Leipzig-Gohlis, Sachsen (Saxony):
Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken
Friday 3rd June 2011
This article is a about a wonderful pub and a rare beer style that have both returned from the dead. The pub's beginning was back in 1899 when it was founded by Herr Cajeri, an innkeeper who had moved from the city to what was then the village of Gohlis. It was noted for its large biergarten right from the beginning, yet the name of the pub back then is not known. Over the next ten years the hamlet changed into a suburb of Leipzig. The pub proved to be very popular and the building we see today was constructed in 1905.
The name translates as "without hesitation" and comes from Karl Schmitt, a waiter in the first pub. He would say this when asked by customers if he drank the Gose beer personally. In 1922 it was sold by Cajeri to August Kurz and by him to Karl Matthes in 1936. During a bombing raid in December 1943 the outside terraces and the garden arcades, along with the garden itself, were destroyed.
The pub continued trading during the DDR era until 1958, when it closed, seemingly forever. How much complicity the communist authorities in the city had to do with this decision I have no knowledge of, yet by 1960 the building was being used as a library, then an X-Ray clinic and finally as some sort of relief organisation.
I have made a small mention of Gose beer and would like to digress a little to explain about the style. When the pub was built it was a popular beer here and there were many pubs that sold it. It's said to have originated in the town of Goslar in the Harz mountains during the 16th century. It is a sour beer a bit like Berliner Weiss or Belgian Gueuze. This is why this pub's name is preceded by Gosenschenke meaning Gose pub or outlet.
It is made with coriander and salt and before it begins its fermentation, lactic acid bacteria is added to give it the distinctive sour taste. It is brewed with top-fermenting yeast like an ale or wheat beer.
As referred to above it was once a common beer around these parts but then it went into decline quite quickly. By the late 1930s only the Rittergutsbrauerei Döllnitz near Halle was brewing it and the writing was on the wall.
This brewery was nationalised and closed by the new communist government in 1945. This was possibly because it produced something that was individual, not mainstream and most definitely didn't fit into the policy of standardisation. It could be have been a lost beer style if it wasn't for one man. The saviour of Gose was Friedrich Wurzler who had worked at the Döllnitz brewery before its enforced closure.
In 1949 he founded the Friedrich Wurzler Brauerei in Leipzig. This was a very small operation supplying just a few pubs with Gose and as such appeared to be tolerated by the authorities. Wurzler died in the late 1950s but he had passed the Gose recipe on to his grandson Guido Pfnister. He continued brewing the beer at the same brewery but when he died in 1966 Gose died with him, or so it was thought. At the end there were just two pubs in Leipzig and one in Halle still selling the beer.
Back to the Ohne Bedenken, the building was purchased by Lother Goldhahn in 1983 who had a dream of restoring it to its former glory. The attitude of the DDR regarding private investment in property had changed and in Berlin they had gone into partnership with owners to restore a few pubs to their former splendour. East Berlin was the capital of the DDR and they wanted to present a picture to visitors from the west that indicated the country was a lot more affluent than it really was.
As Leipzig was the location of the international trade fairs I believe the same applied. Forgive me a little story about the trade fair. In the mid 1970s I travelled from the city on a trade fair extra train to the city then called Karl Marx Stadt, nowadays back to its real name of Chemnitz. Imagine the scene at the trade fair where the DDR is displaying its latest railway technology to the visitors who then have to catch a train hauled by a 1930s built steam locomotive back to their hotels. The irony of this would have been missing on those in charge, but I really enjoyed the journey.
The pub reopened in 1986 and was restored to a very high standard. The owner wanted to serve Gose but none of the breweries in the area were willing to take it on because of the low volume required. So he went to the Berliner Pils Brauerei in the capital, so I suspect that the beer was just Berliner Weissbier (the speciality sour beer of Berlin).
In 1990 the pub was bought by Dr Hartmut Hennebach. He made many improvements, especially to the biergarten which now extends to the next street, Poetenweg, just as it was when first built and restores the damage done by bombing during the Second World War.
