Nick Carr on July 13, 2017 4 Comments History of Sorachi Ace Hops Sorachi Ace is probably best known for its use in Brooklyn Brewing Company’s Saison, which is named for the hop. It is a Japanese variety invented by Dr. Yoshitada Mori, while working for Sapporo Breweries. The breeding program started in the late 70s with the goal of a hop with the character of the noble Saaz variety, but with a higher alpha acid content. Saaz and Brewer’s Gold were crossed. The offspring was then crossed with a Beikei No. 2 male (a Japanese variety I can find no information on). Buy Sorachi Ace Hops on Amazon The result was not exactly what the breeders had hoped. While alpha acid content did increase and co-humulone levels are almost identical to Saaz, the aroma and flavor were not exactly noble. In fact, the Brooklyn Brewery writes, the “hop was deemed odd.” It was released in 1984. It was grown for a while in Japan and on some Sapporo owned hop farms in China, but the company didn’t use the hop much and it remained widely unknown in the brewing world. In 1994, the USDA obtained some rhizomes and did research plantings at the Oregon State University hop research farm in Corvallis. In 2002, Darren Gamache of Virgil Gamache Hop Farms in Washington found the variety while searching the USDA germplasm repository at Prosser. The farm has a history of bucking trends and planting varieties other farms in the state avoid. They took a chance, planted the discovered hop, and in 2006 Sorachi Ace was released for commercial use in the U.S. A year later, Sorachi Ace got some long overdue notice during the 2007-2008 hop shortage. Those craft breweries without long-term hop contracts scrabbled to find a suitable high-alpha substitute to replace regularly used varieties. The much overlooked Sorachi Ace variety was one such replacement. In 2009, Brooklyn Brewing Company came out with their Sorachi Ace Farmhouse Saison, bringing even more acclaim to the variety’s strange combination of characteristics. Sorachi Ace remains a small-time player in the hop market. It is grown in limited quantities and only in the U.S. It is noted here that there is a possibility of a buttery off flavor when this variety is not oasted (dried) and stored correctly. Add this to the already strange flavors, and Sorachi Ace has much stacked against it. But, it’s odd character is also what fuels its allure for many craft and home brewers. How to Grow & Brew With Sorachi Ace Hops If you plan on growing hops in your backyard, we would make a few recommendations to help you in your endeavors. Before you choose the variety you want to grow, it is a good idea to talk to other local growers or possibly someone at your local homebrew supply store. They may be able to point you toward varieties that grow well in your area. Acid Composition Breakdown Alpha Acid: 11.5 – 16% Beta Acid: 6 – 7.5% Co-Humulone: 23 – 28% Oil Composition Breakdown Total Oils: 1.5 – 3.0 mL/100g Myrcene Oil: 44 – 55% (of total) Humulene Oil: 20 – 26% (of total) Caryophyllene Oil: 7 – 11% (of total) Franesene Oil: 2 – 5% (of total) B-Pinene Oil: 0.5 – 0.8% (of total) Linalool Oil: 0.3 – 0.5% (of total) Geraniol Oil: 0.1 – 0.5% (of total) Sorachi Ace is a non-patented variety and rhizomes are available to buy during the spring season. This variety tends to grow much differently in the U.S. than it does in Japan (smaller yield, lower percentage of alpha acid). General Characteristics: Growth Rate — Vigorous; smaller plant with finer growth. Yield — Fair to Good (Average; 1,200 to 1,500 lbs/acre) Reportedly much higher in Japan. Cones — ? Maturity — Mid to Late Season. Susceptible to — ? Resistant to — Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew, Wilt, and Botrytis (Grey Mold). Ease of Harvest — ? Storage — Fair to Good. Sensory Description: Sorachi Ace presents a strange combination of characteristics. Notes of Lemon peel, lemon curd, and lemon grass create what is described as a boldly lemon character. Along with the lemon comes a quality most often recognized as dill, but can also present with spicy elements of coriander, tea, and/or spearmint. The background has an oaky or woody cedar note. Bittering is clean. Available: It’s likely you can find Sorachi Ace hops at your local homebrew shop. If not, they are available online, through larger home brewing outlets and Amazon. Note: These hops are U.S. grown and will have an alpha-acid content at the lower end of the possible range. Use: Sorachi Ace has enough versatility to be a good dual-purpose variety, but it is most often put to work on the bittering end of the boil. Using Sorachi Ace as a bittering addition may get rid of much of the dill-like flavor some drinkers find unpleasant. The dill flavor/aroma is due to the high amount of carvone oil in this variety. Carvone can also give an impression of spearmint, thou the dill component tends be stronger. There may be enough mercene oil to get some residual lemon flavors even when used at the beginning of the boil. If using this variety for bittering refrain from using hops with high amounts of co-humuline in the later additions as the sulfur-like notes (catty, garlic-like, etc.) will overwhelm any residual lemon flavors. Late additions and dry hopping can bring on interesting and complex characters (just drink the Sorachi Ace Saison to get an idea), but be judicious in your quantities. Without the boil to get rid of some of the carvone, the dill-like note may become unpleasant. Can Substitute With/For These Hops: There are no good substitutes for Sorachi Ace, but those listed below carry some of the same chemical profile and/or character. Each hop variety is unique in some way, so if you do substitute one of these varieties, it’s important to know that you will not get the exact same beer you’d get using Sorachi Ace hops. Warrior Motueka Simcoe Southern Cross Glacier Common Beer Styles Using Sorachi Ace Hops: The bold lemon notes would work well in lighter summer beers and the possible hints of coriander speak to many wheat styles; and both of these characteristics make it an easy choice for Saison and other Farmhouse styles. While, it’s high alpha-acid gives it a place in IPAs. Wheat Styles Golden Ales Pale Ales & IPAs Saisons Tripels Bière de Garde Commercial Examples: To help you gain a better idea this hop’s aroma and flavor I would recommend you sample as many of these as you can find. This, ummm… research will deepen your understanding of how Sorachi Ace works in different beer styles and give you a better idea of how to use it in your own homebrewing. Uses Only Sorachi Ace: Sorachi Ace Saison from Brooklyn Brewing Company Nipponia from Hitachino Nest Brewing Company Crane Kick from Parallel 49 Brewing Company (rare) Ace of Base from Feral Brewing Company Ace of Hokkaido from Central City Brewing Company Sorachi Ace Cider from Potter’s Craft Cider Combines Sorachi Ace With Other Varieties: Ace Hole Pale Ale from Marshall Wharf Brewing Company — Also uses Citra. Neon Gypsy from Du Claw Brewing Company — Also uses Columbus. Simcoe, Chinook, Amarillo, Citra, and Nelson Sauvin. Jet Black Heart from Brew Dog Brewing Company — Also uses Magnum. Spring Pale from Allendale Brewery — Also uses Summit, Pacific Jade, Mosaic, Saaz, and Target. White IPA from Stevens Point Brewing Company — Also uses Palisade. Lemon & Grassy from The Hop Concept Brewing Company — Also uses Galena, Brewers Gold, Comet, Lemon Drop, and Nelson. Oath from Backlash Brewing Company — Also uses Citra.