Fullsteam Brewery - Tree-to-Sea Gose
Serving Temperature:40–47° F
Suggested Glassware:Tulip, Weizen, or Chardonnay Glass
Our featured Fullsteam is their Tree-to-Sea Gose, produced in partnership with our friends at Pints for Prostates. This is our fifth year working with them on a beer to raise money for improving prostate cancer awareness and early detection. (One dollar from every bottle sold will go directly to support Pints for Prostates’ efforts.) This final result uses North Carolina spruce tips as a piney extra facet, and involves blending two separate goses: one using a sour mash and a relatively straightforward recipe (to provide the final product’s core tartness), the other half focusing more on accentuating the non-sour elements: coriander, sea salt, spruce.
This pours slightly hazy, brightly clouded, yellow with a hint of chartreuse (though not from the spruce tips necessarily). It’s certainly on the pale side, with reasonable head retention and nice lacing, likely courtesy of the wheat additions. Pine and earthy qualities lead the aroma: a forest-like crispness with some herbal hop aromatics and the floral-ish qualities of coriander. There’s just a touch of salinity and tartness, the pine-forward character leading a bright inlet.
In the mouth, Tree-to-Sea Gose offers a refreshing mixture of dryness and subtle tartness: a prominent lift from the firm carbonation (and that low ABV) keeping it light on the tongue. The core gose here is right where one wants it: immensely drinkable, a nice balancing act of wheatiness and salt and coriander without being too much of any of them. It’s those spruce tips, however, that quietly sneak away with the show: piney, lightly bittering, freshly herbal.
The carbonation, pine, and acidity give this a nice platform to refresh the palate when paired with lush, fattier foods. This had us considering duck tacos, or perhaps a triple-cream cheese. Another appropriate option matching the salt character would be prosciutto-wrapped melon: dishes that don’t overdo the salinity, but parallel that subtle sea salt in Fullsteam Tree-to-Sea.
“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because [they] are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.” –Edith Sitwell
We’ve long been looking forward to formally introducing our Rare Beer Club™ members to Fullsteam. Based in Durham, North Carolina (about half an hour northwest of Raleigh), the brewery has a pretty ambitious mission statement: “to pioneer the art of Distinctly Southern Beer.” That top Sitwell quote appears prominently on the Fullsteam site, and the sentiment of zigging as most of the rest of the world zags—taking seriously the use of local ingredients, working with styles that specifically showcase seasonal harvests, developing beers around the efforts of local foragers, etc.—has grown into an endearing beer portfolio entirely its own.
Fullsteam Brewery was founded back in August 2010. Their year-round core lineup includes El Toro, a traditionally styled American Cream Ale that exclusively uses North Carolina corn and barley, and Fullsteam, an “American Common Lager” that was the first beer they’d ever commercially brewed. Both core beers recently received a gold medal at the U.S. Beer Open.
But it’s things like their “The Beautiful South” seasonal series that best capture what’s ahead for Fullsteam. Their Carver, a “sweet potato lager,” employs 200 pounds of North Carolina’s state vegetable in each batch. (North Carolina has been the country’s largest grower of sweet potatoes for decades, typically responsible for close to 50% of the nation’s supply.) Working Man’s Lunch, an “everyday chocolate ale” brewed with vanilla and chocolate nibs (from the Raleigh-based Escazu Artisan Chocolates), pays a subtle tribute to the Southern tradition of drinking RC Cola and eating a MoonPie. Fullsteam’s Hogwash incorporates house-smoked, North Carolina-born barley, while Summer Basil includes locally harvested herbs and wheat.
Then there’s Fullsteam’s Forager series. As the brewery eloquently puts it: “Too many trees go unpicked: persimmons, pears, figs, paw paws… Seeds mature into a resplendent harvest, only to go untouched until frost.” To reduce the amount of unpicked fruits in their vicinity, the brewery has been releasing occasional beers created specifically from ingredients foraged locally, including First Frost (a winter persimmon ale), Paw Paw (a Belgian-style golden ale), and Fruitcake…The Beer (a Bourbon-barreled old stock ale, using local chestnuts and figs).
Fullsteam actually works with their community to bring together the foraged produce, using social media to alert their participating Foragers when they’re seeking out fruit. Participants, depending on the amount of usable fruit they pick, are generally paid a market price for their foraged wares, and also receive a bottle of the final beer that their contribution helped make.
We’re even further intrigued by Fullsteam’s longer-term vision, one that distinguishes them quite a bit from breweries simply using trace amounts of local ingredients for the marketing bump. Their vision extends about 300 miles, in fact—in that the aim is to eventually be able to brew a year-round, commercially viable beer solely with ingredients less than that distance from their home base in Durham, North Carolina. This may have seemed crazy, previously.
They’re getting closer to succeeding.
This month’s selection from Fullsteam—a gose base, with the addition of spruce tips from the North Carolina mountains—actually incorporates a total of six ingredients from within the brewery’s home state, including barley, wheat, hops, coriander, and Outer Banks sea salt. (They’re also aiming for a fall release that uses 100% North Carolina fresh hops and grain.)
Fullsteam currently sells their beer throughout the Carolinas, self-distributing within a small triangle of central North Carolina and working with a few wholesalers elsewhere. We think their Tree-to-Sea Gose project turned out great, and we’re grateful to be in a position to get out the work they do to a bit broader audience. We’re pretty much fascinated by Fullsteam.
This beer will be available exclusively at the Pints for Prostates-sponsored Rare Beer Tasting (during the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this year) and from The Rare Beer Club™.
Fullsteam’s Tree-to-Sea Gose takes a traditional gose approach of wheat + salt + coriander (+ sometimes tartness) but brings in some additional notes from local North Carolina spruce tips. They’re not alone in embracing this historical style, or in nudging its boundaries around.
I do a fair bit of database analysis as part of my work over at RateBeer.com, and I wanted to pull out some other great gose recommendations that (unlike the Tree-to-Sea feature) people might actually be able to track down locally. It tends to be very informative to try these sorts of styles side by side with other examples. Looking at our top-scoring gose listings with a fair bit of distribution behind them, I’d suggest aiming for things like Westbrook Gose (which is assertively tart and refreshing, per tradition), Upright Gose out of Portland, and the Original Ritterguts Gose from Germany, previously known as Goedecke Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose.
In The World Atlas of Beer, authors Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont wrote of the Ritterguts: “Gose beers are tangy, citrusy, and coriander-accented, shocking to the palate for their light saltiness but by the third sip a welcome refresher. Bayrischer Bahnhof’s Leipziger Gose (4.5%) is most frequently encountered, but this one has the edge.” For a far more out-there take on gose, one could do far worse than Westbrook’s Gozu—brewed with tart yuzu fruit.
Looking back over my own stockpile of notes, one of the best gose encounters I’ve had was with Triumph Gose: a 5%-ish toasty example from New Jersey that, while not exhibiting the stylistic tartness common in old-school ones, was just a perfect match of light citrus, salinity, and crispy wheat. Triumph’s gose was out of production for a while, and most of the recent reviews are over five years old. As of today, it’s back and pouring at their Princeton location.
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