StarBrewer Brasserie Dubuisson
By Jim Clarke

Close your eyes and try to imagine a brewery whose “light” beer weighs in at 7% alcohol by volume. Their traditional ale, at 12%, is in line with a medium-bodied wine. Now imagine that this is not a high potency product aimed at frat boys impatient for a buzz, but a high-quality beverage with flavor and refinement that matches well with a variety of foods. Got it? Okay, now open your eyes; you should have been imagining something like this:


Scaldis is an ale from Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, and is produced by the Dubuisson Brewery. Belgium is considered by many beer-lovers to be the fatherland of beer (despite Germany and England’s conflicting claims), and Dubuisson can call itself part of the aristocracy of the country’s brewers, being the oldest family-owned brewery in Wallonia still in operation. They opened their doors in 1769, and the Dubuisson family is now in the eighth generation to run the brewery.

Scaldis is the brewery’s flagship beer, which they have been producing under the current recipe since 1933. Their original intent was to tap into the English beer market by creating a product that was somewhere between the Belgian and English brewing styles. The high alcoholic strength is achieved naturally by fermenting at higher than normal temperatures, without resorting to evaporation or freezing to remove water. To give the beer complexity three different malts are used in making the beer, including a caramel malt that gives it its amber color. Unlike most high-strength beers, Scaldis is dry, with a clean, nutty finish. The brewery recommends serving the beer at about 68-70°; I tried it both warm and cold and found it enjoyable both ways. The nose is characterized by sherry, caramel, and roasted filbert aromas, complemented by some floral, hoppy notes. Malty, yeasty, and caramel elements come across more strongly at room temperature, whereas the beer comes across somewhat fruitier when cold – a touch of green apples and pears. The finish is long and warming, but remains in balance with the flavors. There is no surprise hit from the alcohol; the beer is consistent and smooth from start to finish.

Since the 90s Dubuisson has added some other brews to its portfolio, only one of which is available here in the U.S. The Scaldis Noel is their Christmas ale and is consistent with the house style in avoiding a cloying mouthfeel in favor of clean maltiness –despite being just as strong as the original. In keeping with its season it does have a touch of sweetness as well as a more pronounced hoppiness. Hugues Dubuisson, the current brewer, added this beer to the brewery’s portfolio in 1991. Ten years ago he also developed Clovis, the aforementioned “light” beer, to celebrate the brewery’s 225th anniversary, but it is no longer available. Should you visit Europe, be sure to keep an eye out for Dubuisson’s other beer, Bush Blond, and for their Brasse-Temps brewpubs, which sell seasonal brews produced on-site in addition to the commercially bottled beers.

Where did the name “Bush” come from? They originally chose the English name “Bush” as a translation of their own name (buisson, in French, is “bush”) as part of their attempt to enter the British market in the 1930s. However, in the U.S. they, like a more well-known Czech beer, ran afoul of a certain large, American producer whose name is remarkably similar. So to avoid ruffling feathers the “Bush” beers are marketed in the U.S. as “Scaldis.” Both “Bush” and “Busch” are family names in this case, so the rights in the case - if Dubuisson were to pursue it - are hardly clear. “Scaldis” is a departure from the family name; it’s the Latin name for the river Schelde, which flows near the brewery.

Because of its complexity and strength, Scaldis has a lot more to offer with food than many beers. It brings an added richness to salmon and veal, and its nutty elements pair it well with autumn squash and pumpkin. Similarly it fares well with any number of desserts, especially those with cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger, and even works with chocolate. The beer’s American importer Vanberg & DeWulf also suggests Scaldis as a great way to end a meal, in lieu of cognac – in a snifter, no less.

Dubuisson shows a remarkable sense of direction and focus in keeping to a limited number of beers with a consistent and clear house style. Their beers display impressive complexity, and there is not a trace of gimmickry in their high strength. Scaldis shows once again the variety and flavor that can be wrung from the simple ingredients of malt barley, yeast, hops, and water.

Bush in Belgium

You can visit the original Dubuisson Brewery for a tour, tastings, and a meal in Pipaix, Belgium, outside the larger town of Tournai. Regular tours are conducted on Saturdays, and groups can make reservations for other times during the week. The visitor center “Trolls and Bush” is also the only place to serve a new brew called “Bush Prestige.” In 2000 they opened their first brewpub, Le Brasse-Temps, in Louvain-la-Neuve, which serves the Bush beers mentioned above plus a blond beer called “Cuvées des Trolls;” more brewpubs are planned.

The Auberge le XIXe in Thulin, near the French border, is a Belgian inn which has been operating since 1822; the kitchen there has developed a number of recipes that that feature Bush beers. Their menu focuses on classic Belgian country fare, and they serve the full range of Dubuisson brews.


Brasserie Dubuisson
Chaussée de Mons, 28
phone: +32 (0) 69 67 22 21
Le Brasse-Temps
Place des Brabaçons 4
Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348
phone: +32 (0) 10 45 70 27
L’Auberge le XIXe
Grand-Place 2
B-7350 Thulin
Phone: +32 (0) 65 65 01 56




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 Published: September 2004