Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the solid folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help keep you see clearly when making your selection of wine, whiskey, and beer.
Delirium tremens (also referred to as The D.T.'s) is an acute episode of delirium that is usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol, first described in 1813.
The D.T.'s have a rich cultural history especially when they involve its victims seeing pink elephants:
"Seeing pink elephants" is a euphemism for drunken hallucination, caused by alcoholic hallucinosis or delirium tremens. The first recorded use of the term is by Jack London in 1913, who describes one sort of alcoholic in the autobiographical John Barleycorn as "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 may have derived his metaphor from the 1890s saying "being followed by pink giraffes".
In Action Comics #7 (December 1938), in a story in which Superman lifts an elephant over his head while performing at the circus, a drunk in the crowd exclaims, "I don't mind seeing pink elephants, but (-hic-) this is too much!"
A reference to pink elephants occurs in the 1941 Disney animated film Dumbo. Dumbo, having taken a drink of water from a bucket spiked with champagne, begins to hallucinate singing and dancing "Pink Elephants on Parade".
A Disney character getting drunk and hallucinating? Those were the days. It reminds me of a classic Warner Brothers cartoon from 1947 called A Pest in the House. Daffy Duck is in his prime during this period and he plays a bellhop who carries out a series of gags which prevent a surly guest from sleeping which brings much consternation (and physical pain) to the hotel's manager Elmer Fudd. This is my favorite bit:
Daffy opens a window which releases a loud gail which frightens the man to the ceiling, and when the man comes down, closes it and retuns to his sleep, and Daffy leaves the room, a drunken man in the other room sings "How Dry I Am". Just when he was going to beat the drunk, Daffy says that he'll "muzzle that inebriated canary", only for the naive duck to get drunk and sing along.
"Muzzle that inebriated canary," is a killer line and one that we might have to employ when Atomizer starts getting out of hand at this year's Fraters Inc. Christmas party.
Today, the Huyghe Brewery Melle, Belgium continues the pink elephant tradition with their Delirium Tremens beer:
Delirium Tremens was launched on 26 December 1989. The beer uses three different yeasts and is packaged in a bottle that is painted to resemble cologne ceramics. The label exemplifies different phases of the production of "Delirium Tremens" and that the "Pink Elephant" was up and ready to conquer the world.
In 1992, the "Confrerie van de Roze Olifant" (Brotherhood of the Pink Elephant) was founded to promote Delirium Tremens and other beers of Melle.
Sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." When does the movie come out?
Although it is commonly thought that sufferers hallucinate pink elephants, which may explain its use on the beer's label, the most common animals seen in delirium tremens hallucinations are cats, dogs, and snakes.
Those are rather pedestrian creatures when it comes hallucinations. I can see why they went with the much more interesting pink elephant instead. Let's take a closer at our beer of the week.
Delirium Tremens comes in a 25.4 ounce glass bottle made to look ceramic with a cork wrapped in blue foil. Blue label with pink elephants, strutting alligators, and something that looks like a snake dragon. Or maybe I'm just hallucinating.
Style: Belgian Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 8.5%
COLOR (0-2): Golden brown and a wee bit cloudy. 2
AROMA (0-2): Yeast, tangy fruit, candied sugar and spices. 2
HEAD (0-2): Lots of volume, thick and foamy. Bright white color. 2
TASTE (0-5): Similar to the aroma with malt and yeast mixing nicely with strong fruity and sweet flavors. Some spiciness and a little bitter hopiness at the finish. Very carbonated and crisp. Medium-bodied with a smooth mouthfeel. You don't really pick up the alcohol that much and it's surprisingly drinkable. 4
AFTERTASTE (0-2): Tart yet pleasant. 2
OVERALL (0-6): In 1998, Delirium Tremens was named the Best Beer in the World at the World Beer Championships in Chicago. I must respectfully disagree with that designation. DT is an excellent beer and if you're into Belgian Ales, this is one not to miss. It’s got a ton of interesting and well-balanced flavors while remaining remarkably drinkable. But if ever faced with the stark prospect of choosing the last beer I ever get to drink, there are a number of others I would go with before Delirium Tremens. I do love those pink elephants though. 5
TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17