Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tasting/Recipe : E-C-K-E-S No. 7

Ah, the freedom of formulating your own recipe! There’s nothing like actually starting a recipe from scratch: having an end product in your mind, and putting together the right grain bill, hop additions, yeast strain, etc. etc., and having it turn out just as good, or even better, than you had hoped.

And, of course, there’s a flip-side. Putting all that thought and work into a beer, and having a big disappointment when you finally take that first sip. E-C-K-E-S No. 7, an American Pale Ale whose name I won’t even begin to try to explain, is that type of beer for me.

Back in September, I was ready to brew another APA. I always like to have at least one APA on hand... the good ones are flavorful, hoppy, bitter but not overly-so, and with an ABV that generally shouldn’t knock you out after one pint. I had a surplus of hops left over from a bulk order a while back, and wanted to use a couple of newer varieties that haven’t been out for too long. One of these was Citra, a high-alpha acid hop that is known for its intense citrusy aroma. The other was Sorachi Ace, which has been available in Japan for quite some time, but is relatively new to the U.S. and Canada. Also quite high-alpha acid, it has a unique lemongrass, lemon-peel aroma and flavor. In terms of the malt bill, generally I wanted to keep it fairly simple, but hopefully with enough character so that the hops wouldn’t COMPLETELY dominate.

Looking back, it seems pretty obvious now that any beer that uses two “intense” hops in equal amounts may have some problems, and that’s how this beer comes across to me. I can never really place exactly what it is, but every time I smell it or taste it, the citrus and lemongrass seem to be fighting against, instead of complementing, each other. Of course it’s entirely possible that I screwed up somewhere in the process, but I followed the usual routine that I use, had a clean fermentation from what I could tell, used a fairly neutral American Ale yeast... not sure. It’s definitely a shame, as I like both of these hops when I’ve had commercial beers that have specifically put one or the other front-and-center. Maybe they just weren’t meant to be combined! Still, it was an interesting experiment to say the least, and the beer certainly isn’t undrinkable... in fact, some people who have tried it actually enjoyed it. But in the end I definitely won’t duplicate this recipe again, or even likely use Citra and Sorachi Ace hops in the same beer.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, white, creamy head that exhibits pretty good retention. Fades slowly to 1/2-finger. Body is dark gold/light copper, with good clarity.

Aroma: Very strong citrusy hop aroma... orange, mango, grapefruit... and the lemongrass is pushing in there, too.

Taste: Strong hop flavor, again, very orangey and citrusy, and then, again, the lemongrass, ultimately giving an odd, half-sweet, half-fruity flavor. Low malt presence... maybe a bit grainy. Moderate bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: Definitely a very hoppy (but not overly bitter) APA... as I mentioned above, ultimately I’m disappointed with the flavor clash. I think it would have been better just showcasing ONE of the two hops, and maybe using a more-neutral, earthy hop in the background. However, I’ve made worse beers... I DO like how the fermentation finished clean, and there’s no off-flavors that I can detect.

Recipe: (5.5 gallons, 78% efficiency): OG 1.055, FG 1.012, IBU 37.5, SRM 7.6

2.05 kg Canadian 2-row
2.05 kg Maris Otter
227 g Wheat malt
227 g Victory malt
227 g Caramunich II (45 L)

Magnum - 6 g (9.4 % AA) @ 60 min
Sorachi Ace - 28 g (9.5% AA) @ 10 min
Citra - 28 g (10.3% AA) @ 10 min
Sorachi Ace & Citra - 14 g each @ 5 min
Sorachi Ace & Citra - 28 g each @ 0 min
Sorachi Ace & Citra - 42 g each dry-hop for 7 days

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale (PD July 19/11) (with a 1.75 L starter)

- Brewed Sept 6, 2011, by myself. 60 minute mash with 15.75 L of strike water, mashed in at 154 F. Sparged with ~5 gallons of 170 F water for final volume of 6.75 gallons in the kettle. 60 minute boil.

- Chilled down to 66 F with immersion chiller and pump with ice water. Poured and filtered into Better Bottle. Pitched decanted yeast starter, aerating by shaking for several minutes before and after.

- Active fermentation for several day, temp getting up to 72 F. After 3 weeks, racked to 5-gallon secondary fermenter, and dry-hopped as indicated. Set fermenter in fermentation chamber with temp set to 50 F to cool-crash.

- Bottled with 122 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons. Also added ~1/4 pack of rehydrated Nottingham yeast.


  1. Interesting use of hops. And, I really enjoy reading your blog (nice work). I wouldn't give up on Sorachi Ace and Citra together. Instead, you might try using them in more of a complimentary addition scheme. Something like 10m Sorachi, 5m Citra, flameout sorachi, whirlpool/steep w/ citra only - and then use two dry hop schedules - 5 days with sorachi and a second dry hop with Citra. And I'd go larger additions on the dry hops - maybe like 3oz. citra / 2oz. Sorachi. Now I'm curious about doing this and you've got me thinking....perhaps I'll make one with these. I've only used Sorachi in Saisons. Never tried it in a pale ale or IPA.

    1. Hey, thanks for reading! And thanks for the suggestions... sounds like a good idea to me. I have a lot of beers to brew in the pipeline, but I still have 5-6 oz of Sorachi Ace as well, so maybe I'll revisit this beer again and try something along your lines. If you brew something similar, let me know how it turns out!