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Homebrew #35: Sorachi Ace Clone

by Rob Friesel

I can’t really take credit for this one. I showed up to help with the brewing, and I pitched my own yeast… but in most ways I was just an innocent bystander. That being said, I’m an innocent bystander who, for his part, got a delicious saison out of the deal. A clone of Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace Saison:

Sorachi Ace Clone

A friend of mine (Aaron) had just picked up a new 30 gallon kettle and was itching to take it on its maiden voyage. He kicked around a few ideas and ultimately settled on a clone recipe for Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. He found a good deal on the hops, picked up a 50 lb. bag of BestMalz Pilsen malt, and put out the call…

Brew Day

Aaron scheduled his 30 gallon kettle’s maiden voyage for May 6 — not coincidentally: AHA’s National Homebrew Day! Needless to say, he registered it as an official “Big Brew Day” event. We commenced crushing and kettle-filling at 9:00am sharp.

Commence crush!

By 11:00am we were mashing in…

Mashing in. #homebrewing

By noon we were lifting that BIAB sack out… (Thank goodness for pulleys!)

Lifting 50 lb. of pils malt on @aaronritchiebrewing's monster #BIAB system. #homebrewing

(See also: this video.)

Then of course boiling…

Sorachi Ace Clone Big Brew Day

…and chilling…

Dan & Aaron, chilling

…and carboy-filling.

21 gallons splits 5 ways nicely. #homebrewing #BIAB #bigbrew

As an aside… as this wasn’t my system, I didn’t take my usual painfully-detailed notes. No mash pH, no post-mash vs. post-sparge gravity readings. The only real number I did come home with was the O.G. 1.074 — and a solid 12 points above where we expected.

Fermentation

Where to even begin…?

Regular readers here will recall that when I brewed Let the Wookiee Win (Mk. II), I over-built my starter of Wyeast’s 3726 Farmhouse Ale strain, with the idea that I would re-use it for this brew. Which is what I did: I pulled out the jar with the previous culture’s sample and used that to over-build this brew’s starter, with some set aside for future brews.

Culturing up my 3726 for this weekend's brew club Sorachi Ace Saison clone. (Well… to ferment my share, at least.) #homebrewing

With my yeast ready, I pitched around 5:00pm on brew day. Fermentation started promptly (within a couple hours) and proceeded rather vigorously. Bubbles in the blow-off bucket were frequent and strong for a couple days, and the temperature probe was reading just a little shy of 80°F. Then things slowed down.

After four days, I took the first gravity reading to find it had come down to 1.032. OK so… not even close to being finished. I added two teaspoons of yeast energizer and bumped the temperature controller up a couple degrees. Three days later… gravity was down to 1.029. Ugh. This was beginning to look a lot like what happened with that last batch of Wookiee: 3726 seems to like to burn through about half of the wort really fast and then take it’s sweet ass time inching down to final gravity.

Fast-forward another two-and-a-half weeks and I see that the gravity is sitting at 1.015.

Sorachi Ace Clone (getting close to done (finally))

Convinced that this is (finally) the final gravity, I proceed to add the dry hops.

Sorachi Ace Saison, dry hops added

Five days later, I pull the dry hops and — just to be sure — take another gravity reading. To my surprise, it had come down even further: 1.011!

Taking some advice from some other club members, I decided to avail myself of that greatest of all homebrewer virtues: patience. As much as I wanted to get this beer packaged and start drinking it, I let it sit and condition for another two weeks. Finally — for real this time — it reached a final gravity of 1.008.

From there? Cold crash for 24 hours; fine with gelatin and let it settle for another 48 hours; then mix it up with a corn sugar-based priming solution and let it carbonate for two weeks.

Overall Impressions and Conclusions

When I finally poured the first bottle, I felt like that patience had paid off. The beer had some great aromas and flavors: that lush lemongrass that I associate with Sorachi Ace, a moderate apricot note, and hints of dill. The saison yeast offer up some peppery flavors, particularly mid-palate. The malt profile is aligned with what I expect from pilsner: a light sweetness, soft, the faintest touch of grainy. The mouthfeel on this one is silky, and while it is dry, I still wonder if it didn’t fully attenuate.

Also, I strongly suspect that I won’t be using the 3726 strain again. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it stalled, the long and sluggish tail of its fermentation really tried my patience both times I used it. It’s possible that I didn’t provide the right kind of environment for it. Both times, I fermented on the warm side — mid- to upper-70s °F, while allowing it to free-rise. The reading I’d done had suggested that this hot fermentation temperature would help to develop the kind of esters that I find desirable in saisons. That being said, it was strange to watch the fermentation effectively resume after removing the carboy from the (hot) fermentation chamber and putting it into a cooler environment (i.e., my “conditioning closet”). If I use the strain again, I’ll try to keep it on the cool side — but I also suspect I’ll try line up something like Wyeast’s 3711 or White Labs’ WLP566 or WLP590.

Recipe

The all-grain BIAB recipe for Sorachi Ace Clone is as follows.

Mash Grains

50 lb. BestMalz Pilsen Malt

Fermentables

4 lb. table sugar

Hop Schedule

  • 2 oz. Sorachi Ace (60 min.)
  • 2 oz. Sorachi Ace (30 min.)
  • 10 oz. Sorachi Ace (at flame-out)
  • 10 oz. Sorachi Ace (15 min. steep/whirlpool at 150°F)
  • 10 oz. Sorachi Ace (dry hop 5 days)[1]

Yeast

“B.Y.O.Y.” Bring your own yeast. Each brewer that took home a portion pitched a different strain. The clone recipe that Aaron found called for Wyeast 1214. For what it’s worth (and as discussed above), I pitched:

Approx. 200 ml Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale slurry

Brew Day

  1. Collect 75 qt. water and heat to 160.2°F. Mash in; hold at 148°F for 60 minutes. No mash-out.
  2. Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort. Sparge as necessary to reach pre-boil kettle volume. Pre-boil kettle volume should be approx. 24 gal.
  3. Bring to a boil. Add 4 lb. table sugar. Boil for 60 minutes, following hop schedule described above.
  4. After knock-out, add 10 oz. Sorachi Ace hops. Chill to 150°F as rapidly as possible. Add 10 oz. Sorachi Ace hops and steep/whirlpool for 15 minutes.
  5. Cool to 70°F as rapidly as possible.
  6. Aerate wort and pitch Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale yeast.

Beyond Brew Day

  1. Ferment at 76°F for 2 days, but allow to free-rise as much as it wants.
  2. After 2 days, raise temperature to 80°F and add 2 tsp. of yeast energizer.
  3. Allow fermentation to complete (approx. 3-4 weeks); if yeast seem slow to reach terminal gravity, consider raising the temperature to 84°F.
  4. After reaching terminal gravity, add dry hops and let stand 5 days.
  5. Remove dry hops and consider cold crashing and fining for 1-3 days before packaging.
  6. Use corn sugar to carbonate on bottling day. Rack beer into bottling bucket and bottle.
  7. Allow at least 2 weeks to carbonate.
  8. Enjoy.

Details

Sorachi Ace Clone, a dry hopped saison brewed in conjunction with Ritchie Brewing

Original Gravity 1.074
Final Gravity 1.008
ABV 8.7%
Attenuation 88.5%
IBU 35
SRM 2.8
Links Untappd
Flickr
  1. The 10 oz. was split up into 2 oz. packs that were distributed for the five 4 gallon portions. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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