“There are, broadly speaking, two types of drinkers. There is the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants. He is the type that gives rise to the jokes in the funny papers.”
London, Jack. John Barleycorn New York: Oxford University Press. 1989
Hmm…no blue mice, thankfully, but we did see pink elephants. That belonging to what was once elected the Best Beer in the World – Delirium Tremens.
Delirium tremens is Latin for “trembling madness”, an acute mental and nervous system disorder induced by withdrawal from alcohol. The term “seeing pink elephants” is a euphemism of this illness, as sufferers are believed to hallucinate pink elephants. Tongue in cheek, Brouwerij Huyghe’s Delirium Tremens has adopted a pink elephant as its logo.
Last Friday, we attended the launch party of Delirium Tremens on draught hosted by The Drinking Partners, Belgian craft beer distributor, at The Wok & Barrel.
The Wok & Barrel is a Modern Singaporean bistro at Duxton Hill. Chef-owner Shen Tan, who used to be an events director at Forbes magazine, began her foray in F&B in 2009 selling nasi lemak at the popular Madam Tan’s Nasi Lemak stall in Maxwell Food Centre. Mid this year, keen to widen the repertoire of her offering, she opened The Wok & Barrel to bring her take on modern Singaporean cuisine to local gourmets, gourmands and gluttons galore. She named the bistro The Wok & Barrel to represent a marriage of Asian-influenced Western food and imported craft beers.
A huge beer fanatic, Chef Shen could not, would not pass up on the opportunity to present the Delirium Tremens on draught in addition to the good range of craft beers already available at her bistro.
This highly lauded1 beer is a Belgian strong pale ale by Brouwerij Huyghe, a family-run brewery that has been brewing beers since 1654. Now on tap at various F&B establishments in Singapore, Delirium Tremens was actually first introduced to Singapore in bottle version in 2008 by The Drinking Partners.
The 8.5% ABV ale pours a beautiful golden; can this be how liquid sunshine looks like? The head that unfolds is dense and well set. Carbonation is very lively, and I think more so especially for the draught version.
The nose is citrus, bananas and mildly bready. First flavours of lemon, pineapple and banana sweetness soon transform into slight tartness. The mouth feel is smooth, soft and teasing from the generous carbonation. As the beer warms, the body turns a little heavier and some bitterness from the hops surfaces. Overall a refreshing, well-balanced and layered beer that one can drink copious amounts of easily, if not intimidated by its higher alcoholic content.
Beer is actually very food-compatible. Because of the mixed bag of ingredients used to brew beer, there is ample maneuverability for flavour complexity. Barley adds sweetness that can be balanced by bitterness from hops; yeast gives breadiness while spices, chocolate, fruits and nuts can supply more flavour variety.
Flavours are best paired when either complementary or contrasting. For our bubbly pale ale Delirium Tremens, Shen suggests we try the Crispy Pork Belly, Crispy Chicken, Soft Shell Chilli Crab Sandwich and Bak Chor Mee Pasta.
The Crispy Pork Belly and Crispy Chicken are marinated in a secret sweet sauce for 24 hours before they are breaded and deep-fried. Tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, I found myself reaching for piece after piece. Bad fingers, stay!
The Soft Shell Chilli Crab Sandwich is deep-fried soft-shell crab served on a mantou and topped with a sweet tangy Singaporean chilli crab sauce. The Bak Chor Mee Pasta is a twist on a well-loved local noodle dish traditionally served with pork mince. Here, Chef Shen replaces the local egg noodle with homemade tagliatelle and the mince with five-spice pork roasted to pulled-pork tenderness. The pasta is then tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce.
The sweet-sour-bitter notes of the Tremens are accentuated by the sweetness of the sauces while the healthy carbonation cuts through the oil and cleanses the palate. One bite chased by one swig; we could do this the whole night!
We also tried Delirium Nocturnum in bottle form that The Drinking Partners brought in to The Wok & Barrel specially for the Tremens launch. The Nocturnum is an 8.5% ABV strong dark ale that pours a murky brown colour topped with a creamy tan head. The earthier brother of the Tremens, it smells and tastes of sweet stone fruit, caramel, chocolate and sour cherry. I really like dark ales and this one is yummy. It will pair beautifully with desserts. Also available this season only is a winter ale, Delirium Christmas (or Delirium Noel as it is packaged in other markets). It is a dark ale like the Nocturnum, with slightly more intense notes of chocolate and plum and of course 10% ABV to keep you nice and warm.
Do get delirious with these pink elephants!
The Drinking Partners is holding a contest on your Delirium Tremens Tasting Experience. Log on to www.facebook.com/DeliriumTremensSingapore and post up to 140 words on, and preferably with pictures of, your taste experience with Delirium Tremens for a shot at winning a pack of four Delirium beers (Tremens, Nocturnum, Christmas and Red). The closing date for entries is 12 December 2011.
1 Voted the “Best Beer in the World” in 1998 at the World Beer Championships in Chicago and awarded top spot by Stuart Kallen in his The 50 Greatest Beers in the World in 1997The Wok & Barrel 13 Duxton Hill | +65.6220.0595 Written by Jack.D Photography by Jack.D and Leni.B