This is the good stuff, so I brought in back-up. Enter the awesome brother I’ve mentioned before. Michael is a trained chef, understands the complexities of flavor the way only an expert can, and is verbose enough to put into words what the rest of us can only vaguely hint at. I like sampling new beers with him, because he provides an excellent sounding board for my initial thoughts, and he helps me articulate those thoughts more clearly. He also picks up on elements that I miss entirely, but that’s what you get when you try to out-gourmet a professionally trained gourmet.
Delirium Nocturnum is produced by Brouwerij Huyghe, in Belgium. I have no idea how to pronounce that, but thankfully, all my friends know what I mean when I refer to the brewery as “Delirium.” These guys seem to win every award, and are literally world-renowned, so clearly, they know what they’re doing. Nocturnum is their dark ale, and lucky for me, the grocery store near me carries it every once in a while.
My initial thought is that you really need to learn how to do a proper side pour for this. It’s not fizzy like your typical grocery-store beer. It foams. It comes in these really nice ceramic bottles that are about 25 ounces, so don’t think that you’re going to just drink it from the bottle, because at 8.5%, that’s a lot of beer. I rather suspect that’s intentional, forcing you to enjoy it with friends. Besides, anything this high-class really needs a glass. It’s sweet, rich, and there’s just no bitterness to it. I always expect a dark beer to be a little bitter, but Nocturnum isn’t.
Something I brought up while Mike and I worked our way through the bottle was that some beers advertise things like “less filling” or “drinkability” as a positive point, as though being watery was a thing to aspire to. Nocturnum is substantial. You know you’re drinking something, you know there’s some real nutrients in it, and you know that what you’re drinking is more than water with a little alcohol and some fizz. Nocturnum almost demands that it go with a meal, because it’s practically a side dish.
Michael’s thoughts were a bit more highbrow than mine. He compared it to sherry, saying that it was like someone took a six-pack of ordinary ale and somehow condensed it down into one bottle of the very essence of “ale-ness.” He noted that it has more body than your typical beer, and is halfway to being syrup-y thick. I usually drink stouts, so I missed that comparison entirely, but as soon as he mentioned it, I recognized exactly what he meant. The sweetness isn’t in any way sugary or overpowering, but it’s somehow more concentrated. It lingers on the tongue in a way cheap beers never do.
Short version? Nocturnum leads me to believe that Belgians understand grains and ales the way the French understand grapes and wine. It is a work of art, and is simply a better beer than I deserve.