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Fête Des Nationalites 2012

Each year the Comité des Fêtes hosts an evening soiree to celebrate the diversity of the nationalities of the residents of Gourgé.  There are 12 different nationalities – French, English, Scottish, Portuguese, Mexican, Australian, Dutch, Turkish, Spanish, German, American and Romanian.

The first soiree held was three years ago and was an introduction to all the varied cultures.

The drinks and meal were all Dutch based.

Last year was the turn of the Mexicans.  There was a slide show highlighting the  country,  culture and  famous sights.  Margaritas,  Mezcal and a traditional Mexican honey based drink – Xtabentún – were served as pre drinks.  The meal consisted of Quesadillas,  Tortillas, Mole, Frijoles and other spicy delicacies.  All enjoyed to the sounds of Samba and a little bossanova !  After the meal some individuals gave a little turn by singing a song or doing a little dance.  At this point we left but were later informed the evening didn’t really finish until 0430!

Now to 2012 – the turn of the English !

Adrian volunteered to do a presentation on the history of British beer, brewing, pubs and he made a selection of traditional beers for sampling.

The car was loaded up with beer, a projection screen, laptops, various malts, hops and various other beery paraphernalia.


We had a selection of malts on hand for the show’n’tell.

fete-03 - Barley selection

An old gentleman came up and after asking a few questions about the different malts, he recounted his story of wartime occupied France when there was no coffee available – he told us how they used to roast malted barley at home to make a powder to make a coffee substitute.

He had slightly moist eyes at the end of the tale – quite lovely.

fete-03 - Hops

Adrian brought hops from New Zealand, Slovenia and… Blighty!

All quite different and one of them was outrageously skunky.

fete-04 - the small screen glasses and books

On the small screens we had a little running gallery of beer related pictures.

Ancient pubs, drayhorses, beer engines for hand pulled pints. It was suprisingly popular.

A little selection of brewing and beer history books and an introduction to the best drinking vessel in the world. A 568ml dimpled pot! Enough to make a grown man cry.

fete-05 - samples on offer

All the tasters laid out.  In this shot… from the back… our Timothy Taylor clone, an ancient 1750’s London porter, 1840’s IPA and a contemporary recreation of an oatmeal stout clone from Samuel Smiths in Tadcaster.

fete-06 - mrs fod gives good head

The  Oatmeal stout … a big surprise for everyone that tasted it.  Adrian had also germinated some barley to show where the sugars originated from and where his photo publishing debut was inspired from !

fete-07 - IPA to die for

Adrian’s IPA.  There were a few ‘WOW’s and a few people who have no doubt never had anything that bitter in their mouths before!

fete-08 - crowds take their places for dinner

Crowds take their places for supper.  Starter – Mulligatawny soup.  Main – Hot pot, potatoes and carrots with swede.  Desert – Trifle, Victoria Sponge Cake or Banoffee Pie.  Cheese – Jacobs Crackers with  4 different cheeses including Cheddar and Wensleydale. Tea or Coffee.

A lot of elderly people in the village turned out. They didn’t stay for the singing and the dancing.  We left around 0130 as the night was winding down.

fete-09 - god save king george
Other presentations were of the Royal Family past and present with wedding memorabilia from the  most recent royal wedding. A bowler and top hat adorned one table and I had created a slide show of all things British projected onto the screen throughout the evening.  From red telephone boxes to cornish pasties, The Angel of the North to full english breakfasts, Wimbledon to Churchill and many many more.

All in all a very enjoyable evening and hopefully a little eye opener for our French friends and hosts.

Next year – the nationality will be  …. French – not sure what to expect !!








The Oxford Companion to Beer

Something of a red letter day at Chez Bellebouche this afternoon. The culmination of a long long wait… my publishing debut!




Jack-O-Lantern Ale

Recipe for my Jack-O-Lantern Belgian Pale Ale with added goodies.


Please look after this beer.

.. or a tale of a Peruvian Imperial Stout!

The accepted style is properly called a Russian Imperial Stout but my recipe includes a few twists and turns… inspired by Paddington Bear! He’s from darkest Peru you know!

But first, some back story. My colleague, weekday house-mate and Tuesday night yoga-muse Frances is connected in Manchester brewery circles. So, I was gifted a bottle of Decadence from the Marble Brewery.

I’m normally all about brewing quantities of lower alcohol beers and fly the flag for traditional English ales here on the mainland but the challenge was there… could I knock up a Russian Imperial… and more so… could I make it my own with a few subtle additions? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Down to the recipe and the method. CAUTION.. it all gets black and sticky from here on in.

