Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


Belgium dumps its
Delirium Tremens on Canada

The beer, that is, not necessarily
the withdrawal symptoms

March 13, 2018

The Lost Weekend by Charles R Jackson


Maybe not all provincial liquor boards block promotions that allude to drunkenness. And where else would this come from but the Land of a Thousand Beer Brands, aka Belgium, where competitors face that much more pressure to distinguish themselves? Now, from Belgium to Canada via Quebec, comes Delirium Tremens.

That’s the name of a beer brand and, probably known only to a few survivors of the last millennium, a state of extreme alcoholic withdrawal. This name evokes the exceptionally heavy, desperate drinking that took place before non-alcoholic drugs replaced booze as the hard core addict’s choice.

Delirium Tremens beer from Belgium’s Brouwerij Huyghe

This is the stuff of frontier literature, part of the rationale for the Prohibition movement and probably some of the inspiration for The Lost Weekend, a 1944 Charles Jackson novel that caused a sensation in itself, even more so when turned into a predictably inferior movie. The graphic portrayal of a middle class souse desperately seeking drink, drunkenly getting into trouble and undergoing hallucinatory hangovers apparently jolted people back then, maybe because many of them saw something of themselves or people they knew.

Apart from respectable types sneaking around to procure booze and drink it, “rubbies” wandered Vancouver’s Main and Hastings district (since renamed the Downtown Eastside by American poverty pimps), dementedly wasted on bay rum supplied by Chinese grocers.

With hallucinations of brightly coloured exotic animals supposedly a common symptom of the DTs, jokes proliferated about pink elephants. Belgian purveyor Brouwerij Huyghe uses just that imagery to promote six other Delirium drinks besides Delirium Tremens.

Canada’s McClelland Premium Imports says Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, already visiting here, will attend an official signing ceremony in Montreal on March 16 to celebrate the DT deal.

So is an ad strategy that makes light of addiction now copacetic to conventional Canadians? Or will distribution encounter problems outside Quebec? Or do Canuckleheads no longer even know what delirium tremens means? This is comparable to marketing cannabis with a slogan like Get Ya Dangerously High, Dude.

Fortunately the promotion comes with mitigating factors, such as this description of the beer’s flavour:

Golden blonde colour, rich mouth feel, long sweet aftertaste, nose of clove and banana opens to aromas of bubble gum, peach and orange brandy.

Ewww yuck, would you even use that stuff to wash down fries with mayonnaise? If only someone could stick fentanyl with a comparable deterrent.


Bruges Brugge Belgium with Delirium Tremens ashtray

Right-thinking Canadians must boycott Bruges, whose burghers
allow this doubly offensive DTs-emblazoned ashtray to sully
the scenery of Europe’s most beautiful city.
(Photos: Greg Klein)


Postscript: If Belgian royals attended a signing ceremony, the media coverage remains elusive. But digging back a bit farther, it turns out this beer reached Ontario in 2014, although not without controversy and an earlier rejection by the LCBO. McClelland’s March 13 news release gave the impression the company was introducing the brand to Canada.

Postscript 2: Actual DTs are alive and unwell after all, although often unrecognized.

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