29 June 2007

Delirium Tremens @ BARcelona Tapas

For Knights of the Beer Roundtable Review #21, we chose to hit an establishment that Indianapolis has needed for a long, long time--BARcelona Tapas, the new Spanish tapas bar that is part of an effort to invigorate the eastern side of the Mile Square along Ohio Street. Making our roundtable special this time around were our guests. As Jason noted, we had a whopping party of fourteen for the festivities. Four of our guests simply popped in after reading last week's beer feature in INtake; three guests were the esteemed gentlemen who were also part of the INtake feature.

As a tapas aficionado as well as a beer geek, I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a tapas bar in Indy. Unfortunately, our fair city has a reputation for being slow to change, and we are well behind the curve on the tapas phenomenon. While other restaurants in the city have done tapas, they didn't do the Spanish-style dishes that are the main feature at BARcelona. Consequently, I am very grateful for BARcelona's arrival in the Circle City. It saves me the trouble of having to trek up to Chicago for Emilio's or Café Iberico, which are great restaurants in their own right but not exactly conveniently located at 180 miles to the north.

So, Hoosiers, here's a crash course in tapas. Why should you love tapas? Because they're very flavorful, served in small portions--a welcome change from the typical American restaurant, where your main course comes on a plate the size of Rhode Island--and inexpensive. The smaller portions are also conducive to sharing with friends. Everyone can order a different dish for the whole group to sample.

Tapas usually consist of hot and cold plates. The classic cold tapas plates are marinated vegetables, olives, Spanish cheeses, garlic potato salad, and serrano ham. Typical hot tapas plates include fried turnovers called empanadas, and various meat, fish, and vegetable dishes coupled with distinctive sauces. From what I sampled, BARcelona gets the food right. I tried the spinach and mushroom empanadas, the patatas bravas (potatoes in spicy tomato sauce), and some marinated mushrooms. Though not the best tapas I've ever had, all three dishes were excellent.

Accompanying my tapas was the feature beer, which was Delirium Tremens, a Belgian beer. Throwing together Spanish and Belgian fare might be considered a strange pairing--sort of like Antonio Banderas and Jean-Claude Van Damme choosing to co-star in some sci-fi/martial arts/b-grade action flick. Not so. While taking in a Banderas/Van Damme feature would undoubtedly be a total waste of a hard-earned $8.00, the pairing of spinach and mushroom empanadas and the Delirium was darn near ideal.

Like many Belgian ales, the Delirium Tremens has a huge fruity aroma, heavy with apple and plum notes. The flavor is similar to the aroma; it's fruity, malty, slightly sweet, and dry on the finish. At 9% alcohol by volume (about twice the ABV of American macrobrews), Delirium Tremens is appropriately served in a snifter, which promotes the drinker's slow enjoyment of its potent aroma and taste. I have, however, had more flavorful Belgians than Delirium Tremens. Still, this is a decent beer. I'm with Jason here--a 3.5 mug rating seems about right.

All in all, Review #21 turned out to be a fantastic evening. We ate some food unique to the Circle City, drank some Belgian suds, and forged new friendships--all thanks to the power of beer.

Brewers and beer geeks join forces. From left to right: Jason, Jason, Jim, Mike, Chris, Gina, Adam, and Brent

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