Brewday follows my usual pattern, I run around in disarray for 30 mins getting my rig together and then a natural rhythm develops. It’s always exciting. It’s the perfect match of chemistry, craft, romanticism and alchemy. The grains are ground and I do the maths on the volumes, crunch the numbers and pull together a schedule. Plan the chemistry and then.. sit and wait whilst the water, enzymes and a bit of magic turns the starches into sugars. In devising a unique recipe I’d decided to go for…

  • Strong malt characteristics
  • Minimal overt bitterness from the dark roasted grains
  • A thick mouthfeel – brought on by a high mash temperature and large amount of non fermentable dextrins.
  • A solid bitter background from earthy and subtly aromatic hops
  • A touch of citrus aromatics from the marmalade
  • A background herbal note from the rosemary.

So, the pics…

The Grist was deathly grey looking. First, surprise of the day but I guess not too unexpected – it was FULL of dark stuff.


Grist for Imperial Stout

I had to scale back the recipe to aim for a 19l finish. Even so, I brimmed my 25 litre mashtun. Time for a new one. This was 20litres of strike water on 7.4Kg of grains.


Dough in for cappucino

Just enough space for my Sekrit Peruvian Bears Favourite Ingredient!


Marmalade for Imperial Stout

A little wort recirculation courtesy of my totton pump. Brighter, clearer, better sugar extraction. That inky black is a taste of things to come…


Imperial Stout Wort Recirculation

None more black.


first runnings

I normally track my gravities as I’m extracting. The colour usually fades off as the OG drops. Not this time. The colour stayed inky filthy black. Lovely! My herbal kick in the tail (tale!) was on standby for the boil.


Secret Ingredients

Numbers were good – ultra sticky all day.


First running OG – 1082

So, the recipe. I refined my hop choice and downgraded the grain bill after my initial stab at the recipe.

Peruvian Imperial Stout
Batch Size (L): 19.0

Total Grain (kg): 7.356
Total Hops (g): 69.00
Original Gravity (OG): 1.080 (°P): 19.3
Colour (SRM): 78.3 (EBC): 154.3
Bitterness (IBU): 63.3 (Average)
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 67
Boil Time (Minutes): 60

Grain Bill

5.000 kg Maris Otter Malt (67.97%)
0.800 kg Crystal 80 (10.88%)
0.400 kg Jar of home made bitter orange Marmalade (5.44%)
0.248 kg Biscuit (3.37%)
0.248 kg Flaked Rye (3.37%)
0.192 kg Wheat Malt (2.61%)
0.185 kg Chocolate (2.51%)
0.100 kg Black Roasted Barley (1.36%)
0.100 kg Chocolate, Pale (1.36%)
0.083 kg Rye – Dark roasted coffee flavour (1.13%)

Hop Bill
30.0 g Cascade Leaf (6.3% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil) (1.6 g/L)
39.0 g Northern Brewer Leaf (9.6% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil) (2.1 g/L)

Misc Bill
5.0 g Epsom Salt (MgSO4) @ 0 Minutes (Mash)
5.0 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ 0 Minutes (Mash)
10.0 g Rosemary @ 8 Minutes (Boil)

Single step Infusion at 68°C for 88 Minutes. Here’s the XML recipe for Beersmith/brewmate

Fermented at 20°C with Safale S-04

My efficiency was so high I decided on a second runoff of a parti-gyle brew.  My ‘Baby Bear’ second brew is in the Cascadian Dark Ale style and hopped wildly.

After all that, a glass of my Amarillo SMaSh. Making beer is thirsty work.


Amarillo Smash

AHA Big Brew Day 2010

What fun! Finally collapsed into bed at 11pm last night shattered after a long day making (and drinking!) beer. Our portes-ouvertes for friends and family as part of the AHA Big brew-day was a bit of a giggle. 16 people fed and watered and we made Scottish 80/- Beer.

Big Brew - Ingredients table

From grain to glass

First off, set out your stall. I made a small table showing the whole process of malt manufacture – from germinating barley, through to kilning and the assorted building blocks of flavour that come from the different roasts.

Home made crystal malt is in the mill, to the back the large white pale contains 20 litres of an English Mild ale that dad and I made together earlier in the week. We’d gathered loads of hops from the nearby river last year and they went into that brew. It was bubbling away merrily.

Jars of malted barley

Assorted malted grains

Outdoor brewing rig

Brassage dans le jardin

The rig set up and ready to brew.

Outdoors brewing is much more carefree than doing it in the kitchen! No bother with splashes and steam. Left to right. Finest Charentaise water from the Lac du Cebron. 50 litre boil vessel on loan from my brew-buddy Yann is sat on top of my xmas pressie – a 10kw gas burner. The staging is holding all the brew paraphernalia and sat on top are my milled grains, mash-tun and fermentation vessel.

