There was a time when I thought that Delirium was the coolest drinking place I’d ever seen, we’d spent two long pleasant warm spring evenings going through the enormous beer list and left deliriously happy if you’ll pardon the pun. Back then it was busy and yes there were lots of drunk folks around, but this time they were unavoidable.
For the uninitiated Delirium Cafe or Delirium Village as it now seems to be known, is a series of bars located in the small alley called Impasse de la Fidélité/Getrouwheidsgang, only a couple of hundred metres from the Grand Place. You could so easily walk past the one way alley during the day as it’s not particularly prominent, apart from the string of tourists wandering up to the dark dingy alley end to view the female version of Manneken Pis (Jeanneke Pis). By night though the alley takes on a whole new persona…
We arrived at Delirium at around 10:30 PM on a Tuesday night, which is early as they reputedly serve until 6:00 AM. Instantly you could see things had changed, they had acquired more real estate for a start with the very exciting looking Monasterium the first to come into view, there was time for that later though and we progressed on to the cafe tap-house proper to get a first drink in.
Previously the cafe had sat on two levels, the upper tap house and the lower level that was busier (louder). Over the two levels they held the world record for the most beers (2,004) available at one time in one place and it was brilliant. Yes it was noisy downstairs but upstairs and on the tables in the alley there was always a space to escape and explore the beers in relative peace. To help matters they had I had heard a new bar on the upper level had opened, The Hoppy Loft (sounds interesting).
At this point I should also mention that on the opposite side of this very narrow alley sits three/four other interconnected bars, also run under the Delirium banner, each specialising in huge varieties of Vodka, Rum, Whisky and Absinthe amongst others.
You could it was different as we walked in through the large open plan doors to see folks four or five deep the upper normally quieter bar, the heat was unbearable and all around people were strutting around in mock poses, “dancing” (showing off basically) along to the thumping music posing to the crowds. From the experiences I had and voices heard I’d say that most of these were a mixture of British and Americans, with other Europeans being the definite minority.
After a bout of wrestling at the bar (what’s the point of selling so many beers if it’s impossible to buy them?), we finally found a seat inside which lasted all of five minutes before a combination of heat and noise forced us into the street to seek refuge. Even here resistance was futile.
We opted for the hoppy loft, this sounded great, craft keg from around the world and loads of fancy bottles too and it definitely was more enjoyable, there were some tables and it was quieter to a point, it just wasn’t a pleasant place to enjoy beer. All around people were screaming and shouting, ALL THE BLOODY TIME! I’m no prude, I like a laugh and a joke and love listening to loud music in it’s place, just give me a place to escape should I want to?
There was a high point though in this bar, I scored a bottle of this, a beer once tried at Brewdog Camden and one I thought I’d never find again.
After this we moved (after grabbing more great keg) to the Absinthe bar, not for absinthe you understand, we moved because oddly, it seemed the place least like a mental institution..
This was clearly not the case as within seconds of sitting down a large group of British kids arrived… As they reached the steps, the youngest looking turned to his adoring fans, his face contorted as if possessed by Beelzebub himself and screamed ABBBSSSIIIINNNNNNTTTTHHHEEE at top of his immature voice. So loud in fact I think I heard his balls drop and the first bristly hair pop from his smooth babylike chin. YEEEAAAAAH! They all cried back as they hurried to the bar.
This was not quite as bad as it may seem, as clearly despite their manic cries of celebration, none of them had ever tasted absinthe before and unknown to them they were about to become our entertainment for a few short hilarious minutes.
We watched as they dipped sugar lumps into glass before retrieving and setting them atop on slotted spoon, lighters clicked and flashed into furious light as absinthe doused sugar was set ablaze and quickly dropped back into glass to extinguish the flame. As one, they picked up their prize grinning nervously before knocking them back… The shock hit them in unison, some more than others but all to a degree, eyes glazed over, a tear dropping from one or two, hands clutched throats, whilst coughing and spluttering in feigned enjoyment. The sadistic side of me laughed, the other, well there isn’t another 😉
Their party didn’t last long after that…
We though moved at last to Monasterium after spying a table near the bottom of the alley.
