Nicholas Aakre

A guy in DC blogging about his homebrewing and other exploits.

Saison v.4 Review

Hello again everybody! Around the end of May I bottled half of my saison and put the other half on raspberries. I’ll sit down and do a review of my raspberry version in the near future, but it’s time for the base saison.

  • Appearance - The beer has a red-orange color with a cream colored head. The head is very bubbly on the pour, but it settles down to a smooth and persistent quality.
  • Aroma - The Belle Saison yeast take center stage here. Peppery aroma with some sweetness in the background
  • Taste - A bit of malt sweetness comes through, but not too much. Pepper flavors still present. Not much hop flavor at all.
  • Mouthfeel - Despite the malt coming through it maintains a lightness  on the tongue. It seems crisper with small, quick sips. Holding the sip a little longer brings out the malt flavors more.

When I compare this to my previous review of this recipe it seems I had similar comments. I’ll consider having a bit of consistency for a given recipe a success. It seems like any hop flavors didn’t come through this time around. That could be a function of using a different yeast. Like last time, I should consider using slightly less malt.

Overall, I’m still very happy with this recipe and enjoy drinking and sharing every bottle.

Until next time, cheers!

(Raspberry) Saison v.4

With the pipeline of my Citra Pale Ale starting to run low, I thought brewing over the weekend was in order. With spring full swing and warmer weather becoming more frequent, it’s a perfect time for my saison recipe. This is the fourth iteration of this brew with small tweaks each time around. A new yeast gets a chance compared to the third version. The recipe:


Briess DME Golden Light (6 lbs.)
Belgian Caravienne (aka Cara 20) (1 lb.)


(60 min) New Zealand Motueka – 7.5% alpha (1 oz.)


Danstar Belle Saison

I’m a big fan of Wyeast French Saison (3711) for this brew and in general, but the homebrew shop doesn’t carry Wyeast products. This was suggested as the closest alternative. It’s fermenting nicely so far although a little cooler than I’d like because the weather hasn’t been as warm as I was expecting.

Once this finishes fermenting, I’ll split the batch and put half of it on raspberries in secondary and bottle the rest. Although I like the raspberry version the best and would gladly prefer 5 gallons of it, I split this batch because I want to taste the baseline of the beer as well.


American Pale Ale: Citra Edition Review

Greetings readers! It’s been a few weeks (or a month) since I bottled my latest batch. The first version of that recipe suffered from a foamy pour, a bit too malty, and a harsh alcohol taste. To alleviate those problems, I toned down the malt extract amount, changed the hop schedule (and hops!), and primed with slightly less sugar (3.5 oz.). So let’s go down this 5.0% ABV rabbit hole:

  • Appearance - It’s a nice dark golden color with a white head. It doesn’t foam up excessively like the previous version did. This particular bottle I’m critiquing didn’t get much of a head, but I poured it a bit too gently. Other bottles have poured beautifully.
  • Aroma - The Citra hops give a nice aroma. Fruity, slightly sweet, with a bit of a tang at the end of the nose. The malt or yeast don’t seem to be very present here, but that’s perfectly fine in my opinion. Pale ales should showcase the hops.
  • Taste - The citra gets the ball rolling with a bit of tangy grapefruit. This doesn’t linger too long though and soon gives way to a lightly malty sweet finish. With the hop bitterness remaining throughout.
  • Mouthfeel - I think that this beer is versatile enough to handle the multitudes of spring weather, straddling that middle ground. It can be light enough to be refreshing on those warm days, but also provide a bit of warmth and comfort on those rainy, chilly ones.

Overall, I think this is an improvement over my first iteration of this recipe as it doesn’t suffer from the major flaws I identified in the first batch. So in that regard it’s a resounding success! From here, I think it’s smaller tweaks to make it better. It’s not perfect, but that just means there’s room for improvement.

Until next time, cheers!

A Look at World Series Winners

Michael Lewis’ bestselling book, Moneyball chronicled Oakland GM Billy Beane and the Athletics’ 2002 season. That season they won American League West division with a record of 103-59. In the seven seasons 2000 to 2006, Oakland averaged 95 wins per season and qualified for the playoffs five times. Since 2000, Only three teams have qualified for the post season more times than the Athletics.

Yet, to paraphrase Brad Pitt in the movie adaptation, “if you don’t win the last game, no one gives a shit.” Billy Beane himself said, “My s—- doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is f—-ing luck.” Considering that Oakland has only advanced past the ALDS just once since 2000, it seems that Mr. Beane is right.

