Silvius Brabo was a mythical Roman soldier who killed a giant in Antwerp, Belgium. The story goes like this: once upon a time there was a giant named Droun Antigoon, who asked for money from people to cross the only bridge over the river Scheldt. If they couldn’t pay, he would cut off their hand and throw it in the river. Silvius bravely fought the monster, cut off the giant’s hand and threw in the river. Everyone lived happily ever after. Today, you can see his statue in front of the Antwerp City Hall in the main square.
But what does that have to do with our Belgian Pale Ale? Before I answer that question, let’s first talk about Belgian Pale Ale, what might be one of the most under-recognized of the Belgian styles.
Pale Ales were brewed as early as the mid-1700s. But it took the popularity of German “light beers” to put Belgian Pale Ale on the map. In the 1800s light, clear and low alcohol German Lagers were extremely popular. Many European brewers rushed to try to imitate the new light beer style. The Belgian brewers had to come up with their own version of the new trend. They drew inspirations from British ales, used pale malts and Noble hops, but the yeast stayed truly Belgian. The “everyday” beer became more popular after World War II as a refreshing, malty and lightly hopped session beer.
Belgian Pale Ale (BPA) is a significant departure from its abbey beer cousins and is much less driven by esters, phenols, and alcohols. Instead, BPA relies more on the malt to carry the flavor. What really makes this beer is not just malt, but also the fruit esters. When properly balanced, this beer should be a showcase of bread, toast, biscuit, and caramel. It is (ironically) not pale, but rather, a nice, rich amber, with some examples settling solidly into the red range. It can also be more bitter than most other Belgian styles, though even a “bitter” Belgian beer isn’t going to come across that way.
A true example of Belgian Pale Ale is the city beer of Antwerp, De Koninck APA (Antwerp Pale Ale), that is also the inspiration of Silvius, our version of Belgian Pale Ale. Years ago, when having a brewery was just a wild dream of ours, Kevin and I took a trip to Belgium. On a very sunny afternoon, we stumbled upon the city festival in the center of the town in Antwerp. There was music, food, happy crowds and plenty of De Koninck, the refreshing, malty, lightly bitter Belgian Pale Ale. It seemed like the best beer in the world at that moment. Kevin declared that when he opens his brewery, the first beer shall be a Belgian Pale Ale! But we needed a name for the beer, and as we were trying to come up with some smart, sexy names for this beer, we took a selfie in front of the iconic statue of Silvius Brabo, the local legend hero. Then Silvius Belgian Pale Ale was born.
A note on the malt itself: without the malt of the Dingemans Family Maltery in Stabroek, Belgium, Silvius would not exist. The Dingemans family, now in its 5th generation, started malting grain in 1875. Since then, Dingemans has shaped the flavor of beer in Antwerp, as well as all of Belgium. We are proud to know them personally and even more to proud to use Karl’s malts exclusively for all of our beer, including our beloved Silvius.
We are so happy to bring it back to the taproom. Enjoy while you can, this original Boom Island inspiration.