Finding SILLY SOUR on the shelves at our local Liquor Barn was a great surprise, indeed! Being HUGE fans of Belgian Sour Ale (and all well made funky, sour, lactic beers for that matter) we had to give the newest of beers from Brasserie de Silly a BrewView.
ABOUT BRASSERIE DE SILLY
Since centuries on the Western side of Wallonia, the large farms of Hainaut were cultivating barley and hops. They all brewed their own beer. Today, the cultivation of hops has disappeared and the brewing activity became an independent activity about 160 years ago. Brasserie, which is the french word for brewery, de Silly is a perfect example of this evolution. Silly is a very small farmer’s village that got its name from the little stream, the Sille, flowing through the center of the village. You can find it along the highway between Brussels and Lille (France) on about 25 miles South-West of Brussels.
Silly is a quiet village, living a simple life. Going there on a Sunday afternoon is remarkable, because almost nothing moves. Only the birds and the wind are making noise. The fun-activities, concentrated in the pubs, are arching and “jeux de balle,” a strange ball-play where 2 teams are throwing and hand-tennissing a small hard ball. It is only played in a rural area of about 200 villages. Remarkable. This type of ball game goes back to the oldest ball games played by the Celts.
Once a year, farmers from all over Europe compete in Silly with their land-tractors. It is like stock-car racing but with big, reinforced tractors. They pull each other, they try to move the heaviest load, and they race. Strange for city-slickers, but very exciting for the young farmers. On all these occasions, the beer flows in abundance.
This brings us back to the Brewery de Silly. The earliest time the brewery was mentioned in writing is 1852, when Nicolas Meynsbrughen bought the farm. On this farm was also the local mill, where all kind of local grown grain was milled. Three generations of Meynsbrughen bring us to WW I.
When the war started the brewer painted the copper tuns to hide them from the Germans, who wanted to use this material in their war machine. But, after a while and some negotiations, the brewery was chosen by the Germans to remain the only brewery of the area during the war. This explains the disappearance of the other breweries in the village.
In between the 2 world wars, the brewery became a dominant player in the region with 6 top-fermenting beers: a “saison,” a “bock,” a “scotch,” an “export” and the “Grisette” and the “Belge,” two full body ales. These beers are of course shipped to the larger Brussels area, but they were already exported to France, where in 1900 the brewery won 2 silver medals in an international competition.
After WW II, the farming activities are stopped and all efforts are concentrated on the brewery. At the same time a new line of beers, now bottom-fermenting, lagers, is added to the beer selection. In 1964 the “Super 64,” an amber top-fermenting ale is created, and in the seventies, the new generation of brewers create more beers, like the “Silbrau Dort,” clearly a German style Dortmunder lager.
In 1973 the brewery changes it name into “Brasserie de Silly,” but keeps the logo of St. Michel, the angel who fights dragons. This Saint has his statue in the Church of Silly, and is also depicted on top of the Brussels City-hall. You do not find the picture of the Saint on the cap of the bottle, but the picture of a land worker. In 1975, the brewery of Enghien (say ‘engine’), a town near Silly, is bought by the Brewery de Silly. The brewery of Enghien was famous for its Double Enghien Blonde (Golden) and Brune (Brown). After the take over, these two beers are brewed in Silly. Interesting to know is that the name of the former brewery was “Tennstedt-de Croes,” and that the brewery was created in 1880. The brewers were from German origin and that is no surprise.
The city of Enghien is in fact dominated by the castle and the park of German nobility, who reigned the area for more than 500 years. One of them almost became Pope, but he refused. These Germans ruled the whole city and the surrounding area, since they were the proprietor of most farms.
They created abbeys and churches in the city, and left a lot of items of cultural and historic interest. Most of these German Princes are buried in Enghien, and you can visit their coffins in a lugubrious crypt, protected by monks. The German influences can be tasted in the LA Divine beers. They have a lighter feeling in the mouth, more like lagers, and they have a clearer hoppier taste.
Brasserie de Silly brews about 165 times a year for a total of around 25,000 barrels of beer. The malts come from Belgium and from France. The hops comes from Kent (UK) and from Saaz and Hallertau in Germany. 55 % of the production is top-fermenting ale. This puts the Brasserie de Silly with the top of the Belgian micro-breweries. (Source: Global Beer Network)
BEER STYLE AND COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION FROM GLOBAL BEER NETWORK
Style category: Belgian Sour Ale
Taste: Wallonia Belgium is known as the birthplace of the Saison. In the tiny town of Silly, Brasserie de Silly helped build that reputation with their dark Saison recipe that dates back to the mid 19th century. Silly Sour is a unique brew in that its the first of its kind from Wallonia to use a predominant amount of soured ale. In fact, this beer is 87% soured ale blended with 13% fresh Saison. The delicate malt notes manage to break through the striking green apple sourness upfront and then give way to a finishing jolt of lactic sourness! At an approachable 5.5% ABV this chestnut colored brew adds a new page to the history of Saison brewing.
OUR BREWVIEW OF SILLY SOUR
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
5.5 % ABV. Poured into a tulip-shaped glass, and served at 51°F. Pours a deep copper (chestnut) color. The slightly off-white head pours an easy 2.5 finger height, and is tightly bubbled and dense. As the head collapses, the Brussels lacing it leaves behind is even. (We ensured this was a “Beer Clean” glass). The meniscus is medium to slow rising which is very impressive for a beer that is only 5.5% ABV. There was a slight haze to the beer.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
What’s surprising about Silly Sour, is that it does not have the ultra sour, funky nose to it. For a sour beer, there is a soft nutty maltiness in the bouquet- very unusual. The funk level is there, but not overtly so. Light toffee… sweet and sour aromas at the same time- amazing. We could detect any hop aromas in this beer- if there are any, they are VERY faint.
The uniqueness in the taste of this beer is simply amazing. We like that the “sourness” is not mega tart; it is a good balance between maltiness (caramel) and sourness. There is green apple tartness for sure, as the brewery describes. NOTE: The initial taste description was for the first 2 beers from the 4-pack. The next night, we sampled the 3rd and 4th beers, and they were more sour. We ensured on both occasions that our palates were clean. Chalk it up to wonderful differences in brewing…
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
The sourness level is medium, not too intense. Sour finish with a faint caramel sweetness in the background. The puckering tartness lingers, but in a more delicate way. Very surprising and unique palate.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
APPETIZERS: Pair this with sharp cheddar cheeses, port salut, blood sausages, Andouille sausages. ENTRÈES: Sweet and sour Chinese dishes, smoked salmon, spicy beef, a wide variety of latin cusines are good with this for sure. You could even do barbequed steak with a light sweet honey glaze sauce. Smoked meats, definitely! DESSERTS: Any desserts that have a sour or tart profile- fruit tarts, strawberry tarts, French apple tarts.
What’s nice about this beer is that it does not try to blow you away with ultra-lactic sourness (although we like that too). This would be an excellent beer to introduce sour beers to the newbie. You can tell that Brasserie de Silly went out of their way to develop a sour beer with a unique, (and what we consider) a sophisticated flavor profile. We purchased this at the Redding Liquor Barn. Widely available, great year-round, but very refreshing for the warmer months of the year. This is a world classic for sure, seek this one out.
BRASSERIE DE SILLY:
SILLY SOUR AVAILABLE IN THE USA FROM GLOBAL BEER NETWORK:
(Although Silly Sour is not featured in the video, it is a great illustration of the history and brewing artistry of Brasserie de Silly.)