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Friday, May 11, 2012

Sorachi Ace Saison

Welcome to my first all-original brew. I was inspired to make this beer after drinking Brooklyn Brewery's Sorachi Ace. Like several of my beers, the impetus to make this came from our drinking a beer and Amy asking "Can you make this?". In this case, I loved the inspiration beer, so I was all for making my own version.

Sorachi ace hops are a relatively new variety of hops that is distinguished by both very high alpha acids (~10-16%) and distinct lemony taste and aroma. They are a Japanese hybrid hop, and for quite some time weren't used much by commercial breweries. With the current craze of using citrusy hops like Citra, Cascade, Centennial, etc, the use of Sorachi Ace hops is trending upwards and it's not unusual to see them in a Pale ale or IPA.

I knew my base for the beer should basically be a lot of pilsner malt, and that I'd let the hops and yeast provide all of the other flavors. Sorachi Ace (the beer, not the hop) is about 10% ABV, and I wanted to get something similar in the end, but maybe a bit lighter to allow more drinking. With those goals in mind, I ordered a bunch of supplies from Northern Brewer.

1 lb Briess Caramel 10L
3.15 lb Pilsen LME
3 lb Pilsen DME
1 lb Candi Syrup
2 oz Sorachi Ace pellets
2 oz Sorachi Ace whole leaf hops (for dry hopping)
Wyeast 3711 French Saison

I used the Briess Caramel 10L as a steeping grain to give the beer a pale golden color. Like with other kits, this was heated to 170 F in a mesh bag, then discarded. The rest of the brewing process was straightforward. I added the DME and LME when the water came to a boil, then returned the wort to a boil. The hop pellets were added at 60 minutes (0.5 oz), 15 minutes (0.5 oz) and 5 minutes (1 oz) left in the boil period. After brewing, the wort was chilled to <80 F, brought up to 5 gallons with cool water, and aerated with my aquarium bubbler for 20 minutes. Following aeration, I pitched a 650 mL starter culture of the Wyeast 3711 into the beer, and let it go to town.

Fermentation was kept in the mid 70s, and finished out in about a week. I racked the beer into secondary for 2 weeks, then bottled the beer. I decided I really wanted lots of hop aroma, but not necessarily bitterness so I dry hopped this beer. Basically, you just dump additional hops into your fermentation bucket or carboy 1 to 2 weeks before bottling. To help with later transfer of the beer from the carboy into a bottling bucket, I placed the hops into a muslin bag to prevent clogging of the siphon. Next time, I will do my dry hopping in a bucket, as it was a pain to transfer the bag into a carboy. Additionally, I would consider adding even more hops next time. The whole leaf hops worked well, but I'd like to compare dry hopping with pellet hops next time. I dry hopped with 1 oz of whole leaf hops at about 2 weeks and 1 week before bottling. Following transfer to bottling, I ended up with just shy of 2 cases of beer from this.

The beer itself is fantastic. It pours a pale golden color, and you can definitely detect the hops on this beer. There's a great lemon edge to the beer, and to me the hops also add a bit of mustiness in a good way. It's refreshing and pretty much turned out exactly as I had planned. Definitely will be keeping this a recipe for routine brewing, and as a summertime treat.

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