According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), delirium tremens – aka “DTs” – is a state of confusion of rapid onset that is usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol. I can’t imagine that any serious beer drinker would ever suffer from such an ailment… I mean, why withdraw? (as the bishop said to the actress) Sorry, back to DTs. I came across delirium tremens last week on a trip to Ghent in Belgium, but I’m glad to say not the health concerning variety of DTs… no, it was a beer. Not just any beer, but a beer that has been voted 1st or 5th best in the world (depending on which Press you read). Anyway, whichever it is – and, quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn – this Brand has attitude. So, of course, when in Rome, do as the Romans… I’m in the Trollekelder, Ghent, after a long walk around the beautiful city centre.
Delirium Tremens is a typical Belgian…. strong! By the way, the problem with the nanny states we live in today is that for some readers around the globe, clicking the highlighted Delirium Tremens link above will, er, take you to an error page – because some chaps just don’t see the comedic value of linking a strong beer to a particularly harmful health condition. Also, you’ll notice that the Trollekelder website is typically Belgian too… in Flemish. NB on this particular point, the Belgians have 3 official languages – Flemish, French and German (wow, even as a European, I didn’t know that German was one of them), but luckily there’s no law that you have to produce all your marketing material in all 3 languages, unlike Canada, where you must do so in both English and French. Anyway, ignoring the language thing (other than the fact that their webmaster is trying to produce something in English… soon), let’s get back to the beer. Er, strong, yes. It’s 8.5 ABV, which is the great thing about Belgian beer. It’s got orange peel, which is about as close to hoppiness that you get. My number one? Non. Er, no. Nein – yes, that’s closer to the mark: 9…. but probably add another zero. Yep, that’s it – it’s number 90 in my top beers:
As we swanned around Ghent, visiting a number of the world famous beer establishments, we also took advantage of the wonderful traditional markets – there’s one square called Vrijdaymarkt (see below what it looks like on an empty day), which literally translates as Friday Market square, and, believe it or not, actually has a busy market every Friday. I stopped by the fish stall (being a Friday), and picked up some smoked herring, which was 99 cents each, but I secured 4 for Euro 2.99! A delicious start to the day, ripping apart smoked raw fish, and devouring it like some demon after a night of DTs – lining the stomach for the forthcoming Friday p.m. onslaught.
The afternoon started with a stop at Ghent’s craziest bar – something resembling an old junk shop – Velootje, which many have posted on various websites before, but it’s always worth reminding folks of the eccentricity of what a trip to Ghent might have in store. There’s obviously no link to a Velootje website, because the owner probably doesn’t give a monkeys – what you do need to appreciate though is that the one coke (flat, old, & probably ill) together with the beer (most excellent Christmas choice, “Gordon Xmas” at 8.8% ABV) came to an exorbitant Euro 9… this tells me that the joint is a museum and the very engaging proprietor can charge anything he likes “to cover the entry fee”. I didn’t challenge. I didn’t even go back to change my entry in his visitors’ book, but just paid up, and, yes, we’ll be back to be ripped off again… after all it’s great entertainment. As you can see from these pictures, there must be a cost to keeping a place looking like this (the proprietor is just in sight if you look hard enough):
Ghent also has a real fairy tale castle, only a couple of minutes walk – we had a few hours to waste before the Christmas market opened at 6pm, so we headed off in search of a little medieval culture. I particularly liked their original guillotine…
And, so, our final destination… the Ghent Christmas market. And for me, the medieval theme continued, with a visit to the Gruut beer stall. As per the growing interest in “tradition”, it’s great to find another superb effort to produce beers to very olde recipes – so, their Inferno beer still uses hops (the rest don’t), but that’s OK to try to get the body that a ‘triple’ style Belgian beer demands. It really is an exquisite beer at 9% ABV and the boss lady advises me that this time next year, no hops at all will be used. We continued our excursion through the winter market (an unheard of 14 degrees in the northern hemisphere in early December!) and found a mulled beer – and my good lady tried it, and liked it! Now that’s a first, as she’s always previously been put off by the smell of beer… what with the abundance of sweet Belgian fruit beers, I suppose the mulled stuff couldn’t really have originated anywhere else. By 11pm, we were exhausted – we had sampled at least a dozen alcoholic beverages – so I stayed out for a last tipple, or should I say ‘triple’… a limited edition Duvel “triple hop” and the Gruut White as a nightcap.
Merry Christmas, everyone!