Winter Brew of the Season
Winter spreads its frosty fingers in the wind as it takes over mild autumn. Ice now forms in the puddles on the streets, trees bare their branches to the gray sky, and heaters and fireplaces work full blast to keep the indoors warm and cozy. In an attempt to keep our insides as warm, we turn to this issue’s brew of the season- the Delirium Nocturnum.
The very first thing one notices about the Delirium Nocturnum (and its brother, the delicious Delirium Tremens) is its packaging. The unusual bottle is a collector’s favorite- brown glass painted to look ceramic, resulting in a pewter-gray color that stands out. Shiny blue foil presents a great backdrop to the famous, much-debated, much-admired pink elephant that is the signature look of the Delirium brews.
The pink pachyderm also appears on the official glass, circling it much in the way we remember their cartoon counterpart circling the heads of harmless drunks, back before Disney or anyone else thought too much about it. Another unique aspect of the brew is its name. Delirium Nocturnum translates from Latin as “Night Madness”, emphasizing the ‘darkness’ of this Belgian Strong Ale. With such an impressive name wrapped in such whimsical packaging, it’s no surprise that the Delirium Nocturnum instantly piques most beer drinkers’ interest. In fact, both the Delirium Nocturnum and Delirium Tremens sparked interest and controversy when first imported into the United States, where for a while it was banned due to the provocative nature of its name, which refers to a medical term used to describe symptoms of alcohol abuse. It seems certain regulatory bodies thought the name to be too intriguing to beer drinkers, and would encourage them to over-imbibe.
Eventually that madness passed, however, and both Delirium Nocturnum and Delirium Tremens can be enjoyed at numerous locations worldwide. It is brewed by the Brouwerij Huyghe in Belgium, which has been run by the same family for over 350 years, starting in 1654. Though difficulties during both World Wars, both brewery and family have continued and even thrived. Despite its substantial age, Brouwerij Huyghe has shown that it is not afraid to innovate with new beer and new brewing technology.
And now, to examine the beer itself more closely. Delirium Nocturnum is a dark, strong Belgian ale, with a hefty 8.5% ABV, just perfect for that extra strength we need in a winter beer. Three different strains of yeast and five different malts go into this brew, which also experiences secondary fermentation in the bottle. When pouring, expect a tan, foamy head to leave behind some lacings on the glass. The beer itself will be a dark brown or rich ruby color.
Take a deep whiff of the Delirium Nocturnum to detect an aromatic sweetness. You should note hints of fruit, mostly apple and berry, and perhaps a bit of honey, with the faintest sourness lingering underneath. Now for the best part- the tasting. On your very first sip, you should immediately experience flavors of chocolate, coffee, and aniseed. Next up are the fruity flavors you smelled earlier, and perhaps a hint of plum or raspberry. You should also be able to notice the maltiness and yeastiness that give this Belgian beer its strength, and add to the complexity of its character. The aftertaste yields a dash of spiciness, with fruit flavors still lingering.
Unsurprisingly, Delirium Nocturnum has gained some notice in China lately, notably when the IBEC (International Beverage
Exposition and Competition) in Shenzhen awarded the brew a Gold Medal for its ‘Best in Show’ category. “We are delighted with each and every new award we win,” said owner De Laet, in response to the good news. “It’s a great feeling to see that we Belgians are still capable of making products that are appreciated and exported worldwide. Believe me, the Chinese admire our craftsmanship as brewers and Belgian beer is becoming a real quality label in China, where the beer consumption has exploded these past years.”
A dark, bitter chocolate should draw out the sweet flavors of the brew nicely. We recommend trying a Chocolat Stella Origins Intenses 65% Extra Dark Ecuador, available from Feidan for 25.80/bar.
Try this beer with some kiwi slices. This tangy fruit should help your taste buds dance after a few sips of the Delirium Nocturnum.
A sharp blue cheese is likely to match well with the heavy spiciness of Delirium Nocturnum. Let the somewhat smoky beer flavor blend with the sharp cheese to really appreciate the complexity of taste the brew has to offer.
The Grimalkin from Emilio Cigars offers hints of fruit, malt, and bitterness that pair nicely with those of the Delirium Nocturnum.
Due to its strength and sweet flavors, Delirium Nocturnum is best enjoyed on a cold night, just after dinner. It not only does well with a chocolatey dessert, but as a dessert itself. Let it warm your chilled bones and heart, and turn your thoughts from frost and rain to cheerful fires and the joys of the holidays.
While most people think of heavy food like steaks and burgers for beer pairings, it’s important to note that other foods can go well with certain special beers too. For a tasty twist, we suggest pairing our brew of the season with a light, chocolate breakfast pastry- the bear claw. The pastry’s chocolate complements the chocolate/caramel flavors of the Nocturnum, and the brew’s finishing spiciness adds just the right kick to the pastry’s sugary sweetness.
Bear claws are a guilty pleasure that deserve an indulgent brew. The caramel tones of this dark Belgian brew flirt with the claw’s chocolate and caramel frosting. Peppery alcohol’s drying heat tidies up the sugary swallow.
1 pkg. active dry yeast 1/4 c warm water 1/2 c soft butter 1/3 c fructose 3 egg yolks 3/4 c milk, scalded, cooled 1/4 tsp salt (sea) 1/4 tsp ground cardamom 3 c unbleached white flour
Filling: 3 TB butter ¼ c brown sugar ½ c chocolate chips ¼ c shredded coconut (if desired)
Glaze: 1 c fructose 1 TB honey Dash of salt 2 egg whites 1 tsp vanilla Pinch of baking soda
Sprinkle yeast in warm water and let stand until dissolved. Cream butter until light and add fructose. Beat in egg yolks. Then add yeast mixture, milk, salt and cardamom. Gradually mix in flour. Dough will be quite soft. Turn out on floured board and knead until soft. Return dough to bowl and butter the top lightly. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. Turn dough out on floured surface and knead lightly with floured rolling pin, roll half the dough out 8 inches wide, 27 inches long, and 1/4 inch thick. Next, make the chocolate filling by melting butter and chocolate chips together. Then mix brown sugar and coconut into the butter/chocolate mixture. Place about 2 TB in the middle of each roll. Roll up jellyroll fashion from a long side. Pinch edges to seal. Cut in 3 segments and shape into bear claws by slashing each piece twice. Place on greased cookie sheet. Repeat with other half of dough and remaining chocolate filling. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until richly brown. As the bear claws are finishing baking, prepare the glaze. Mix all ingredients together in a double boiler over boiling water for approximately 7 minutes until frosting stands in stiff peaks. While still warm, spread top of each roll with fructose glaze. Alternately, sprinkle the top with almond slivers or drizzle with warm chocolate for an even more intensely chocolate treat.
Article by Jessica Smith