Leipzig’s Bayerischer Bahnhof has claims to being the world’s oldest railway terminal yet that significant piece of transport history isn’t what drew me here. I’ve come to sample the gose beer that’s brewed in the microbrewery on the premises.
In a nation that’s celebrating the 500th centenary of the introduction of the Reinheitsgebot in 2016—the beer purity law that was introduced in Bavaria in 1516 but now applies across Germany—most breweries are restricted to brewing only with hops, malt, yeast and water.
Gose also features lactic acid, coriander and salt. Brewing this style of beer in Bavaria would not be permitted. In Saxony brewing it under licence from the government is allowed because gose is a regional speciality and a style of ale that pre-dates the introduction of the Reinheitsgebot.
Brewing at the Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof
Matthias Richter, the Braumeister—the master brewer—at the Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof, tells me how gose was originally a spontaneously fermented style of beer drank in Goslar during medieval times.
Its name is derived from the River Gose, which flows through the attractive town, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the Harz Mountains.
According to legend, gose was first brought to Leipzig in 1738. In the upheaval of the Napoleonic era gose fell out of favour in Goslar but drinkers in Leipzig and Halle continued to enjoy it.
Over time drinking fashions changed. Pilsners rose in popularity during the late 19th century and demand for gose dwindled. In 1966 the last batch of gose was brewed but the recipe was saved.
The revival of gose
Clearly passionate about brewing history, Matthias explains how a couple of attempts were made to revive gose in the 1980s. The fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in a Franconian brewer investing in premises in Leipzig.
Standing in front of the polished copper tanks that impress visitors to the pub-restaurant at the site of the historic railway terminus constructed between 1842 and 1844, Matthias tells me that regular gose contains 4.5 per cent of alcohol by volume. The double bock weighs in with at least twice that much booze.
Barley and wheat both feature in the brew, which is made in 1,500 litre batches. The fermentation tanks at the Gosebreuerei hold double that amount.
Most of the beer is sold on site but around a fifth of the capacity is exported. Gose has admirers as far afield as the USA, Italy, Finland, Norway and Denmark.
Matthias leads me behind the scenes to stainless steel tanks that will make it possible for the brewery to produce around 250 hectolitres of beer this year. Meanwhile he’s describing how he enjoys the multifaceted nature of his work. In addition to gose, he brews black beer, wheat beer and pilsner plus a handful of speciality ales. He seems quietly proud of his spruce needle gose adding “spruce needles were used to filter the wort.”
Tasting Leipzig’s gose beer
After showing me a bottle of the liqueur that’s also sold in the pub-restaurant Matthias heads back to work while I step outside into the beer garden. I take a seat and order a plate of spare ribs plus a glass of gose.
Despite the use of lactic acid during the brewing process the beer is by no means as tangy as I’d anticipated. On a warm day it proves a palatable, refreshing drink and pairs well with the ribs.
The Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof (Bayerischer Platz 1, Leipzig; tel. +49 (0) 341 1245760) is both a brewery and a pub-restaurant with a beer garden.
The Italian-influenced, Neolassical railway building was once a point of departure for rail journeys to Hof, in Bavaria, and then southwards to Austria and Italy. A second building, on the opposite side of the track, was destroyed by allied bombing during World War Two.
It is a short walk from the centre of Leipzig. Take a look at the Leipzig Travel website for an overview of the city’s attractions and how to make the most of a visit.
Leipzig is the most populous city in Saxony. The Saxony Tourism website provides a wealth of ideas about what to see and do in the state. The Cultural Heart of Germany site also has information about neighbouring states Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.
See the Germany Travel website for ideas about things to do and see in Saxony and elsewhere in the country.