The new owner restarted the search for a brewery that could make the beer. The solution was found when the pub's previous owner and saviour Lother Goldhahn purchased the Löwenbrauerei Dahlen.
The first Gose from this old brewery was consumed in Ohne Bedenken in 1991. Sadly, this was not to last as the brewery closed in 1994. I would think that was because it was not economic to brew just one beer and impossible for a minnow to compete against the big boys with other beer styles. The answer to this problem came in the form of the Brauerei Schneider of Weissenburg in Bavaria who took on the mantle of brewing Gose for the pub.
Then, in the late 1990s amateur brewer Tilo Jänichen had been experimentally brewing Gose at home. Later he joined up with Jens-Torsten Blazy and they produced a small quantity of Gose. Their first brews were a success and they established the Ritterguts Gose Brauerei in a building at Schloss (castle) Püchau.
Please take a look at their retro-style poster at the head of this article. I just wonder how much they paid Rod Stewart to pose for it.
Many pubs in Leipzig and Halle and the towns in between now sell the beer. Their next move was to establish their brewing operations in the small independent Brauerei Ernst Bauer in Leipzig. This occurred in 2001 and in the following year they begin production of Gose in bottles. Thereafter they don't look back as international awards are won and by the second decade over 70 pubs are taking the beer including the Ohne Bedenken, of course. The brewery is known as Dollnitzer Rittergut Gosebrauerei, a combination name.
On this visit I entered through the garden entrance in Poetenweg and on the way to the pub I admired the enamel signs on the wall of covered arcade. Should you visit this pub you must enter or leave by the main door in Menckestrasse as the pub looks very handsome from this aspect. Or at least nip out to have a look! It's just that the biergarten entrance is nearer the tram stop.
The main room, which is on the right if you enter in this direction, is absolutely stunning and you wouldn't think it dated from 1985, although even then it was a reproduction of the 1905 original.
There is beautiful carved wooden panelling on the lower half of the walls. Above, there are historic posters and pictures depicting the history of Gose and this pub. The windows are large and are leaded with some stained glass insertions. The ceiling is traditionally vaulted and there are wooden divisions between each table. These are of scrubbed wood and the chairs are superbly carved. On the wainscoting by each table there were old paintings in elaborate frames. The service bar and the back are also lovely constructions in wood, of course. It all works well to provide a great atmosphere.
Obviously I had to have Gose and I asked for it neat. It is normally served with syrup added.
The waitress asked me again if I wanted it without and I affirmed. The syrup is usually just a dash and raspberry (red) and woodruff (green) are the most common.
Here they go a lot further as there are a large number of mixed drinks, call them Gose cocktails with 50% fruit juice to 50% beer. Here are some of them: Banana, Strawberry, Mango and White Wine. It's also available with 0.05 litre liqueurs such as Cherry, Curacao, Peach etc.
There are two brands of draught Gose offered: Goedcke's Dollnitzer Rittergut-Gose (3.9%) from Familienbrauerei Ernst Bauer and Original Leipziger Gose (4.6%) from Bayrische Bahnhof Brauhaus. For those who prefer something more mainstream they also have Ur-Krostitzer Pils (4.8%) and that brewery's well-known Schwartzbier (4.9%) (black).
There is a full menu and the pub is thoroughly recommended.
Gosenschenke "Ohne Bedenken", Menckestrasse 5, 04155 Leipzig-Gohlis
Tel: 0341 566 23 60
Open October-Easter: Monday-Friday 16.00-24.00; Saturday-Sunday/Holidays 12:00-24.00
Open Easter-September Monday-Sunday: Pub 12.00-24.00;
Biergarten (in good weather) 12.00-24.00
To get to the pub the best way is to use the No 12 tram which passes the Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) and alight at Fritz-Seger-Strasse.
Walk a little forward in the same direction of a tram from the city. On the left you will find Poetenweg and the entrance to the biergarten. Walk through this to the pub.