<< 2008-06-03 16:25 >>

Timber-framed house, Goslar, Germany

When I discovered that besides being the birthplace of the beer style Gose Goslar was also a medieval town so well-preserved it's been UNESCO-listed it was clear that our German Interrail holiday would have to include a stop there. In retrospect I can say that this was definitely one of the high points of the holiday.

Goslar was officially founded in 922 AD to serve the silver mine on nearby Rammelsberg mountain, which was also the foundation of the town's wealth. The town and the mines both have a longer history, but this was the starting point for Goslar's brief rise to riches and importance. In medieval times, Goslar was a quite important town, with an Imperial palace, the right to mint coins, and considerable wealth from the silver mines. Eventually, the yield from the silver mines declined, and with them Goslar's fortunes, since its location in the foothills of the Harz mountains probably meant it was never going to be a big center for trade or industry. Eventually, it sank into relative obscurity. This, of course, is part of the reason why the medieval town is so well preserved. Another reason is that it was a hospital town during WWII, and so escaped the bombing that obliterated so many of the historic German cities.

The medieval town of Goslar is surprisingly large given that the town today only has 45,000 inhabitants, and is almost entirely filled with historic buildings. Most of these are either timberframe houses, some of which are decorated with carvings and paint, or wooden houses with shale-tiled walls. In addition come the city hall, quite a few churches, the city wall, and the imperial palace. In all, it makes the town well worth a visit, even if you don't care for the beer, since you can walk around in all directions and keep finding new interesting things to look at. I'm told the silver mines are also worth a look, although we didn't do that.

House decoration up close, Goslar, Germany

What's really odd is that despite the obvious attractions of the town, it seems almost entirely unknown outside of Germany. It's definitely a tourist town, but nearly all the tourists we saw were Germans (and a few Danes). In our guidebooks Goslar was mentioned and spoken highly of, but not covered like a "normal town" with hotel listings and so on. Why this is, I really can't say.

We stayed in a hotel built around a tower from the old city wall (now mostly torn down), and wandered around town more or less at random, taking photos and looking for gose. For those of you who have forgotten, gose is a wheat beer, but different from standard hefeweizen in that it's sour. So in this respect it's more like Berliner Weisse, except for being spiced with coriander and salt.

It's extremely rare today. RateBeer lists 9 gose beers, 5 in Germany and 4 in the US, all of which are hard to find. Two of the German ones are brewed in Leipzig, and are both very good. Two more are made in Goslar, which is where the style originated (and from which it takes its name) before spreading to a wider area. It became so popular in Leipzig that it eventually was seen as the local beer, but eventually went extinct in all of Germany. So the 5 brewed today are all modern recreations.

We went to the search armed with Ron Pattinson's Goslar pub guide, and a list from the brewery of the places which sold the beer. This, it turned out, was insufficient, because a lot of the information was out of date, and so it took us quite a while to track down both the light and the dark variant. Still, we had more than enough to look at while searching, so we didn't mind.

Gose Hell, Goslar, Germany

We first found the pale version (Gose Hell) in a hotel on the southern edge of town. The hotel was old-fashioned and cheerfully dated in that inimitable German way that makes it look as though the 1960s never ended. And as though there is no other country on earth than Germany. Or if there is, no trace of it can be found in interior decorations or in the restaurant menu.

The beer itself was a bit of a disappointment, as it turned out. It does indeed taste like the gose I know from Leipzig, but in a very unassertive and watered-down version. It appears to be marketed firmly at tourists, and it seems that they have been at pains to avoid making the beer too challenging. Unfortunately, gose is an inherently challenging style, so this is not an easy feat to pull off, and I can't say I think they have succeeded. This is not to say that it's a bad beer, just that for a gose I think this a bit below average.

After the disappointment with the pale version I hoped that the dark might be more interesting, but when we eventually found it in the extremely touristy Butterhanne, which turns out to be the place that makes the beer, it turned out to have even less taste than the pale gose. As it turned out, this pretty much exhausted what Goslar had to offer in terms of interesting beers.

The annual witch festival ended on the day when we arrived, so the town was full of silly witch dummies which didn't really make up for the lack of beer. However, the town itself was so nice that it was hard to be very disappointed.

Marketplace fountain at night, Goslar, Germany

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Ted Burgdorff - 2009-01-09 18:53:51

I am trying to find out more about the "Brothers Farm" and the Burgdorf family. Are there any English sources that I could look up? Thanks, Ted

Lars Marius - 2009-01-10 04:12:34

I'm afraid I don't have that kind of detail information on Goslar. I guess you'll have to try contacting someone in Germany.

Andreas Müller - 2009-01-16 07:05:15

Goslar is really a nice place, it is a special fealing to be surounded by so many tiber-framed houses. I found a nice link to photographs of those houses in goslar:

Best Regards Andreas

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