The Garden was set up with catering, chill-out area, brew theatre, clothes-line, bar and educational tableau – we had it all!

The scene is set for garden brewing

All ready to go

Visitors having a bit of a demo


First guests arive and get the grand tour

Mashed in, the wort is having a 1 hour rest

Insulated mashtun = Coolerbox and Jackets!

Once we’ve mashed in the grains with the initial strike water it gets left alone for an hour for the enzymes to change the starches to sugars and to put the sugars into suspension.

The ‘mash-tun’ is an old picnic cooler box modified with a drain manifold and tap. It’s lagged with Helly Hansens finest duck down gilet and my walking jacket! 0.5 degree temperature loss over 60 minutes – heroic.

While we’re waiting it seemed like a good time to make an earnest start on the food and drink. Chef Foden senior was in charge of the BBQ.

Chef tends to the merguez

Mammoth quantities of fried onions for our sausage butties!
We had a great outdoors lunch – top stuff.

Wort trickles out from the mash tun

Clear wort comes off from the mash tun

Running off the wort for the caramelisation boil. The first 5 litres got a hard boil to bring on some of the sugar characteristics of the Scottish beer.

It was now Beer-O’clock and time to break out the home brew.

tasting time


To the left, an English ESB – plenty of licorice in this one. To the right – a favourite with the ladies – a lighter hoppy pale ale – my summer beer. Photographic progress became sporadic at this point. I can’t think why.

After a round of sparging, more boiling and beer chilling it was time to siphon off to the fermentation vessel.

Filling the shaking vessel - wort aeration

I fill 4 litres at a time and give it a good thrashing around in a carboy. It’s then filtered into the final fermentation vessel.

The recipe should have given us 19 litres of a 1055 degree beer. I suspect we under-extracted and over boiled the wort I took off so we have less beer – about 16 litres of a 1064 beer. A little stronger and more concentrated flavour I hope. More of a 90/- perhaps!

And then, all that was left was the washing up!

end of the line - spent hops for the compost heap

So, that was it. I really enjoyed it – hope others did too. It was a bit of fun, good to take part in a global event with other brewers around the world all having a crack at the same recipe. The recipe calls for a one month fermentation and then some further bottle conditioning. I suspect tastings will take place in September.

La brasseuse

Jungle drums started beating, my chum from brassage-amateur tipped me off that there was a portes-ouvertes at a local brewery. It doesn’t take much more motivation than that – day trip ahoy!

I did a little search online for all breweries in France. Nothing in our immediate area. Nearest to us is the Brasserie de Bellefois in the Vienne, been there, done that. Next nearest is Brasserie des Fontaines up north in Maine et Loire – so off we go. Zip over to Vienne to collect Yann, my brew-buddy and then into the winelands we go! Always love driving through these areas. The differing terroir unfolds in front of you as you roll through countryside that hasn’t changed in centuries. We’re very shortly in serious wine country. Dessert wines from the Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert get stellar scores from Robert Parker/Wine Spectator and have a price tag to match. So, a bold move for a young lady to set up a brewery in this area – I love the chutzpah!

Food for the Porte Ouverte visitors

Brasserie des Fontaines

To the village of Les Verchers-sur-Layon for a visit to the brewery which has been open for a few years now. Set up in a converted hangar we were greeted by a small oven burning dried vine clippings and offering some delightful snacks.

Small bread Galipettes – very similar to a fat pitta bread hot from the oven with garlic butter, some artisanal jams or a giant tub of rillets? Then hot roasted field mushrooms with garlic and grain mustard? Non stop food was on offer to complement the non-stop free beer. Superb – just like being at home!

lady brewer - Anne-Catherine Sailly

Anne-Catherine Sailley, our hostess and lady brewer

We were greeted by our hostess Anne-Catherine Sailley.  She was on hand to run through tours of the brewery for a never ending series of visiting groups.

Good to see a small scale operation like this which wasn’t a million miles from what a home brewer might do. I listened in on a couple of her talks and there were some genuinely insightful questions from some people – fascinating stuff.

Yann - tour guide

Yann. my Brew-Buddy!

My friend Yann was bringing up the rear and chipping in his knowledge of brewing too. Any passing visitor was fair game!

So. Down to business. Beer.


Barman doing the business

The beer was free flowing, we sampled through the range of house beers and also got to taste some limited run speciality beers. I think for me the beers all had a pronounced Belgian style and were a world apart form the usual faire – all very high quality. My standout fave was the Sarcophagus. Jet black, sweet, loads of caramel malt and layers of liquorice and toffee and a fairly robust 8.5%. A slow sipping stunner.

