Delirium Tremens

June 1, 2011

It’s been called the Shakes, the Horrors, Jazz Hands and, my personal favorite, shaking hands with the invisible man. Delirium Tremens, commonly known as the DTs, is your body’s second-favorite method of letting you know you’ve been very dumb and drank far too much. The body’s first-favorite is the good ol’ fashioned hangover. DTs, however, move far beyond the weekend warrior’s meager headache and bedspins. DTs are a sign that something’s wrong… very wrong.

From the Latin meaning “shaking frenzy”, DTs most noticeable symptom is twitching hands. Acute tremor episodes can and do occur along with a host of other nasty things that I won’t mention in a family publication. You’re probably eating breakfast while reading this and I certainly don’t want to put you off your Cocoa Puffs. The other major symptom of the DTs is visual hallucination. Most times it is environmental, i.e. natural recurring patterns such as leaves on the ground or the way the walls are painted that get mistaken for, say, giant spiders. Sometimes the hallucinations are a result of chemical imbalance caused by the excessive drinking.

Who here’s seen Dumbo? Show of hands. Good. Hopefully you saw the original version old Walt intended where Dumbo gets a little sloshed and wakes up in a tree. After our favorite little elephant drinks from a bucket that champagne accidentally fell into, he gets instantly intoxicated and begins visually hallucinating pink elephants dancing by. “Seeing pink elephants” was a popular way of saying “drunk” in the early half of the 20th century. Jack London first mentioned it in his 1913 book John Barleycorn. Time passes and our current gotta-have-it-now generation sticks to one-word euphemisms. At least one group of people hasn’t forgotten and they celebrate it the best way possible: name a beer after it.

Don’t ask me to pronounce it, but Brouwerij Huyghe has been making Delirium Tremens since 1989. An absolutely wonderful representation of Belgian strong golden ale, it shimmers in the glass like sunlight. Being a bottle-conditioned beer, it has some cloudiness and tons of foam. Slightly sour on the nose, it shows off scents of orange rind, lemon custard, apricot and banana along with its funky Belgian yeast. Flavors are more of what you’ll find on the nose as well as an almost moscato-like quality of fruitiness and fizz on the palate. Some hints of wheat and pepper present, too. Very complex and satisfying. The alcohol content, 8.5%, is well-hidden behind the flavors and textures.

Is it just me, or is it a touch cruel to name a tasty beverage after the result of alcohol withdrawl?