Salt adds fullness and other qualities to beer, says Fal Allen, author of a new book on gose.
“Brewers used to use salt for just this reason,” he says. “As far as I can tell, the water of the Gose River region [of Germany] where [gose] was first made, wasn’t very minerally. I tasted it on my trip. But salt was probably used because there were mines in the area, and as an ingredient, it was cheaper than other things. Records are scant from back then, but adding a little salt adds more fullness and mouthfeel.” The same is true today. Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville, California), where Allen works as brewmaster, is known for turning out gose of all kinds, from the traditional to the flavorful. The output from the brewery has grown in recent years as the style, once relatively obscure in the United States, has found a new audience who embraces the flavors.
So, what do you need to take into account when making gose at home? Allen has some tips.
Salt, or sodium chloride, is an ionic compound. There are different kinds of salts that you’ll see on the market, from the classic table salt to kosher salt to pink Himalayan salt to French fleur de sel to black Hawaiian sea salt. When brewing, what’s the best kind to use?
Allen says that as long as it’s not iodized, you’re good to go and that by using some of the fancier or gourmet salts listed above, you are just wasting good money. “At the brewery we use traditional sea salt,” he says, “just the regular kind you’d see in the store. It’s not Celtic or from Tahiti or anything. Just pick an inexpensive, non-iodized food-grade salt and you’ll be set.”
While it’s true that you could add salt to just about any beer style, Allen says that gose still remains the best option, as far as his trials are concerned. When it comes to adding it to the beer, he suggests post-fermentation, although he knows that for sanitary reasons some homebrewers might add it to the kettle.
They add post-fermentation for several reasons: “Initially we thought that the salt might affect yeast production, and there are still some worries that people have. So, we dissolve [the salt] in hot water, allow it to cool down, pull the yeast, and then inject the salt water into the fermentor. This way we know we’re getting good mixing and it won’t affect fermentation.”
And think about ratios. Just as with food and salting a dish or recipe, once you go beyond what’s reasonable, it’s hard—if not impossible—to come back from that. So start off with a little and add or risk dumping a batch.