It was good to see the small batch nature of the original brewhouse and have a good poke around the equipment and ingredients. There was a transition under way with lots of shiny new fermenters that had only just been installed but not yet commissioned. It’ll be great to return in the future to see it all in operation and impressive to think that it’s by and large all a one-woman operation.

I managed a brief discussion on one of my pet topics. Home malting. Anne-Catherine had a tray full of germinated barley and a small scale roaster to allow her to both deal with local grains for one of her special brews (Organic barley from nearby and wild hops gathered locally) and also to produce malts to her own recipe. I can produce some excellent batches of my own crystal malts here but I do get quite a dark toast on them – i find it difficult to do a low temperature kilning in my current oven. Anne-Catherine offered up my choice of malts from her stocks so I left double-happy. Cases of beer and sacks of grain in the boot of the car!


"Me? In a Brewery? With my reputation?"

Full marks to Joan who, despite the photographic evidence, was a picture of restraint, hardly touched a drop and chauffeured Yann and I around all day. So, a great day, very relaxed atmosphere, loads of visitors all getting to see the works of a small artisanal brewer, taste beer and case after case of  it was walking out the door. Good times!

As usual, full photoset is on flickr

So, about that no-brasseries-in-the-Deux-Sevres-thing? Someone should do something about that.

Knees up, mother Brune

What? A shindig with a twist

Where? Where else, Bellebouche!

When? Saturday, 1st May

Why? The annual American Homebrew Association global brew-day! 5000 people spanning Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Royaume-Uni, Israel, Kenya, The Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and now France!

The full details, in my best schoolboy French posted to the main French homebrew site. I shall be making a few litres of Scottish 80 Shilling and dishing up moules-frites to any that choose to pitch up and help with the brew day.

Tout brasseurs amateurs qui viennent à travers et je voudrais de venir, s’il vous plaît confirmer votre présence via les commentaires ci-dessous ou sur le site Bassage amateur.


Le premier brassage de l’anneé

A brief essay on the  pursuit of science, knowledge, truth, understanding and erm,  beer.


Gottle of Gear

Or, preparations for Christmas and New Year libations.

Two beers bottled up this afternoon. #1 A Belgian pale ale. I’d given this one three weeks on it’s lees after the primary fermentation – aiming for some of the yeasty character you get in Duvel. Time will tell. It has a good colour and clarity right now.
Strong Belgain Pale Ale

Started out at OG 1070 and stopped somewhere in the region of an FG of 1018. Slightly perplexed by this as it tasted bone dry. I’m guessing that it’ll be close to 7.5% when it’s done. The yeast flavour was there – hope it gets going in the bottle. I’d primed at a whopping 10g/litre with dry malt extract and dextrose. I’m using small 250ml and 330ml heavyweight belgian bottles and crimped on caps for these so not too concerned about them blowing up (it’s winter too – which will help). First taste, Christmas Day.

First opportunity to use a new (to  me) bottle drying tree. I thought I’d get clever and steam-sterilise the bottles as it’s a first try and that went quite well too. Hand filling and then capping 50+ bottles was a bit of a chore – very time consuming but then again… you’re not going to be drinking pints of this stuff so small Belgian bottles it has to be.
Gottle of Gear

#2 My “Fod-n-Back MDH edition”.  The MDH being Massively Dry Hopped. I put an insane quantity of 2yr aged hops into a 4.5 litre carbouy and left it for 12 weeks of secondary fermentation with added Brettanomyces yeast from bottles of Orval. It’d fully fermented out and has been still since the ambient temps dropped – time to put it to bed.

Here, the MDH is at left.

Flanders Red Racking experiment

Primed at 6 g/l with a mixture of spray dryed malt extract and dextrose, I gave the priming solution a couple of pinches of yeast (a beer yeast and a high attenuation wine yeast) just to give it a little in-bottle sparkle when it conditions. I have to say – the flavour of the cheeky little sip I had was astonishing – massive bales of hop waftyness and aromatics and still a lot of the sour characteristics of the underlying beer. I’m very excited and hope this finishes out well.

Full marks to Brewers assistants PommePierre (supervisory role) and Joan (bottle capper).

Kitchen smells wonderful this evening

Kitchen Alchemy pt.2

“Enzymes are things invented by biologists that explain things which otherwise require harder thinking.”

So says biologist Jerome Lettvin

And thinking too hard about this will probably do me no good at all, but think I do. Still, enzymes are the key to this further Kitchen Alchemy experiment…

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