Recently in Fantôme Category

Fantôme Santé 15!

| No Comments

The word "Santé" roughly translates to "to your health", and as such, is often used as a toast, akin to "Cheers" or "Prost" and so on. But in this case, it has a double meaning. Fantôme brewer Danny Prignon brews a new beer every year for a charity that helps those in need of healthcare not provided by standard means, and thus a second meaning of Santé comes into play. That sneaky ghost, always doing the right thing. It's hard to find much info on these beers, but I gather that the recipes are different every year, though they are always saisons (as befitting Fantôme's general nature). This particular edition is actually from 2011, and seems to be particularly well regarded, though it is clearly showing its age at this point:

Fantome Sante 15!

Fantôme Santé 15! - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of bubbly white head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edges that stays around for a while. Smells of earthy, fruity funk, Brett is clearly doing its thing here. Taste is very sweet with a surprising fruity note, almost raisiny, like an aged dubbel or quad, though this is clearly its own thing. That Brett kicks in towards the middle with some tart fruit that intensifies into a full blown sour note in the finish. Mouthfeel is on the upper end of medium bodied, with lower than normal carbonation for Fantôme, but still ample enough to work. A bit of stickiness lingers in the finish as well. Overall, this is yet another interesting offering from Fantôme. It's showing its age a bit, but it's really brightening my outlook after a long day at work. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 10/18/13. Bottled July 2011, Released 6&7 August 2011 (charity weekend).

Fantôme continues to fascinate, and I'm always up for trying a bottle of the stuff. You never know what you're going to get.

August Beer Clubbery

| 2 Comments

Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folk from my work who get together every month at a local BYOB for drinkery and fun. A light turnout this week, so we didn't actually get through every beer pictured below, but we made a valiant effort and actually drank a few that aren't pictured. I know, I'm disappointed by my neglect to capture those additional beers in photographic form too, but we'll just have to live with this:

August Beers
(Click for larger version)

Standard tasting note disclaimers apply: these notes are not trustworthy in any way, shape, or form, because whatever, I had fun tonight. In approximate order of consumption, not necessarily how pictured.

  • Fantôme Saison - One of my contributions, it seems that Fantôme hasn't quite emerged from their smoky, rubbery funk phase just yet, though this one wasn't quite as janky as the one I reviewed recently. It actually had more of a Saison Dupont feel, with just a bit of smoky, barnyard funk to make things interesting. I'll keep it at a B+ and pine for the lemony, sour Fantômes of yore.
  • Dale's Pale Ale - Pretty standard fare, but excellent as such beers go. Always a good choice, and I'll hit it with a B+, just like before.
  • Kaedôme Saison (regular version) - So my regular homebrewed saison is actually drinking quite well at this point, big spicy yeast notes, plenty of Saaz hops, not as much Nelson Sauvin hops as I was going for, but quite a pleasant brew nonetheless. About half the batch is still in secondary, dosed with Brettanomyces (like Fantôme, hence the name of this beer). Probably still a few months away from that sucker, but even this non-funky version is doing pretty well. Another B+
  • Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale - Rock solid hoppy amber ale, not quite as mindblowing as some of those hoppy imperial reds, but a worthy, highly drinkable beer. Yet another B+. I swears, not everything in this post will be rated the same.
  • Ken's English White Beer - My buddy's homebrew, this one was made with wheat, rose hips, and an English ale yeast. A rather odd combination, but it works out reasonably well in the end. Nice wheat character, not much in the way of rose hips, but some English yeast character (thankfully without the diacetyl note that I often get from such yeasts)> Not a mind-blower, but a nice summer beer. B-
  • Ken's Roggenbier - Another of Ken's homebrews, and possibly my favorite of the homebrews tonight. Nice spicy rye character mixed with hefeweizen notes from the yeast. Really nice combination that works very well. B+
  • Port City Essential Pale Ale - Terrible. Ok, not quite that bad, but not particularly good either. A sorta muddy mess of hops and malt, never quite coalescing into good.C+
  • Dominion Oak Barrel Stout - Now this one is legitimately terrible. Ok, so some people like that British diacetyl note sometimes, but I cannot stand it, and it just overshadowed everything else about this beer for me. Not undrinkable, but definitely not good. D
  • Stone / Farking / Wheaton W00tstout - Ah, now we come to my favorite beer of the night, the Wil Wheaton collaboration with Stone and Fark.com, a huge imperial stout made with pecans, wheat, and rye, partially aged in bourbon barrels. Great rich sweetness, a hint of that bourbon and oak, with a nice overall malt character. A bit heavy, but quite a nice beer, really glad I got to try some. A-
  • Ken's Irish red Ale - Another homebrew, this time a pretty straightforward Irish Red that was made with potatoes, a pretty nice combo. Sweeter than your typical Irish Red, though it keeps that same flavor profile and works well enough. I'll go with a standard B for this one.
And that just about covers it. For those who saw the Eclipse beer in the picture and are upset that we didn't get to it, do not fear, I reviewed it a while back. You're welcome. See you next month...

