Brasserie De Silly - Burgundy Barrel Aged Scotch Silly
- ABV: 9.5%
- Serving Temperature: 45–48° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Goblet, Thistle or Burgundy Glass
This is a special release from Brasserie de Silly, a one-time offering of the brewery’s famous Scotch Silly ale, aged in a particular type of barrel, the variety of which varies each year. We have previously seen the likes of Bourbon-, Bordeaux-, and Cognac-barrel-aged versions, in previous years. But 2016’s version aged in Burgundy barrels was something special for us. It combines the rich, caramelly impact of its Scotch Silly base with fruity, vinous counterpoints from that residual barrel character. The net result is just beautiful, and we managed to snatch up just enough for our members. Outside the Club, only about 250 cases of this one-time release will be distributed in the whole U.S., and our members will get theirs about 2¬–4 weeks before anyone else.
For fellow fans of Pinot Noir, there’s a lot of familiar elements to dig into in this one-off, as bright red fruit and plum emerge immediately from the aromatics. Plus, the initial pour itself is a vibrant, deep garnet, with golden-brown edges and an off-white edging of resilient foam. There’s also some firm, engaging oak presence here as well, with notes of vanilla and almond and toast throughout—even a nudge of structure from tannins. But that delicious base beer is still never forgotten, and rounding out the barrel complexity is that velvety, caramelized base of the Scotch Silly, adding mellowing notes of sweeter caramel, leather, and generous toffee.
The aromatics here are generous in fruit and barrel elements, with tempered cherry and deep berry notes mixing with that oaky interior of Burgundy barrels (from the Nuits-Saint-Georges region!): lightly charred, but mellowed by those above vanilla-almond notes. The nose of this Burgundy-influenced Scotch ale is smooth and super-friendly. But do allow things some time to warm up in your glass to better bring out those more subtle contributions from the barrel.
This 2016 special edition from Brasserie de Silly is incredibly easy-drinking for the amount of stuff going on here—with smooth texture, an effervescent underpinning of bubbles, and just a touch of warming, vinous alcohol making everything feel a bit more lean. Even beyond the dense aromatics, the flavor takes that cherry/red-fruit scale and seems to expand it in a huge way, bringing in notes of strawberries, fruit leather, candied oranges—even sweet, rich dates.
Trying to identify and dig into the various barrel contributions of barrel-aged beers like these can challenge one’s taste buds. Attempting to discern the fruity secondary notes of Burgundy barrels versus this ale’s fruity esters tends to instead have us just enjoying the fact that certain central notes here approximate a caramel apple, and that some things work well for a reason. So many of Scotch Silly’s core notes intertwine well with the barrel-aged sections here, and a ton of complexity’s coming through from those barrels. A hugely memorable special release.
“Living Beer, Living Ale” is one of Brasserie de Silly’s calling cards—and combining bottle-conditioning with 9.5% ABV suggests this one’s built to develop for at least a couple years. The combo of red fruit and caramel has us going with pairings involving spicy roasted pork.
This month we’ve managed to secure a very special release from Belgium’s historic Brasserie de Silly, whose long-standing brewing heritage dates back six generations. The brewery was founded all the way back in 1850, in the small village of Silly, 25 miles southwest of Brussels. The brewery, founded by Marcelin Hypolite Mynbrughen (truly a good name), was originally called Cense de la Tour. Marcelin’s first beer, Saison Silly, was created from his own malted harvest of barley, and this saison was the beginning of many great Belgian classics ahead.
In 1900, Mynbrughen’s grandson Adelin received a silver medal for the brewery at the Paris World Exhibition. And it was during World War I, with the aid of Scottish soldiers stationed in Silly, that the brewery’s Scotch Silly beer was born. In 1950, in addition to the brewery’s existing top-fermented ales, a pilsner was added, and distributed by the brewery’s own set of cafes. A series of beers under the Enghein label—currently Enghien Blonde, Enghien Brune and Enghien Noël—serverd to further extend the lineup starting in 1975.
Blanche de Silly, which may be familiar to many of you (as it’s a world-class witbier), was launched back in 1990. Brasserie de Silly, in the time since then, has also introduced new releases like Abbaye de Forest (a recognized “abbey” beer) and Silly Pils BIO (“the only organically produced beer in Wallonia” [one of the main Belgian brewing regions]).
Brasserie de Silly remains family-owned and is currently managed by the sixth generation of the same family. Traditional, high-quality techniques and ingredients remain of the utmost importance at Brasserie de Silly, and demand for this Belgian brewery’s classic beers continue to grow worldwide. The brewery’s currently helmed by cousins Bertrand and Lionel Van der Haegen, with the former managing production and the latter managing sales; in line with the long series of familial successions, their parents remain active on the company’s board. As the brewery itself puts it, “Brewing at Brasserie de Silly has not changed substantially since 1850, the process is still very traditional.” While the availability of this month’s rare featured selection from Brasserie de Silly is piddly, the brewery has grown their total production to about 1.8 million liters annually. We look forward to watching them grow further in the years ahead.
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