One of the big mysteries surrounding Gose is the water especially the salt in this water. The Version from Leipzig has it since a long time. In most of the historic texts it is the only thing that is added and there are no talks about spices. But how did it come to the addition of salt? Nearly all sources claim that the name for the beer came from the small river that was running through the city of Goslar (called Gose). Also most of the sources say that the beer was brewed from the water of this river.
For my recreation I visited the city of Goslar and placed several yeast capture vessels alongside this river. River is a big name here it is more of a small stream than a fully grown river. But the water is clear and has a really high quality. So of course I took the opportunity and tasted the water it was refreshing, soft and had a slight salty taste but  the saltiness was barely noticeable.
So I took some samples with me and wanted to send them to a lab. But first I tried to get an analysis from the authorities of Goslar, which was tricky but in the end I managed to pull it of. First I called at the environmental office of Goslar the city which referred me to the environmental office of the county Goslar. These guys transferred me to the company that is responsible for distributing the water in the whole Harz region. They gave me this water analysis for the spring of the Gose which is actually used for drinking water.
Analysis (ppm = mg/l)
Name Amount
Calcium 20.7 ppm
Magnesium 6.3 ppm
Sodium 28 ppm
Potasium 1.4 ppm
 Sulfate 22 ppm
Chloride 45 ppm
Nitrate 6.9 ppm
pH 7.65 pH
German Hardness 4.3 dH
CaCO3 76.7 ppm
Date of the analysis (24.4.2017)
As you can see the sodium levels are elevated but nothing really off the charts here. I would say the water is pretty suited for brewing light coloured beers like pilsner. So maybe the people tried the water like me and thought was is so special about this water, maybe a touch salt and after tasting they threw a pinch of salt in their replica of the Gose. So nothing points to the fact that the river Gose was pretty salty at least nothing that would justify dosing your wort with a handful of salt.
Following the years of the downfall of the Gose from Goslar a lot of recipes and descriptions of Gose (presumably the one from Leipzig) mentioned that either salt is added or cooked with the mash/wort. I try to collect more facts why the salt was added by the guys from Leipzig but it was certainly not the water of the river Gose. It is quite interesting how brewers over the years change a style by copying it and changing it to their liking. My theory is that they tasted the water and thought maybe it’s a bit salty and added some salt to the water in order to make it special.
Here follows an excerpt of the book „The brewing business of Goslar“ about the water usage.
The advantage of the water that was used to brew the Gose was responsible for its name. The water that was used to brew came from pipes which where created in the 14th century. These pipes had two different sources. One source was a collecting vessel which was installed in the river. This vessel was a rectangular and made from spruce wood. Holes where drilled into the wood to act like a sieve and let water stream into the vessel. In this vessels wooden pipes where connected. The pipes where connected the „boxes“ made from lead which lead the water into the city.
In the brew houses and the connected farms some posts made from oak wood stood there. They had two holes drilled into these posts, the water with the help of its own pressure is now pressed to the top and into another line which leads to a next house. In order to get water you just need to remove a peg that is connected to the riser pipe and the water that streams out of it. If these “water posts“ where non existent the water needs to be collected from the next well. These where set up in different streets around the city. One little detail in order to keep the quality of the water it was prohibited to bathe in the Gose river.
The water from the basin that was located at the market is to be preferred over the water that comes from these pipes.
The water from the market basin was collected directly from the source of the river and transported in lead pipes to the basin at the market. From there it runs through different openings into main pipes. Smaller pipes branch off of the main pipes. It is then brought to the houses the same why like the water from the river.
This „healthy, pure and pleasant tasting water“ is then used for brewing with a lot of success. It was, of course, not running all the time but needed to be directed to the brew houses by so called pipe drillers (Pipenbohrer). In the winter when the temperatures where freezing either you could collect the water with a cart or you would need to postpone the brewing.
Every landlord had the duty to maintain the pipes which lay on his ground and the post which would lead to his neighbour. If he could not do it himself he would need to call the pipe driller for advice and to give him some kind of salary for it. The money the brew houses needed to pay to the „Tafelamt“ was different for every entity.

5 thoughts on “How Gose got salty

  1. Robert Colianni sagt:

    Is there a conclusion to this article? I do not see any definitive points to ‘how Gose got salty’.

    1. nacron sagt:

      The point is I tried to answer it with doing an analysis of the river. But as you see this was not helping since its water is not salty. You see it is an ongoing quest to find out about the ridles of gose. I updated my text and included the theory that the leipzig brewers maybe tried to emulate the water from goslar but didn’t know better and just added salt.

  2. Rafal sagt:

    How about unwanted remainings from the mining industry functioned that time in Goslar? Could it be a source of saltiness getting through to the lakes and river during mining process and/or enrichment process of mined out zinc and lead e.g.?

    1. nacron sagt:

      I don’t think that is possible. When you look at how soluble salt is it would be washed away pretty fast. It could have been temporary influenced by mining but I think we are talking days not years.

      1. Rafal sagt:

        Thank you for your reply. I agree with you that once you finish mining the pollution is going to disappear pretty quickly. However mining business in Goslar had run continuously for centuries keeping city alive.
        Anyway, it is interesting article, thank you for that.

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