Brasserie Dubuisson - Scaldis Noël
- ABV: 12.0%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- Serving Temperature: 52–58° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Goblet, or Chalice
Scaldis Noël is one of our favorite Belgian winter beers, brewed especially for the holidays, and was first introduced to the world all the way back in 1991. This is brewed with caramel malts and candy sugar, and it remains unfiltered and gets refermented in the bottle. This famous Belgian brewery has seen relatively sparse U.S. distribution over the past 10 years after their previous importer shut down, and only about 250 cases of Scaldis Noël ended up being sold across the U.S. in 2019. We think this classic winter beer deserves more regard.
Scaldis Noël pours a deep, honey-golden amber in the glass, capped by firm tan foam. This offers up generous aromatics from the first pour, leading with nutty caramel, cola, and sweet banana. Touches of phenolic, pepper- and clove-like spices throughout—but all the spicing seems to be coming from Belgian yeast expression, rather than any sort of special additions. A deftly executed aroma, with the periphery offering hints of pineapple and dried dark fruit.
Nicely rounded expression from the first sip, with subtle underpinning carbonation from the bottle conditioning. Vibrant red fruitiness as well as significant caramel and cola lead the first impact. The Belgian yeast character is beautifully developed and brings forth bananas, some red-apple fruitiness, and clove-like spice that contributes some significant welcome bitterness overall, balancing out this beer’s sweeter elements. Given a bit of time to warm, that central caramelization and fruit expression (cherries, dark berries, etc.) continue to build. We found generous sherry-like notes present, along with dense toffee and nutty core malt character.
This avoids the overt holiday spicing of many other winter seasonals, in favor of exceptional Belgian yeast character that works beautifully with the specialty malt additions of this beer. A vibrant amber-malt expression, layered and velvety smooth, permeates every aspect of this, while the underpinning of spritzy carbonation from being refermented in the bottle keeps it feeling quite nimble, as does the subtle, vinous warmth courtesy this beer’s 12% ABV. It’s a touch warming, as you’d expect—but always super smooth. The long-lasting finish continues the dense fruit expression, cherry especially, alongside lingering toastiness and peppery clove from the yeast. One of the classic Belgian holiday releases, this beer just keeps on going.
Brasserie Dubuisson has been brewing continuously since 1769, when it was founded as the brewery of the estate of Domaine de Ghyssegnies, across the road from its present location. To put that into context, that was before Belgium was a country, and before the famed Trappist breweries of Belgium. It has been in the Dubuisson family since at least the 1890s.
The name Dubuisson translates to “bush” in English. At the end of the First World War, the brewery was liberated by a British battalion and, in appreciation, the brewery adopted the English spelling of their name as the moniker for their beers. In Belgium, the English spelling of bière, beer, was commonly used—hence, the nicely alliterative name of “Bush Beer” was adopted as far back as 1933. The term Bush Beer doesn’t tend to conjure up thoughts of great, artisanal beer for many U.S. consumers, since we know Busch Beer (with a “c”) as a relatively bland light lager. However, in Belgium, Bush is recognized (at least regionally) as some of the finest and, for many years, the strongest beers made in the country (at 12%–13% ABV). Unfortunately when Bush Beer made its way over to America, it ran up against the Anheuser-Busch brand. So to better set themselves apart from the Busch beers, they renamed the brands “Scaldis” for the U.S. and some other export markets, which is the Latin spelling of Belgium’s greatest river, the Schelde.
Today led by Hugues Dubuisson, the eighth-generation family member to direct the business, Brasserie Dubuisson is still located in the province of Hainaut, the richest agricultural region in Belgium. It comes as little surprise that the Scaldis beers tend to feature complex and fresh orchard-fruit notes, as well as crisp, nutty maltiness. Dubuisson remains laser-focused on quality and their historic roots, even through a recent period of growth.
Notably, Hugues co-founded the Belgian Family Brewers Guild, dedicated to highlighting the contributions made by independent brewers, and making it easier for all consumers to distinguish between authentic independent brews and “label beers” that simply claim to be “Belgian.” It seems this brewery has tried to fight confusion about its beers for at least the past 30 years—be it “Busch” versus “Bush” beer, or production by Belgian families versus faceless bigger Belgian brands, and, in their efforts, have helped to enhance the global beer landscape for a whole lot of people. Of course, learning about beer is made all the more interesting with such top-shelf offerings—and Brasserie Dubuisson has been offering top-tier quality for generations. The Scaldis Noël we’ve selected for our members this month embodies this perfectly—and we think you’re going to love this holiday classic. Cheers!
Scaldis Noël should continue to develop nicely with some time in one’s cellar, amplifying this beer’s existent caramelization and sherry notes. For food pairings, we’d use that combo of chewy amber maltiness and red fruit alongside turkey or pork tenderloin. This beer’s also perfectly built for a nightcap.
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