I am not a big fan of bars. I don’t like crowds or noise. Nor do I think alcohol is a required in order to have a good time. If anything, the reverse is true; booze makes people behave in strange ways that they inevitably regret. Or should regret. Also, if I am out with people I want to be able to have a quiet conversation without having to shout to make myself heard. Bars never seem to be quiet enough for me.
In the case of Delirium Café I made an exception. This storied Brussels bar is in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most options for beer drinkers, more than 3,000 different types available. With that reputation the bar has expanded from what was initially a small local pub to encompassing a block or so in the tourist district of downtown Brussels. I have a suspicion that self-respecting Belgians avoid the place as too touristy.
The visit wasn’t anything exceptional. I think we were sitting in the basement of the original pub – it is tough to tell and I didn’t make the effort to ask. To me a bar is a bar. The decor was about what you would expect, lots of wood with a definite beer theme to it.
I was surprised a couple of months ago to see Delirium get mentioned in the news here in Ontario, although the news story I read didn’t mention the bar itself. Delirium’s house brand of beer was at the centre of a controversy over labelling and naming. I suspect actually the bar was named after the beer, which has been around for a quarter century. Most breweries endeavour to give their beers memorable names. One in particular generated controversy here because of that name.
The beer in question is called Delirium Tremens. Some literate brewer I am sure thought that would be a funny name. The name is a Latin term, meaning “shaking frenzy.” I tried to confirm that Wikipedia translation using Google Translate and instead got a definition saying delirium tremens is: “a psychotic condition typical of withdrawal in chronic alcoholics, involving tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, and disorientation.” The authorities at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario didn’t see the humour, took exception to the name and kept it off the shelves. Now it has become available in a different outlet.
I completely agree that it is a good thing not to promote excessive consumption of alcohol. I don’t think that the name of this beer really does that, though supposedly that was the fear. I would think the high price for the imported brew (which admittedly has a higher alcohol content than most Canadian beers) would discourage those whose intention was to drink themselves into a drunken stupor. Maybe I just don’t understand the beer drinker’s mind.
Certainly this tempest in a tea pot, or should I say in a beer vat, generated free publicity for the beer, assuming that beer drinkers read newspapers, but I doubt it is going to be a big seller.
Which brings us back to the Delirium Café; if I hadn’t visited it I wouldn’t have noticed the news story about the beer. I went to the place because I figured if I didn’t I would wonder if I had missed an important cultural experience. For what it is worth, I can now say I was there, but I think you would have to be a bigger fan of bars than I am for it to be an exciting experience.