May 7, 2009
Follow the pink elephant to this Belgian beer oasis in Kasumigaseki
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on May 2009
For such a small country, Belgium never ceases to amaze with the sheer number of ales that it produces. It takes a special kind of dedication for a nation of just 10 million people to make 8,700 varieties of beer, and you’ve got to admire a country whose average citizen gets through 93 liters of the stuff per year. In this era of big breweries churning out identical dross in differently colored cans, Belgium’s brewers need our support—which is really just a semi-plausible excuse for heading to Delirium Cafe.
Located at a prime spot close to Toranomon station, this beer pub is a perfect place for drinking on a summer’s evening, when the double doors open out onto a wooden deck with tables and chairs. The traffic on the road outside might make things a bit noisy, but remember that you’re here for serious drinking, not chitchat.
To show just how seriously the owners of Delirium Cafe take their task, there are four huge refrigerators packed with dozens of different bottled beers and no fewer than ten varieties on tap. Even the walls are decorated with metal beer trays—though there was still sufficient space for a graffiti nationalist to daub them with the words of the Belgian national anthem. Judging from the spelling mistakes, he’d probably downed a few before he started.
We kicked things off with the house brew, the spicy Delirium Tremens (¥900), which weighs in at 8.5 percent alcohol and is served in a globe glass adorned with the bar’s pink elephant logo. That was followed by the tangier, triple-fermented La Guillotine (¥900) and the excellent dark ale Queue De Charrue Brune, a fruity 5.4 percent brew that’s a snip at ¥950.
At this point in the inspection of the premises, I always feel that it’s good to take in the bathroom facilities—but was somewhat disconcerted to find myself sharing the space with a small gold boy pointing his penis at me, reflected in the completely mirrored walls. And that was before I’d started seeing pink elephants.
Back at the table, it would have been an insult to Belgian cuisine not to try the fries (¥680), which at Delirium are served with three dips—mayonnaise, ketchup and squid ink, corresponding to the colors of the Belgian flag. A kilo of mussels from Brussels cooked in beer will set you back ¥2,780, while the Flanders-style paté (¥1,200) is excellent. Waffles being Belgium’s other famous food, you probably shouldn’t leave without trying those either (¥900).
It would be remiss to finish without mentioning just a few of the other outstanding ales available at Delirium Cafe. St. Bernardus (¥1,050) is the strongest of the white beers, at 5.5 percent; also try the amber Piraat (¥1,100) listed in the bar’s “Golden Five,” and the 8-percent Pauwel Kwak (¥1,150). Oh, and the Mere Noel (¥890) is worth ordering for the label on the bottle alone. Try it: you’ll understand.