Too often we have preconceived notions about beer. A Belgian beer is supposed to taste of banana and cloves; a German beer is supposed to be clean and uncomplicated. But our preconceived notions about beer, just as they are in other areas of life, are often wrong.
Brasserie de Silly has been brewing beer in Silly, Belgium since 1850. That's a lot of time spent making Belgian tripels, pale ales, and saisons. But the brewery also makes a Scotch Ale (or Wee Heavy) called Scotch De Silly. Talk about going against preconceived notions.
There's a story behind this beer, and Lionel Van der Haegen, the sixth generation of this family-owned brewery, is happy to tell it. Over a pint at the Publick House in Brookline, Van der Haegen explained that the first World War destroyed most of the hops in Belgium. A Scottish brewer offered English Kent hops to Van der Haegen's grandfather, but he wanted to stay and show Brasserie de Silly how to make a Scottish beer with them. The beer caught on and is still being made today.
The story is a reminder that there really is no "fusion" food or drink, just as it's impossible to define a place's "native" cuisine. As Anthony Bourdain often says on his show "No Reservations", the best food often comes from places that have seen a lot of visitors over the years. You use what you have, when you have it.
Scotch De Silly pours chestnut with a soupy-thick white head. I stick my nose in the beer and get waves of dark fruit, burnt sugar, and faint spice.
I keep looking for something "Belgian-ey" in this beer, but it's definitely a Scottish style ale. It tastes of raisins, butterscotch, and warming alcohol. The 8 percent ABV is well-hidden in the drinkability. I've read reviews that complained of this beer's lack of carbonation, but I found the carbonation to be fine. Tiny bubbles occasionally rose to the top and vanished into the lacing. I'll admit to not being the world's foremost expert on Scotch Ales, but I found the drinking experience to be quite pleasant. A version of this beer aged in Bordeaux barrels has eluded me, but that's definitely a beer I'll be seeking out. Distributed by the Global Beer Network, Scotch de Silly should be available in various Massachusetts locations.