Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes VIII – Delirium Christmas

Before we start this review, I’d like you to humour me a little. Please point your browser at your preferred music streaming service and start playing Sir Paul McCartney’s Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Let those bells ring out and that seasonally atonal synth part wash over you, while I tell you all about a little beer called Delirium Christmas.

The mood is right

I love Christmas - it’s one of the best times of the year to be a beer drinker. I don’t, however, enjoy the majority of seasonally inspired beers that flood the market over the holidays. I struggle with Christmas beer, be it a rebranded best bitter or an over-herbed and spiced atrocity against the alcoholic beverage industry. However, some breweries get it just right, and most of them are Belgian.

The spirit’s up

Brouwerij Huyghe’s Delirium Tremens is in itself one of the most underrated beers in the world. Its relatively low cost and the ease at which it is acquired often gets it associated, incorrectly so, with some of the super-strength beers at the lower end of the market.

We’re here tonight

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Delirium has a delicately sweet richness that’s complemented with a spicy, bone-dry finish. It’s near perfect on it’s own but when paired with a hard, nutty cheese such as Lincolnshire Poacher, it really comes into its own.

And that’s enough

Delirium Christmas seems to amplify almost every quality of its year-round brethren. It pours a beautiful, seasonally appropriate shade of chestnut and these darker malts add flavours of stewed figs and plums to the beer. It’s not quite as dry as the regular Delirium but it has that same, slightly spicy, muted bitter note that’s unmistakable in Huyghe’s range of beers.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

Delirium Christmas is the kind of indulgent, satisfying beer that’s perfect for this time of year. It’ll go as well with your cheese board as it will with your Christmas pud. It’s an ideal beer to turn to towards the back end of Christmas day, right before the port comes out. And it’s got a pink elephant, alternately ice skating or on a sled [wearing a Santa hat - Ed], on the label, so everyone’s a winner. There’s no doubt that even Macca himself would approve.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

In Brussels, no one can hear you scream...

(Unless it's for more beer.)

Our mission is to showcase the world’s best beers in our store so we’re always on the lookout to boost our range we have on offer.

One thing we thought we could improve upon in was our Belgian beer section. Tucked away at the back of the shop over just a couple of shelves seemed a little unfair for the country that’s brought us some of the finest beers on the planet, so we thought we’d better do something about it.

The best way to go about this seemed obvious - get inspired by spending 36 hours immersed in beery wonderland. The fact it was our seven-year anniversary had absolutely nothing to do with it, of course. I mean, who spends their anniversary in Brussels? (As it turned out, not even us - both Glenn and I forgot what the actual date was and inadvertently spent our anniversary sanitising flagons in the basement. But we did eventually make it to Belgium the following day.)

In case you fancy doing a similar beer-odyssey, we’ve listed some of our highlights below. A big thanks to the wonderful beer geeks of Twitter, who came to the party in fine style when we threw out the call to crowdsource our trip and ensured we didn’t waste a minute. Of special note: @lambicqueen, @T_Marshall1982, @pisci and @pauldavieskew, who went above and beyond. Cheers guys! We can also highly recommend having a copy of Joe Stange's excellent book Around Brussels in 80 Beers to hand. 

Not only did we have a fantastic time, we now have a bigger, better and brighter Belgian section, so we all win. It’s not finished yet either - we’ll be continuing to add to it as more beers become available to us. Come check it out in store and let us know what you think.

36 hours in Brussels - highlights:

  • La Villette for some excellent traditional Belgian fare and Cantillon lambic on cask.
  • Brasserie Cantillon - it’s everything it’s hyped to be. You really can explore every facet of the brewery in action before sitting down to enjoy the beers themselves. The tour includes two free glasses, then you can purchase an insanely reasonably priced bottle of whatever you fancy and relax by the fire and enjoy it. We went home with enough bottles to fill up two suitcases and more…
  • Nuetnigenough - a fantastic little restaurant with great food and even better beer selection. Our waiter was wonderfully knowledgable and pointed us to the best beer we tasted during the trip, Alvinne’s Wild West sour ale.
  • Moeder Lambic - we only made it to the Fontainen bar, at which we enjoyed - you guessed it - more lambics, but we suspect the original would have been even better.
  • Booze n Blues - the best late night bar in Brussels and the best part of our trip. We’d go back to Brussels just to while away a couple of hours at Eddy’s bar, hijackjing his jukebox and trying to elicit a smile.
  • La Brocante - a must-do when you’re exploring the flea market (keep an eye out for cheap records at the nearby corner stores too). Great beer list and cracking hot chocolate as well.
  • Restobieres - wonderful spot run by the charming Alain whose mission in life is presumably to incorporate beer into every aspect of life, cuisine-wise at least. Make sure you have a Bink Blonde with your meal - it’s his favourite beer and not at all a bad drop.
  • Delirium - don’t go here expecting a quiet drink (unless you head upstairs to the more subdued loft), but with a beer list totalling nearly 3,000 you’d be a fool to miss out.
  • Record shops! Brussels rules for crate digging, and the excellent Caroline Music and B Sides, Veals & Geeks and 72 Records were well deserving of our euros.