Nicholas Aakre

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

APA: Amarillo Review

One of the things that I like about homebrewing is that I learn something each batch. I can then take those lessons and hopefully make future brews better. While I tweak most of my recipes in a quest of some perfect ideal, my pale ale recipe has become an explicit testing ground. Specifically, it gives me an opportunity to try various hops and experience their aromas and flavors. Amarillo was showcased this time around.

  • Appearance - It pours a dark golden/light orange color with a white head. Some bottles have had a nice head on the pour, some with out much. When there, it dissipates at a moderate pace. Seems to be identical to the Citra version.
  • Aroma - AMARILLO HOPS! They take center stage and have no shame flooding the nose with their grapefuit, lime, and lemon aromas.
  • Taste - The citrus flavors of the hops share the space well. Some sips I taste more grapfruit. On others, lime is the dominant flavor. The malt stays in the background through the finish
  • Mouthfeel - Medium-high carbonation cuts through any maltiness and keeps the beer light enough to allow the hops to shine the whole way.

I learned that Amarillo is a very bold hop that can very easily dominate the beer if you let it. If you’re into grapefruit, lime, and citrus flavors (and I am) this is a great hop to try.

Until next time, Cheers!

Belgian Dubbel (v.1)

I spent part of my Columbus Day holiday brewing. After brewing a string of “lighter” styles for the summer, I decided I wanted to brew something darker and heavier. But what? I went to brew shop with not much more than that idea. I thought taking another stab at my porter recipe, but I’m not sure what tweaks I want for it. Instead, I decided to try my hand at a belgian dubbel. The brew shop had an all-grain dubbel recipe so I used that to generate an extract version on the fly. Here’s what I came up with:


7.0 lbs. Briess Golden Light DME
1.0 lb. Dark Belgian Candy Sugar

Specialty Grains

1.0 lbs. Caravienne 120L


1.0 oz. Saaz (60 min)
1.0 oz. Saaz (15 min)


White Labs Belgian Abbey IV (WLP540)

This brew session was a bit of an adventure to start. As I was putting the specialty grains in the steeping bag, I accidentally spilled some of them right in to the brew pot. Boiling the husks can extract tannins and make the beer astringent, so they had to be removed somehow. After the steep I dumped out the grains from the steeping bag and then poured about 3 gallons of pre-wort into 1 gallon cider jugs that I had lying around using the bag as a strainer over the funnel. It took some effort, but I think it worked out well.

Everything after that went smoothly. The yeast are working their magic so we’ll see how this turns out in a few months.


Cherry Saison Review

Earlier this summer, I was asked by a couple of friends who were getting married if I would brew them a batch of beer for their wedding. I accepted and this is what I brewed. The recipe is identical to the saison I brewed and reviewed earlier but with the exception of raspberries, I added 4.5 pounds of sweet cherries to the 5 gallons. I was actually a little unsure if cherries were going to work and thought about calling an audible at the grocery store getting raspberries instead. As it happened, perhaps sealed by fate, they were out of raspberries so I ended up with cherries as I originally planned.

If only I understood the Universe’s ways…

  • Appearance - The beer poured with a reddish-orange hue and a bubbly, off-white colored head. This is identical to the base and raspberry versions. The head on this beer, however, dissipated quickly in contrast to the previous iterations.
  • Aroma - Unsurprisingly, the aroma is closer to the raspberry saison than the base saison. The fruit aroma is in the forefront with the pepper saison notes from the yeast filling in the background.
  • Taste - Cherries are present giving a different play on the beer than the raspberries. The cherries provide a sweeter flavor that provides a counterpoint to the peppery yeast notes rather than the raspberry tartness complimenting it.
  • Mouthfeel - Carbonation is medium, but the cherry juices seem to give a silkier and thinner aspect to the beer as it sits on the tounge. This is, I think, the biggest contrast to the other versions.

Overall, I think it turned out pretty good and it was a big hit amongst the happy couple. I still prefer the raspberry and base versions to the cherry addition, but this gave me a little more knowledge on the effects of various fruit additions.

Until next time, Cheers!

American Pale Ale: Amarillo Edition

Last week was a fairly busy week on the brewing front. After finally providing a review of the raspberry saison, I biked up to the homebrew shop to pick up ingredients for my next brew. I decided on doing another American Pale Ale, this time with with Amarillo hops.

I’ve decided to use this recipe as a base for single hop experimentation. I think doing these single hop brews will help me grow as a brewer by getting a better understanding on how various hops smell, taste, and contribute to a beer. I forgot to take a gravity sample, but since I used extract it should be approximately 1.050.


6 lbs. of Briess Golden Light DME


0.5 oz. Amarillo (60 min)
0.5 oz. Amarillo (30 min)
0.5 oz. Amarillo (10 min)
0.5 oz. Amarillo (5 min)


Safale US-05

Raspberry Saison v.4 Review


I entered my raspberry saison in the DC State Fair last year and didn’t score well. I am the first to admit that particular iteration wasn’t my best effort, and I walked away with a bit more knowledge on how to make this beer better.

Yesterday DC Homebrewers meeting provided an opportunity to redeem this beer. I am happy to say that my fellow brewers loved this beer, saying it had a good raspberry aroma and taste, but was still balanced in relation to the malt and yeast flavors in the beer. I’ll call that a success!

  • Appearance - The beer pours a redish orange color with a nice off-white colored head. Like the base version, the head is very bubbly on the pour, but it settles down to a smooth and persistent quality.
  • Aroma - Raspberries are in the forefront here. Hiding behind the raspberries are the pepper notes from the Belle Saison yeast.
  • Taste - The raspberries share the stage here. Malt sweetness compliments the tartness of the raspberries. There’s a wonderful fruitiness in the front and becomes more tart at the finish. The tartness might be a little too harsh. I’ll have to keep a note of how this may change as the beer ages.
  • Mouthfeel - I think the raspberries add enough sweetness to give a bit heftier mouthfeel than the base saison, but it still is light enough to be refreshing on a hot summers day. Carbonation is medium-high which keeps the flavors dancing on the tongue.

The return of fresh raspberries is definitely an improvement. The sourness that I noted in the previous version is no longer there. I’m very happy that I was able to return this beer to its former glory and that everyone that has tasted it so far seems to agree.

Until next time, cheers!

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.

Read More

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!