Sunday, August 21, 2005

Leipziger Gose comes to New Albany for a limited engagement.

In August, 1989, just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, I spent three weeks as a parks department laborer attached to a summertime student brigade work camp in East Berlin.

In truth, my contingent of Westerners was on site to be handily referenced as an example of the DDR’s tolerance, which in turn allowed group members to avoid the usual hassle and red tape of visiting East Germany, and to make friends with students.

In exchange for three weeks of work at the normal pay scale – two crisp Karl Marx adorned 100-Ost Mark notes each week -- we were to be awarded a one-week tour of the DDR at the conclusion of our stint polishing statues in preparation for the country’s 40th anniversary celebration.

We received the reward, but in altered form.

Unbeknownst to all of us, East Germany was only two months away from collapse. Earlier that summer, vacationing East Germans had begun streaming across the unguarded Hungarian border, and later invading West German embassies to demand transit westward.

Things were falling apart.

Our weeklong junket was trimmed to conform to evolving political realities. Specifically, our Monday and Tuesday stint in Leipzig was cancelled, and we stayed in Dresden for two extra days instead. A few of us went to the Dresden train station and tried to buy tickets for Leipzig, but were refused when the seller grasped that we were foreigners.

We didn’t know that Mondays were protest days in Leipzig.

In 1991, on a return trip to the eastern provinces of united Germany to visit my friend Suzanne, I finally had the chance to visit Leipzig for a day. In truth, I remember very little about it. The downtown seemed composed of a few holdover buildings from an earlier golden age, surrounded with the garishness of Communist urban construction, with other areas either blossoming with pre-fab cement blocks or decaying pre-war housing stocks.

In short, like much of the rest of the DDR.

At that time, although I didn’t know it, Leipziger Gose was in the first stages of revival.

This pleasingly archaic and stylistically esoteric style of wheat ale, spiced with coriander and salt and with a tartness that is vaguely reminiscent of Belgian Wit ale sans orange peel, once was a local specialty with a complex method of brewing and vending (see link below), but faded into oblivion in the face of the popularity of lager and the indifference prevailing in Ossie times.

The Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof now brews Gose and exports limited quantities through the stellar B. United importing company.

And yes, it currently is on tap at Rich O’s. It won’t be for long; there’s only 30 liters, and we’re selling it by the half-liter.

Go here for an excellent overview of the history and return of Leipziger Gose.

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