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. 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.
One 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.
I 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