Craft beer drinkers usually roll our collective eyes at macro domestics and cheap imports – they lack flavor and nuance. For most craft consumers, the desire for something different than mass produced fizzy yellow beer is why we consume craft beer at all. But if you ask even the most ardent beer geek, they will usually admit that a Dos Equis with lime is not so bad on a hot day.
I’m certainly no different. There is something about a cheap Mexican import that can hit the spot. Introducing the lime into the mix, particularly with a Tajin dusting, changes the entire flavor profile. That combination of sour and salty pairs perfectly with the beer to elevate it into a refreshing and highly quaffable beverage.
Lucky for us, you don’t always have to pick up a case of the cheap stuff and add multiple ingredients to get the same effect. Brewers in Goslar, Germany, have been brewing a sour and salty beer for over 500 years – the Gose.
Traditionally brewed with at least 50% wheat in the malt bill, the Gose often includes additions of salt (if the brewing water is not already salty) and coriander. The coriander provides the style with noticeable floral and spice notes that can be reminiscent of a Saison. Either through open fermentation or purposeful addition, the beer is introduced to lactic acid, which gives the Gose its signature lemon-like tartness.
It is an interesting style that flies in the face of the strict German Reinheitsgebot, but is allowed anyway due to its classification as a regional specialty. Even still, the Gose barely lived through World War I and II amidst the destruction in Germany. Brewing of the style picked back up in Germany in the late 1900s and has taken off over the last decade in America. We should be glad it did.
Tartness dominates the first taste, like biting into a juicy combination of a lemon and orange.”
Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales tries its hand at the style with Prairie Flare. Prairie’s label art is usually pretty fantastic, but a colorful homage to Office Space makes Flare one of my favorites. Spend some time looking at it and you’ll notice more than a few interesting pieces of “flare.”
As for the beer, it pours an amber orange that looks more like an IPA than a Gose. The beer is relatively hazy, hinting that it may be unfiltered – though I did not see it confirmed anywhere online. It has a loose bubbly head that begins tall but fades away to nothing except a few small bubbles clinging to the side of the glass within a minute of pouring.
The aroma is fairly delicate considering the flavor that is coming. Coriander is the most immediate scent with a hint of orange rounding it out. Spending time over the glass reveals the lemon tartness brought along by the lactobacillus – tipping off the salivary glands something sour is coming. This beer smells like a Gose.
Tartness dominates the first taste, like biting into a juicy combination of a lemon and orange. The beer could easily steer towards the lemon and become too tart, but the addition of the orange smooths the tartness and gives just enough sweetness. Further distracting and simultaneously complementing the tart sweetness is a strong saltiness. It is not a briny salt flavor, it is more rounded and palate cleansing.
That salty note gives way back to a tart finish where the carbonation is most prevalent and dries out the end. The floral spiciness of the coriander is present throughout and lingers along with the lemon notes. At 5.4% alcohol by volume, Flare is slightly stronger than most Goses. The booze never presents itself in the taste, but Flare has a little more body than most beers in the style and the higher ABV is likely necessary to achieve that end.
This is a solid beer that is true to style, and on a hot day I could easily see this providing a refreshing respite. It capitalizes on the pleasing combination of sour, salt and beer to create an option that is superior to the import and lime alternative. Even if it isn’t the best offering from Prairie, Flare is definitely worth picking up.