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American Pale Ale: Citra Edition

Over the weekend, I brewed my first batch of the new year. I’m expecting this to be ready around mid-March so I think something crisper with a bit of a hop bite would be nice. I decided to make another attempt at the American Pale Ale I tried last year. According to my review of that batch, it suffered from a very foamy pour. That never went away. Other (unpublished) notes said that it was maybe too far on the malty side and it became a little harsh. So armed with that, I made some tweaks and headed up to 3 Stars Brewery to pick up supplies. The recipe:


6.0 lbs. Briess Golden Light DME


0.5 oz. Citra (60 min)
0.5 oz. Citra (20 min)
0.5 oz. Citra (10 min)
0.5 oz. Citra (5 min)


Safale US-05

The homebrew shop had a special on Citra so I figured this was a good time to give this hop a try. I lowered the grain bill from the previous recipe and changed the hop schedule slightly to provide the same number of IBUs as the previous batch.

The yeast are now working their magic.

Until next time. Cheers!

Christmas Spiced Ale Review

Happy New Year! It’s been quite some time since my last review. Almost two months! Now that the holidays are over I found a little time to do a review of my latest batch. I primed this batch wtih 3.0 oz. of sugar. At bottling, the pumpkin pie favor subdued tremendously, making it much more palatable I think. After fermentation, it weighed in at 6.15% ABV.

I’ve been able to share this with a few friends and also brought a few bottles home for my parents. I didn’t write down their thoughts, but from what I remember, my friends didn’t pick out any spice flavors. I found that interesting because they were tasting it at its freshest. Although, they were drinking it straight out of the bottle so I think that played a role. I think drinking out of the bottle mutes some of the flavors because you can’t get as much of the nose.

Appearance - Fairly clear with a dark golden color bordering on orange. Some particulates. White head with little lacing.

Aroma - Faint spice aroma surrounded by malt sweetness.

Flavor - Spices take a bit more of the stage here than in the nose. I think ginger is flavor that’s easiest to pick out.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is just about perfect with the bubbles dancing on my tongue and helping the spices pop a little.

Overall - I think this was a good first attempt at some sort of winter spice seasonal. The spice schedule should be tweaked, but as it stands, it’s an enjoyable glass.

This was my first batch where I added spices in the boil as opposed to in secondary or at bottling. This was definitely the most successful batch to date incorporating some sort of spice flavor so I think I will be adding spices at the boil from now on. If I try this again, I’ll tweak the spices a little to see if I can improve the flavor profile. But this was a good learning experience for utilizing spices in my small brewing repertoire.

P.S. Just before I left to go home for Christmas, I found 1.0 oz. of Motueka hops in the back of my fridge. Why I have extra hops, I have no idea, but I will try to utilize them for my next brew.

Until next time. Cheers!

Christmas Spiced Ale

With the shutdown concluding its second week, I’ve had a bit of time on my hands. And with the holidays coming up, I figure it’s time to brew something for the holiday season. The past couple of years I’ve used this time of the year to develop a porter recipe. But this year I decided to do something different. A spiced ale for Christmas. Although I’ve added spices in previous batches. This is the first time that I’ve remembered to add them at the end of the boil in an attempt to get them a bit more front and center. So after some very cursory research and a basic idea of what I needed I biked up to 3 Stars to pick up ingredients for tonight’s brew.

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Pumpkin Ale Review

What’s this? Two reviews in the span of a week? Well I had a two beer backlog and I’m catching up now. Christmas come early for you, gentle reader!

Last month I bottled my pumpkin ale using 3.0 ounces of priming sugar. This is my first attempt at the style and it wasn’t without a hiccup or two. Most notably, I forgot to add the pumpkin pie spice at flameout. Instead, I made a spice tea and added it at bottling time. From what I’ve read, it makes no difference in the flavor. Take that for what you will.

Aroma - Nothing overpowering. Slight pumpkin and malt aromas.

Appearance - Cloudy with a deep orange hue and a cream-colored head. The head dissipates quickly and you have to pour somewhat violently to generate one.

Flavor - Pumpkin flavor is prominent with a bit of malt in the background. Spices are a subtler. The pumpkin flavor is more akin to the “vegetable-ness” of pumpkin rather than a “pie-ness”.

MouthfeeI - Carbonation is just about ideal considering its malt level and pumpkin flavor.

Overall - I typically don’t drink pumpkin beers (probably on account that they are so seasonal), so I’m going into this without some sort of ideal to reach for. If I’m brutally honest, I’m not wowed by this beer. I think I’d like a sweeter more pie-like beer if pumpkin is going to be the showcase. Alternatively, maybe better utilization of spices (and perhaps different ones) yielding something along the lines of a “harvest ale” would also be good. It’s solid and grows a bit on me after a while.

That concludes the backlog I had and now I need to brew again. Normally I would do a porter, but I’m considering to a spiced ale. A Christmas Cream Ale perhaps? I should get working on that so it will be ready by the holidays.


Raspberry Saison (v.3) Review

Hello friends! It’s been quite some time since I’ve last shared my homebrewing adventures with you all out there in the ‘tubes. The reasons for that laziness and a lack of perceived time on my part. But now that the federal government shut down, I’ve got all the time in the world and I’m going to share some of it with you.

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