,” he says. “Goses had been sort of revived in the Southeast part of the U.S. Westbrook was canning it, and you had Berliner weisses down in Florida. But when we first sat across the table from a distributor in California, they really didn’t know what we were talking about with goses. We saw that some of the brewers down in the Southeast were having to do that education, and customers in the Southeast were comfortable with that.”
There was also the challenge of marketing a beer year-round when the style is typically associated with warm weather, but White says demand has stayed solid through winter, even in northern California. Anderson Valley’s first gose sold so well, in fact, that White felt comfortable launching the flavored version just a few months later. The blood orange flavor was inspired by “mi-goses,” a play on mimosas that attendees to AV’s summer festivals created with the gose and orange juice.
Though a salty, sour beer could sound like a tough sell, Anderson Valley’s is more subtle than many German versions, a detail that Anderson Valley’s brewers spent time considering. They brewed numerous test batches for the Boonville, California taproom, testing drinkers’ preference in salt levels by including different types of salts at various concentrations. White says they’ve also brewed small batches with some light spicing and have tried between 12 and 15 different fruit additions.
“When we set out, I told the guys ‘Let’s make something that’s actually delicious rather than being the most rigorously close to the classic style.’ That’s what we tend to do is take European styles and tweak them a bit to fit the American palate better,” White says.
Despite his brewery being one of the best-known American makers of the style, White says he doesn’t mind seeing other breweries take up the gose.
“One of the reasons we did it in the first place it’s because it’s not like an IPA where there’s thousands of versions and a lot are really good. In the immediate term, if some other people get into it, it will help build awareness of the style since we’re still so small and that style of beer is so poorly known. Initally at least, it would be great if some other people come into it, provided they make a good product. Otherwise it risks turning people off.”
As temperatures warm this spring, no doubt goses will come even more to the fore. Anderson Valley plans to continue canning its two versions, but it will likely be another year before drinkers see an additional flavor.
“The great thing with gose is that it’s a great base from which to play with flavors and ingredients. We have a lot of stuff in the R&D hopper that we’ll eventually get to, maybe next year. As with every brewery, you face the challenge of trying not to hop from one thing to the next. In the grand scheme of things, gose as a style is still tiny. There are still people tasting it for the very first time.”
What’s with the name?
“The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose” hardly rolls off the tongue, but it’s memorable. ‘Kimmie’ means father and ‘yink’ means son in Boontling, an Anderson Valley regional dialect that developed around the turn-of-the-century in the isolated logging community. Another useful phrase? ‘Bahl hornin” means good drinking.