The Sorachi Ace hails from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. This region of the Pacific Northwest is known mostly for its vineyards and wineries. Much like grapes, hops depend heavily on the climate in which they grow. The moderate temperatures in this area make for ideal conditions for the growth of amazing aroma-type hops. The terroir also contributes to much bigger harvests than other hop growing regions.
Schlafly’s relationship with Crosby Farms started years ago when they were helping us to process some of our raw hop cones into a more efficient form. In 2015, some of the Schlafly brewers went to visit Crosby Farms and ended up giving some of their hops the “rub and sniff” test. From there, some hops were picked to trial, the Sorachi Ace being one of them.
“We haven’t ever used the Sorachi Ace. This trial is really meant for us as brewers to understand what kind of flavors and aromas we can pull from the hop,” notes Head of Brewing Operations, Emily Parker. She also notes that she expects to pull mostly fruit and herbal aromas, but to be sure a trial is being done.
Hops (humulus lupulus) grow from a large climbing vine, that usually hangs from a trellis or support wire. In the best climates and conditions, hop vines can grow almost 25 feet in one season. The hop cone itself is actually the flower of the plant. Hop cones grow only on female plants, while the males are used only for creating hybrids. These cones are where the lupulin glands are located. The lupulin glands give the hops their different aromas and flavor profiles.
The Sorachi Ace hop is a dual purpose hop, meaning it can be used for both flavor and aromas. The hop was originally bred in Japan during the mid-80s. It is a cross between Brewer’s Gold, Saaz, and Beikei Number 2. It has higher levels of alpha-acids, clocking in between eleven and fourteen percent. The hop is medium to long in length with long petals that hold tightly to the cone.
Being based in the Midwest, Schlafly’s relationship with farmers is natural, yet unique in the craft beer industry. We work directly with those that grow our ingredients. Due to these relationships, Schlafly is often asked by the hop growers to provide feedback about how the hop performs in the brewing process. They want to learn what aromas are released, what flavors develop as the hop is boiled.
As this became a repeated request, Schlafly has developed a standard approach to trialing hops. We brew what is called a SMaSH, or Single Malt and Single Hop beer. The only variable in the brew is changing out one sole ingredient, the hop. The same amount of hops are used in each brew (32lbs), these are added at the same time (beginning of the boil) and the same malt is used. This allows us to isolate the changes to the beer in from the hop. Thus, a Hop Trial.