The Back Story:
If you’ve been following my beer reviews for any length of time, you’ll know that I have two great loves in my beer life: India Pale Ales and Belgian Ales. For the latter, I came into this infatuation a little over a year ago, experiencing my first great Belgian Ale at a local bar called Milltown in Carrboro. Though, right now they’re on my s#!& list for removing the Duchesse de Bourgogne (a Flemish Red staple) from their menu, they’re still the best place to get upper-end craft beer in the Triangle.
At least, they are since Hookah Bliss was closed by the new North Carolina tobacco ban. </bitter>
A reasonably-priced bar is a fantastic place to experiment with new beers and wines, and if you give this guy the opportunity, he’ll make sure to sample as many new beverages as possible while still being able to stay upright. This is dangerous in a bar with a tome-sized beer and wine list, by the way.
As for the beer? The Huyghe Brewery might be accused of insensitivity because of the name of their beer; delerium tremens is a medical term for severe alcohol withdrawal in which a patient who had previously consumed several pints of beer, or roughly a pint of hard liquor, a day for months begins experiencing a mental and physical meltdown (what alcoholics refer to as the DTs).
Symptoms include an enormous variety of mental disorders, from insomnia, stupor, mental fatigue, or mood swings to delirium, hallucinations, and phobia. Physical symptoms include fever, jumpiness, heart palpitations, seizures, and vomiting.
Sounds like a trip, right?
So of course, this family-owned brewery decided that this would be the perfect name for a high abv beer. The label is adorned with pink elephants, that mainstay of alcoholic lore that found its way into children’s cartoons back in the 50s and 60s, as well as other fantastical creatures one might see in a fear-induced hallucination. The bottle, an opaque stoneware style, makes everything come together in a package that’s just slightly off… obviously, off-kilter is the theme for this beer named after a mental disorder.
The appearance of the beer is a very light yellowish-amber. Carbonation is medium-fine and very active. Head retention is fantastic, offering a milky-white head just stable enough to trap flavors and aromas for several minutes without being a syrupy, frothy mess.
The nose of the beer is very light and hoppy, slightly nutty, with a bright, fruity scent of orchard fruits and tangerines. Very aromatic and full scent.
The mouth feel of the beer is very full, very smooth, with a very subtle carbonation and a slightly astringent quality.
The flavor of the beer has a jam-like sweetness and grassiness, an influence of very subtle malts. The flavor is a bit medicinal, with a green-apple-like component and a slight orange hoppiness. The medicinal flavors give way to a metallic tinge that becomes more metallic towards the finish, which is lightly grainy. The alcohol, at 8.5%, is essentially undetectable (in the flavor, not in the head… I finished this one glass and I was all sorts of buzzed).
For the Casual Drinker:
There’s nothing casual about this beer. It packs a phenomenal flavor into a beer that doesn’t look all that dissimilar from your Bud Lights and Miller Lites of the world. It’s not off-putting, however, as it offers very wine-like purity of flavor intermingled with the typical desirable beer qualities. It’s all a matter of investment at this point… do you feel that it’s worth $4.50 for an 11.2 oz bottle (and much more out at the bar)? Also, make sure you understand this beer packs a punch, at 8.5% abv. I’d also recommend pouring it into a tulip-shaped glass if available; a wine glass will do in a pinch, though a traditional Belgian ale glass would be ideal.
The price of a 4-pack, $17.99, puts this in the upper echelon of wide-spread craft beers, and it’s a good thing that the beer delivers. This is fine example of a Belgian Ale, and it’ll definitely be worth the occasional treat. 7/10
In Case You Missed It:
Beer: Delirium Tremens
Producer: Huyghe Brewery
Region: Melle, Flanders, Belgium
Price: $4.50 for 11.2oz
Purchased at: Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough, NC