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August, 2010:

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

A return to form

My cooking hasn’t been cookin’ of late. Work commitments, dealing with one thing and another at the weekend and the summertime heat and I’ve been a bit like Austin Powers without his mojo!

Joan provided the impetus, a pair of Giant Bar Ligne. Line caught seabass from Spain. On promo but still coming in at close on €10 per fish.

So, first try? Restaurant style, I filleted one as it was plenty for two people, little scores on the skin side, pan-fried the skin crisply and flipped to finish with buerre noisette. Dished it up with pommes puree done with creme fraiche and some mange tout. Simple dish and pretty good. I’d have happily paid £18 for a main in a gastro pub for that and the fish was top quality.

So, next fish, next day. I did consider doing a salt-crust roast. One of my fave ways to deal with firm white fish on the bone and something I’d done recently with both Bass and Dorade Royale.

No. Time to be bold and make a Tea Smoked Bass.

tea-smoked bass


Wipe out a wok with a little sesame oil. A couple of tablespoons of Fujian Oolong, moderate heat, seasoned fish on a trivet over the tea, pop the lid on and walk away. Really, walk out of the room. It’ll get hot and smelly. The fish will give up a little oil and drip on the roasting tea and smoke levels will start to get exponential. Resist the strong temptation to intervene for a good 10/12 minutes. Now, in with a glass of water under the fish to steam and finish the cooking.

I dished it up with a little timbale of five-spice egg/shalot/ginger fried rice and some chinese cabbage and mange-tout stirfried with oyster sauce.


Oh, behave.

When the going gets tough, the tough go Shopping

The change in roofspace brings with it a change in living space. The roof isn’t quite done yet but it’s on its way certainly and that affords the opportunity to shift things around and start a bit of shopping.

Shopping?! Joan’s specialist subject!

Boudoir Chaise

Boudoir Chaise


It’s a record breaker.

Look at the SIZE of that THING!

A rogue plant which some cheeky chappie must have switched in the agribati because on the row we’ve planted it in, there are 9 ‘normal’ Bali toms, a lone Coeur de Boeuf and then a pair of these leviathans…


Eye watering

679g. More than twice the size of our previous record tomato. No special treatment, no artificial fertilisers. Just water, sunshine and the bountiful goodness of 3000 litres of my compost heap dug into the bed. We’ve 70 plants so can expect a huge bounty again this year.

All is not perfect though. The usually abundant Romas which we rely on for a late season flush of cooking toms are severely underperforming with tiny, flaccid fruit and a load of blossom end rot. Strange problem and the first time we’ve suffered it. Sad as I paid a fortune for the seeds. Still, we’re doing fine and I’m already knocking up batch after batch of tomato dishes.

Basket of toms

One days harvest - 7kg

Making soup on a 28 dgeree day


All in a day

Today started out as usual. Up at the crack of dawn to let the birds out, back to bed for a quick snooze, then up and a strong cup of coffee. A treat, brought back by Adrian, crumpets for breakfast and I was ready for the day.

We had harvested a lot of the plums from the orchard at the weekend. 4 bowls of plums sat on the kitchen table awaiting some attention. So … after 3 hours of cleaning, de-stalking, de-stoning 2.75kgs, I was ready to make some jam. We have a whole collection of preserving books and after looking at the various plum recipes, I decided to just plump for the plain plum jam.

The friendly farmer’s wife nipped round for coffee and I was grilled on my jam making and bottling processes. Once the jam was ready I filled 9 jam jars, with still more than enough plums left to make Mucky Duckly Plum Sauce II.

The friendly farmer’s wife commented on the bowls of tomatoes on the table, enquiring what I was planning to do with them. We had picked 8kgs of toms at the weekend and I was planning to make some soup to bottle for the winter. After discussing this with her, I realised that I hadn’t picked the tomatoes from down on the potager for 2 days. Blimey … I then spent half an hour picking the ripe fruit.

All in a day's harvest

5 bowls of tomatoes, 1 bowl of cornichons (some slightly too big) and 1 pattissan.

The grand total – 11.11 kgs of tomatoes and  1.3kg of cornichons.

So I guess tomorrow I will be making soup and pasta sauce with the 19kgs of tomatoes.  I will keep you posted …

Fire and Ice

Last weekend, Fire.

This weekend, Ice. Well, icecreams!


les Pompiers faire une visite

Just back from a week in England where I’d been (metaphorically) setting a light under a few things and then shortly after arriving home for a relaxing weekend.. some excitement unfolds. Excitement the likes of which Bellebouche hasn’t seen for quite some time!


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