Concentrating on abbey beers which are a particular favourite I was looking forward to this and wasn’t disappointed, St Bernardus Abt12 on tap for starters YUM.
The problem was though you are still on that bloody awful street. You sit at your table watching drunk after drunk stumble in and out of the “Village”, only one bouncer controls this flow and his only interests are if you are taking beer or food in, or taking glasses out.
As you sip your Trappist beer you are a million miles away from the ambience it’s creator probably had in mind in which to enjoy it, as all around there is a cacophony of human noise interspersed only by the sound of glass after glass shattering, with nobody batting an eyelid.
Then there’s this:
Now I like a drink, but why on earth would you want to drink two litres of a fine Trappist Quad etc out of a large glass wellington boot?
It sort of sums the whole place up really as does this really short video below:
The thing is despite all the things I’ve said above I still really like the idea behind the Delirium Cafe, Village, whatever they want to call it, just not the way it’s evolving. I really can’t imagine that it was the nightclub/football hooligan set they were looking to attract when they developed the concept and sourced all those wonderful beers. Individually the bars all work wonderfully well, but crammed into that little alleyway it’s just well, MADNESS!
In closing I have to say that if in Brussels you really must visit this place even if it’s only as an experience. You may actually like the craziness of it all and choose to go late evening for the all nighter. For me though now, to get a real feel for the place now and to try and explore the true treasures it holds an early evening or daytime visit is the only option. Whichever you choose, ENJOY!
Sounds like my worst nightmare!
Your face in the photo says it all “not feeling very comfortable sat here and not enjoying myself, shall we move on?…”
It’s a real shame as separately all the bars are fabulous without exception, collectively though, yob rules…
Maybe we’re just getting old 😉
Seems a shame but in a way maybe the ‘world’s biggest beer list’ thing might be the light attracting the moths. I’ve not been but my mate showed me the list last week. Impressive, love to go but maybe a couple early doors?
I think it’s getting a reputation for a late night (all night) venue to which everyone gravitates as the night wears on, like I said to Baron perhaps I’m getting old….
It’s still a definite must visit though whatever time you go, but earlier will be a more “relaxed” affair..
yeah, sounds like you got there pretty late, traditional club pre-loading time in Europe I guess? Certainly want to go there whenever I get to Belgium next
Not forgetting I’ve been before Steve and stayed extremely late (until the early hours) and this was very different in terms of the total mayhem that ensued. I’m not sure if it was just the time of year combined with stunning weather maybe?
Either way it’s still a must visit place, it’s just a matter of timing to your personal tolerance levels
I have to say this place has never floated my boat. The Hoopy Loft was very civilised and enjoyable last time I was there though but that was a couple of years back. Sounds like it’s changed for the worse.
The Hoppy Loft was great John, the craft keg lines & bottle selection were spot on, sadly the shouting and rowdiness was almost as bad as downstairs.
Hopefully still as you remembered on a quiet night or early evening
Excuse me but…where are you from??? hahaha, I´m from Spain and all that you where saying about crowded places and people talking loud here is everyday life!!! I´m so used to it that when I visited Delirium didn´t even noticed. In two weeks I´ll be there again enjoying the “weekend the la biere”, and of course spending some time at Delirium 😉
Hi Virginia, I’m from the UK and first off, thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t dream of trying to tell you what it’s like in Spanish bars, but I can’t believe they are all as loud and rowdy as it was that night.
I think you missed the point of what I was saying or trying to say. I still think Delirium is a great place and there is nothing wrong with a loud, lively atmosphere in it’s place. What I was saying though is that it had changed so much since my last visit as to make the main purpose of the visit impossible. There was no where to sit (or stand), broken glass everywhere and a bar so rammed with people it took half an hour to get drinks. What is the point of a bar selling over 2000 beers if it’s impossible to buy them?
Plus, don’t get me started on the ridiculousness of selling St Bernardus Abt12 etc in two litre measures….