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Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week": Delirium Nocturnum

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Dec 6, 2006 5:00PM

2006_12_lizzy.jpgThe American Heritage Dictionary defines "delirium" as a "temporary state of mental confusion and fluctuating consciousness resulting from high fever, intoxication, shock, or other causes. It is characterized by anxiety, disorientation, hallucinations, delusions, and incoherent speech." The folks at the the Brouwerij Huyghe, the oldest brewery in Belgium's Ghent region, take a distinct tongue-in-cheek approach to the definition, as anyone familiar with their popular Delirium Tremens can attest. While that beer is certainly worthy of "BotW" status, at last week's Happy Hour, we concluded an evening of sweaty drinking and commiserating watching Mr. Smith nail Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" with a more agreeable bottle of Delirium Nocturnum (now would be a good time to mention that there are more Happy Hour photos at the Chicagoist Photos Flickr stream).

2006_12_delirium_nocturium.jpgWe've seen the glasses, the bottles painted in that faux-ceramic style, and the ubiquitous pink elephants on the labels. Whereas Delirium Tremens is a Belgian blonde, Delirium Nocturnum is a Belgian strong dark ale, but no less tasty. It pours a deep ruby in color, with a head and carbonation reminiscent of root or ginger beers, that dissipates to a sticky lacing rather quickly. As with most dark ales, you'll notice significant caramel and darker malts on the palate, along with hints of cherry and raspberry. The hops become present as the beer warms to room temperature. Unlike many dark ales, however, Delirium Nocturnum is medium bodied, so it drinks smoother. At 9 percent alcohol, however, you want to take your time and savor this beer, lest you suffer from "night delirium" yourself. Brown ale lovers will find Delirium Nocturnum a wonderful alternative to Newcastle or Sam Smith's Nut Brown. And the pink elephants and the bottle and glassware make an instant conversation starter, although it's up to you to keep it going past "Those are cute little pink elephants."

When the Delirium line was first introduced to the States, a handful refused to allow it to be licensed for consumption, fearing the beers' names would encourage alcohol abuse. Lucky for beer lovers, common sense prevailed over puritan sensibilities, much like the mid-term congressional elections. So, whether you're a beer lover, brave experimental foodie, or someone interested enough in politics to understand that Jesus was advocating the separation of church and state when he said "render unto Caesar what is Caesar, render unto God what is God's", celebrate with a Delirium Nocturnum. It's Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week."