It's back to Europe today for a Christmas beer produced by a brewery with distinctive and immediately recognisable packaging - Brouwerij Huyghe of Melle, Belgium.
The 'Delirium' range of beers (Tremens, Nocturnum, Red and Noël, aka Christmas) all feature pink elephants on the label and come in bottles that look like old school ceramic, but which are actually glass bottles with a ceramic coating. No matter, it's still an impressive looking package whether you have the small 11.2oz (crown cap) or the full size 750ml (cork and cage). Which gets me to wondering, wouldn't a magnum of that be something to behold!
When first imported into the US and Canada, Delirium Tremens was another one of those beers that fell foul of... someone who had the power to say "Nope, sorry, you can't call it that. Too much of a connection with being drunk," so it was called Mateen for a while until the ban was lifted. What lay at the heart of the problem is a clinical condition called delirium tremens (Latin for shaking frenzy), aka 'the DTs." It's often jokingly said that if you wake up after a night of heavy drinking and find your hands shaking you've got a touch of the DTs, but there's far more to delirium tremens than that.
It's more likely to be brought on by going cold turkey after a period of prolonged drinking, and symptoms can include the shakes, hallucinations (eg, seeing pink elephants), insomnia, disorientation, anxiety and paranoia. While you and I, dear reader, no doubt consider ourselves to be responsible drinkers who enjoy our hobby in the same way as the educated wine buff, let's not forget that there are many who drink to excess and that doing so can have a serious long term effect on one's health, no to mention the social aspects such as domestic abuse, getting a DUI or being responsible for someone's death either by picking a fight or running them down in your car. No-one likes to be pulled over and asked to blow into a breathalyser, but there are very good reasons why such laws are on the statute books.
One of David Lean's lesser known and sometimes overlooked films, Hobson's Choice, offers a comic insight of the horrors of over-indulging in beer, skilfully portrayed by Charles Laughton and also starring John Mills, with a young Prunella Scales who twenty years later would go on to become Mrs. Basil Fawlty.
Delirium Noël is a Belgian strong dark ale, so look for a rich malty sweetness with hints of plums, raisins, figs or cherries, a moderate spiciness (from the yeast), a touch of barley sugar, some bready, biscuity malt flavours and a dry finish, but with minimal hop flavour or bitterness. Have a large glass ready for this beer because, like so many Belgian beers, you're likely to find a huge head of aromatic foam climbing towards the rim as you pour. While you're waiting for the head to subside please enjoy some superb acting from Mr Laughton.