Delirium Tremens, a tasty beer from Belgium that gave me my first taste of what it may have been like during prohibition.
You see, here in Ontario, Canada we can’t go to the local corner store or grocery store to pick up some wine or beer. We can only buy direct from shops controlled by the wineries or breweries themselves, or via the LCBO – the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
I don’t really have a problem with that. Our selection is pretty good, albeit tightly controlled. But, this control has led to many brewers refusing to export their beers to us – too much paperwork, too costly to have bilingual labels or new packaging, not worth their time.
About Delirium Tremens
This is a potent, yet tasty Belgian strong ale. It’s spicy, sweet and yeasty with a bit of banana and fruits to it. One of my all-time favourite brews if you get it crisp and fresh.
About Delirium Nocturnum
This darker counterpart to Tremens has a caramel, sugar and fig taste to it. Quite different but equally tasty. A real shame that people who appreciate good beers can’t buy bottles of either of these in Ontario.
What does Prohibition have to do with Delirium?
These are both great beers, which should be available to anyone who appreciates the complexities of Belgian ales. Which brings me to the point of this post…many years ago, Delirium Tremens was banned from sale by the LCBO.
It had been approved for sale but shortly after someone complained about the name of the beer. Apparently the name ‘Delirium’ was going to make people want to get drunk. Perhaps the pink elephants and crocodiles on the bottles didn’t help either.
Despite it being banned and pulled off the shelves, I found a way to get my hands on some…this is how my prohibition-like experience went down:
- After learning the beer had been pulled from sale, I was disappointed I hadn’t gone out sooner to grab some, as it is an award-winning, top-ranked beer.
- I learned from some secret contacts that the LCBO was stashing all the remaining bottles in a back room near their Lake shore warehouse.
- Venturing to this special location, I got myself to the beer area and quietly (so as not to arise suspicion) asked the worker for 6 bottles of Delirium.
- Playing coy, or not part of the secret society, he said he had no idea what I was talking about. Hmm.
- I asked again, for some Delirium Tremens, and suggested he go check the back room for me. He returned a few minutes later, empty handed. Hmm.
- He takes me over to the Special Services desk, and advises one of his superiors that I have asked for something that doesn’t exist.
- This new worker asks what I seek and flips through the pages of some secret ledger, eventually declaring that it does not exist and I can look for myself.
- Leafing through this booklet of all products for sale I find no mention of Delirium Tremens. Seems that the LCBO was smarter than Al Capone.
- Then a svelt young lady walks by, she seems to be the boss of the boss. She has obviously been watching me the whole time as she is part of the secret society.
- “You want some Delirium?”, she asks me. “Yes, 6 bottles”, I say.
- She calls a new guy over, Jimmy, and sends him to the mysterious back room again, he returns with my 6 deliriously good-looking bottles of beer.
- The sub-boss comments that it’s not even in the book. Svelt lady says “I know. But if they ask for it by name, they can have it.”
Moments later I have my bottles secured and am on my way home with some banned beers. Did I proceed to get drunk on these crazy, dangerous beers? No, of course not – I savoured them and saved them to enjoy over the coming months.
You can find Delirium Tremens on tap at many bars around Toronto and Ontario now, but still not in bottles at the LCBO – I had to buy my recent bottles in the US. The importer is pushing for it to get listed again, but chances look slim.