Henry was coming back to LA from Baltimore for a spell and I thought it would be fun to brew with him. I asked him to choose a style and he suggested a Gose. I hadn’t heard of the style before, so the gauntlet was thrown. Ever the nerd, I read a book on the subject to acquaint myself with the essentials and come up with an angle.
Gose is one of the ancient beer styles that was sort of lost in the 20th century but is in the process of being resurrected by modern craft brewers. It’s a bit of a Hefeweizen ancestor—splitting barley and wheat in the grain bill—that became popular in the 1300s in the German town of Goslar, back before the Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law of 1516) put more stringent controls on what could be in a beer. It was known for being salty (presumably from the local water source), herbal (from the variety of herbs that were used to flavor the beverage), and sour.
There are a lot of different kinds of sour you can play with in beer, ranging from from clean lactic acid sourness created with by using lactobacillus early in the process (“Kettle souring”) to funky, almost balsamic vinegar sourness that you get from aging in a barrel for years. Wanting to get a product I could drink in a reasonable period of time—and not permanently get new weird bugs into my equipment—I settled on doing the former.
I incorporated a little bit of lime zest and grapefruit zest were to give the sourness a citrus tang. A whole lot of salt: close to an ounce in a five-gallon batch. Then for the personal stamp, I decided to expand on an element that was already in the revived Gose style: coriander. Coriander is just the seed of the cilantro plant. Cilantro tastes nothing like coriander—but it’s delicious—what would it do in a beer? I weighed the characteristics on my minds tongue and decided that it was a good idea.
As finalized, Badwater Basin tastes for all the world like a margarita. I think the herbalness of the cilantro nudges the alcohol into registering like a mild tequila, the sour lime shines through, and the salt ups the intensity of flavor without making it taste salty. I haven’t yet had this with tacos, but I should.
The name harked back to a family vacation to Death Valley in 2010—Badwater Basin is one of the lowest points in North America and is a giant salt flat. Seemed appropriate.
How badass is the Badwater Snail, which chooses to live in a giant pile of salt? I pictured this snail as a grizzled old Wild West prospector with a roadrunner (also native to Badwater) as his trusty burro.
I didn’t realize in the process of art directing this one that we had inadvertently created a visual rhyme with the Unanswered Question label: Wasteland with Bird and Mollusk. I must be working through something—but what?
Destroyer is the balsamic vinegar of indie rock—acetic yet sweet, versatile yet always distinctive. Dan Bejar’s lyrics rarely make rational sense but are oozingly evocative and often downright romantic. His vocal delivery is amazing, fluttering around the rhythm like a nasal, razor-bladed butterfly. For me, the run of albums from Destroyer’s Rubies through Poison Season are his high point, but the earlier albums with less embellishment give you the opportunity to really mainline the stuff.