Archive for September, 2010

The Session #42: A Special Place, a Special Beer

Friday, September 24th, 2010

This entry is the second of a number that I wrote notes for while in Germany but never posted. Specifically, this was intended to be my submission for The Session #42.session_logo The Session is a beer blog carnival. Many beer writers all around the Tubes come together the first Friday of every month to talk about a particular topic. August was hosted by The Beer Runner, Derrick Peterman, who implored us to “write about a special place in your life”. The prompt is located here and the roundup can be found here. For more information about The Session, please visit Jay Brooks’ website.

When I found out that this month’s topic was ‘place’, I knew immediately where to write about. If there is anything like a beer mecca, it must be in Belgium, and specifically, the Delirium Cafe in Brussels. Other places may have more personal meaning to me (like The Sanctuary in Iowa City), but the Delirium is far and away the largest selection of beer available anywhere, and for that it deserves a visit from each and every beer fan.

It might be misleading to claim they have so many beers available (they had 2004 on one day in 2004 when the Guiness Book of Records inspectors counted), because many of them are imports. In my opinion, you would be crazy to order a German beer in the Delirium, despite the fact that they call those their ‘specialty’. However, I will confess to having a Denver Pale Ale while there, if only so I could say that I had. It’s just like Frank Möhlenkamp said, “you wouldn’t go to Bordeaux and order a white wine”, so you shouldn’t go to Brussels and order anything but a sour beer. At least for the first round.

Felix Speciaal OudenaardsOne of the best parts about the Delirium is their cellar. There are several vintages available of a number of beers. The menu is rarely current, though, so tip your bartender and they may feel like telling you about some secret bottle they have stashed away.

Adding to the impression that the Delirium is actually some sort of temple to beer is the vast collection of bottles, glassware, trays, towels, and every other kind of beer memorabilia decorating the whole pub. Old barrels even serve as a few of the tables.

But the Delirium is never campy. The chairs are comfortable, and you get the idea that it would not be too hard to become a regular there, if one were lucky enough to live in Brussels. The bartenders know their shit. It is through and through a real place: if you squint, you can almost see Jimbo’s old Underground pub in Grinnell.

Friends at the Delirium CafeI didn’t start writing about the Delirium out of the blue: just days prior to The Session I had the opportunity to bring two of my good friends there. I was lucky enough to be able to share some of my favorite sours and other Belgians with them, as fresh as can be.

We tried a sour I hadn’t seen before, Felix Speciaal Oudenaards from the Brouwerij Clarysse in Oudenaarde, East Flanders. It pours a deep caramel red color with a creamy beige head. The nose is big and sweet, with a strong balsamic vinegar character and a good woodiness.

The taste is also sweet and balsamic. It is a bit sour, but that doesn’t last for too long. Though it is sugary to the point of being cloying, the palate is somehow full and pleasant. Woody and herbal hops make an effort to balance it out.

+Felix Speciaal Oudenaards

4.0 (4-9-8-3-16)


Friday, September 24th, 2010

Bacchusbräu brewhouse - Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

This is the first of several posts that I took notes for in Germany but didn’t get around to finishing. The last few weeks there and the first few back home were hectic. Anyway, on to the beer.

While traveling with my mother around the Middle Rhein Valley, I had a chance to try the beer from one of the smallest breweries in Germany, Bacchusbräu in Bacharach, Rheinland-Pfalz. On their 200 liter brewing system Armin Mahl makes the beer to go along with wife Annette’s wonderful cooking. But this is truly just the Theatergastronomie adjacent to the theater they built, which features marionette shows as well as ones with regular actors.Braumeisterbrötchen On one side of the building, directly facing the old city wall, and beyond it the Rhein, there is a patio under the canopy of an old carousel and a fence made of barrel staves.

I was impressed with just about everything about this place. They bake a rich and savory mini loaf of multigrain bread called Braumeisterbrötchen – Brewmasters’ Rolls – that are stuffed with fillings. The vegetarian one had cheese, mushrooms, onions, and caraway seeds, and was divine.Cat at Bacchusbrau Oh, and their cat is ridiculously friendly.

I started out with the standard lager, Loreley. They call it a pilsener but it really seems to me to be a classic Munich helles. Named after perhaps the most famous rock in the world, Loreley is easily one of the best German beers I have had the pleasure to taste.

A yellow gold with a beautiful haze is topped with some creamy white head. The rich malty aroma is thick with bread and just a little sweet. Delicate floral noble hops dance.

Bacchusbräu Loreley and 1689The flavor of Loreley is barely dry, but still has a strong malt richness. The high quality malt used clearly shows through, so the beer tastes quite fresh. The palate is full and round without intruding. It is not bitter, but rather remarkably balanced.

Next I had the Münchner dunkel, called 1689. I’m not certain what the name refers to, though I know that year there was some unpleasantness related to the Nine Years’ War in nearby Mannheim and Heidelberg.

A pleasingly opalescent very pale hazelnut brown with some white head. The aroma is light, with malty caramel and hints of hops, and a little sweetness. It is promising, but much too fleeting.

The flavor is also a bit on the mild side. Caramel and toast malt flavors are complimented by an earthy and herbal hop character. The hops also lend a reasonable bitterness. Something is making it a bit astringent, Bacchusweizenwhich grows more prominent through the taste. The palate is full but still drinkable, but the 1689 would benefit from a bit more carbonation.

The wheat beer is named simply Bacchusweizen. It is naturally very hazy, and by looking at the bubbles rise, clearly very active. Golden straw in color with a creamy, cloudlike white head. The aroma is light and bready, with a lot of cloves as well. Some floral on the nose could be from hops.

The taste of the Bacchusweizen is dry, with a solid clove flavor. There is a good wheat character manifesting as bread and rich maltiness. The light hop flavor is spicy, complimenting the clove from the yeast. The palate is dry and quite lively. The adding of flavor hops to weizen is a relatively new concept, but there are a few that do it do good effect, including this one. Even discounting the hops this beer is a unique hefeweizen, drier and spicier than most. Very refreshing.

Finally the bock beer, Burg Stahleck – Verlies. Burg Stahleck is the castle overlooking the town of Bacharach, now a youth hostel.Bacchusbräu Berg Stahleck - Verlies Verlies is the German word for “dungeon”. They properly serve this strong beer in a hefty stone mug.

It is richly hazy, with a deep caramel brown color and creamy tawny head. The aroma is rich and sweet with caramel, dark fruit, and a rich spiciness of cinnamon and cardamom, pepper and cloves.

The flavor is malty and sweet. The spiciness on the taste is quite strong, dominated by cinnamon and pepper. The alcohol makes itself apparent with a warming sensation. The whole of it almost gives the impression of brandy. The Verlies is full but not cloying, active but not bothersome, and rich but still drinkable. Just well-crafted strong beer goodness.


4.2 (3-9-8-4-18)

++Burg Stahleck – Verlies

4.2 (4-9-7-4-18)


3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)


3.8 (4-7-7-4-16)