Last week, Esquire published a gentle little rant decrying the rise of lower-alcohol session beer. The author's mistaken thesis is that the praise pendulum has swung too far away from the sort of mighty, boozy beers he prefers and too close to an imaginary wave of thin, watery Bud Light-alikes whose primary attribute is "drinkability."
The article is titled "Session Beer Is Dumb," and it's posted to Esquire's "Eat Like a Man" section, so, you know, GRRRR! But those bits of ham-fisted, brand-mandated machismo aside, the author, Aaron Goldfarb, makes some reasonable points. He's basically arguing that he'd rather drink smaller amounts of tastier, higher-proof stuff than guzzle a million flavorless session beers (a term he rightly derides as "namby-pamby").
That's fair enough—I certainly don't want to drink in a world without double IPAs and imperial stouts, and furthermore, to each his own. More pilsner for the rest of us. I disagree with his near-blanket dismissal of lower-alcohol beers, but I appreciate his admission that beer contains alcohol, which, thank god, gets you drunk. Beer media (and marketing) tends to gloss over this fact. Perhaps you've heard of how warm and welcoming and collaborative beer industry people are. This is a thing they like to talk about, along with their dogs and their beards. But there's another common attribute that gets discussed a bit less: A lot of beer-makers, pushers, and writers are lousy drunks.
Belgium's Brouwerij Huyghe is not afraid of this truth, and in fact celebrates it by naming their most prominent beer, Delirium Tremens, after a symptom of alcohol withdrawal. The phrase is Latin for "shaking frenzy," and the beer is an 8.5-percent-ABV Belgian strong pale ale with a festive label featuring a pink elephant, the universal mascot of the alcohol-induced hallucinating class. Fun!
At about $11 per 750-milliliter bottle, it's a bit pricy for anyone who's just looking to ward off the shakes, but it's also very good beer, so you can look at it as a dual-purpose investment. Not only does it do the neat trick of simultaneously mitigating and exacerbating your disease, but it's also quite pleasant-tasting.
It pours pale gold with a giant head of pure-white foam. The aroma features very heavy banana augmented by sour lemon and light cloves. It tastes like sweet, spiced pastry, maybe a lemon cake baked with a little hit of rum. Delirium Tremens lacks the second level of flavor that distinguishes truly exceptional Belgian strong pales, as it just sort of sits there after the impressive start, but it is still much more than just a decent beer with an attention-seeking name. Its combination of high alcohol and good flavor makes it a very solid option whether you're looking to Drink Like a Man, enjoy the evening, or make it through the morning.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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