Until Cuda Na Kiju opened last year – May was it? – the denizens of Warsaw lived in serious deprivation. Sure, there were bars that sold good beer, but they weren’t for you and me: they were for hipsters and half-wits. Cuda changed that, presenting a range of craft beers for the general population. Other multi-taps opened soon after, and I spent a pleasant summer in a state of intoxication. Warsaw’s nightlife had taken a fresh, bold direction.
Launched this March, Delirium have taken the multi-tap trend and tinkered and tuned it. As exciting and experimental as the new wave of Polish brewing has been, everybody knows that no one does it better than the Belgian’s themselves. So to find a Belgian-themed tap bar is good news indeed. Signposted by a dancing pink elephant, Delirium presents its cause the moment you enter – on the bar in front there’s about twenty or so taps. Then, to the left, a huge walk-in fridge with a staggering selection: speaking to one of the co-owners she tells me, at this point, there’s about 120. She forecasts it’s a number that will grow to cover 200. Peering through the glass, I feel like a small boy staring through a shark tank: hypnotized, spellbound and a little scared for my liver.
The design is bare bones and spartan – lots of brickwork, some seats made from beer kegs, and varying ephemera of the Belgian brewing trade: posters and coasters and other detritus. It doesn’t need more: it’s all about the beer. We try lambics and tripels, dubbels and blond ales, each poured in their distinct, official way: there is fruity Mongozo, served in halved coconut husks, and Kwak in its cult wooden holder. And, of course, there is the signature pink elephant beer, the Delirium Tremens itself. It’s a knockout. The photographer, already showing early signs of wobbles, quips to me, “we arrived in peace, we’ll leave in pieces.” As he predicts, the evening descends into a gentle, drunken muddle, a process encouraged by the extraordinary beers and their eccentric labels: chuckling monks and sniggering Satan’s.
In terms of quality, there is a forensic attention to detail. The mussels are from Belgium, as too are the potatoes used for the frites. Both are declared a triumph. This is especially true of the mussels, priced zł. 35 and cooked in beer. The chips themselves are as good as I remember from my last trip to Brussels (granted, my memories are misty – I was there for Euro 2000, a boozy military exercise following the England football team). The green pepper sauce I pair with the frites comes highly recommended.
The location, some would say, is daring in the least. Of all the under-visited districts in Warsaw, the New Town figures highly. Sure it gets on the tourist trail, but be honest, when was the last time you heard a rallying cry of “let’s drink on Freta!” But be prepared to be hearing that a few times over spring. What we have with Delirium is the creation of a bar serving the world’s best beer. That’s got to count for something.
Yes, the prices for Poland are relatively weighty, but remember this: Żywiec downtown costs around ten. Here, you’ll pay zł. 20 for a pint of Blanche de Namur. Is it twice as good? No. It’s two hundred times better. That it’s served in a laidback environment that feels welcome to all is the cherry on the cake. (AW)