Fantôme Magic Ghost

| No Comments

Just when you think you've got your head wrapped around the saison style, Dany Prignon drops a bomb like this on your face. No stupid memes necessary, just look at the damn stuff. Brewed with Green Tea (and Prignon's usual secret spices), it looks like friggin' Ecto Cooler, so strap on your proton packs. We've got some ghosts to drink:

Fantome Magic Ghost

Fantôme Magic Ghost - Sweet merciful crap, look at that stuff. It looks like straight up ecto cooler. A vivid green color with a finger of, yep, very light green head. Calls to mind crappy St. Patricks day stunts, but this is anything but. Listen! Do you smell something? It actually smells utterly fantastic, great tangy funk (none of that smokey stuff that you see in recent regular Fantômes), some spice, and green tea - a surprisingly harmonious combination. Fortunately, the taste bears that out. The funky Brett character is perfect right now, slight fruity tartness, well balanced with traditional saison spice and sweetness, with that tea taking a bit of a back seat, but still present and harmonious. Lots of complexity, tea coming out a little more as it warms up. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, crisp, and a little on the dry side. Really pleasant to drink. Overall, this works shockingly well. Matching this sort of complexity with this sort of balance is difficult. I cannot believe this sucker, probably my favorite Fantôme since my first taste. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/5/13. Lot no: b. Best before: February 2014.

I've heard that the color can vary on these, that some pour out an almost neon green, and some are darker or more of an olive green. I found mine to be more on the brighter side, not quite neon, but dark enough that I found it difficult to photograph (I took some pictures that were barely green at all). Anywho, Fantôme continues to blow my mind. Even when I don't particularly love something, it's always an interesting experience, and while some may poo-poo the inconsistency between batches, I find that to be part of their charm. Stay tuned, more Ghost reviews in the coming weeks.

Fantôme Brise-BonBons!

| 4 Comments

Last week, I got an email from some guy named Dany. Oh, it's the brewer from Fantôme, and he ran across my recent review of Fantôme Saison, a beer that has been inconsistent, but great (he said it's not always perfect, but he doesn't want to do the "same basic commercial work, like ... too much belgian brews"). We exchanged a few emails, and Dany recommended that I try out Brise-BonBons, which he said "USA amateurs" seemed to enjoy because it's more hoppy than your typical Belgian stuff. Fortunately, I just happened to get my hands on a bottle of this stuff, so I cracked one open this weekend, and yep, this one is competing for the very best Fantôme I've ever had. As the bottle sez:

With joy and a little bit of mischief, Fantôme brewer Dany Prignon dedicates this very bitter beer to all of the many varieties of brise-bonbons - literally, ball-breakers - in the world. Specifically, this beer is meant for wise-guys, braggarts, pains-in-the-ass, muck-rakers, troublemakers, know-it-alls, stuffed-shirts, blow-hards and bores, as well as nut-cracking, wind-bag, prattling-on, self-appointed experts on everything, and nose-in-the-air snobs, convinced they can do anything better than you. Dany intended to make a beer too bitter for a normal person to enjoy. The problem is, everyone loves it! Guess we're all just a bunch of brise-bonbons sometimes...
So I guess it's time to break some balls:

Fantôme Brise-BonBons!

Fantôme Brise-BonBons! - Pours a cloudy yellow gold color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells deeply of funky Brettanomyces, lots of earthy aromas, a little yeasty spice, but also a sorta brightness to it. A kinda lemony bubblegum aspect, but, uh, better than that probably sounds. Perhaps even some hops up in the mix. Really nice nose, actually. Taste starts off sweet and spicy, like a Dupont-style saison, but then that funky Brett moves in, bring that earthiness and maybe some bright lemony tartness too. It finishes with a really well matched dry bitterness, presumably from the hops. Mouthfeel is perfectly carbonated (effervescent might be an overstatement, but it's got a high carbonation), crisp on the palate, refreshing, and dry. Overall, this is right up there with my favorite Fantôme experiences, fantastic beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/3/13.

If I may name-drop Dany again, he also recommended I try some Magic Ghost, that saison brewed with green tea that looks like straight-up ecto-cooler. I just happen to have recently acquired a bottle of that stuff as well, so keep an eye out for a review in a few weeks.

Fantôme Saison

| No Comments

I think I've mentioned before that my craft beer revelation occurred sometime around the turn of the century: a bottle of Hennepin, picked randomly off a well appointed beer menu at the now defunct Moody Monkey restaurant of Norristown, PA. Given that I'd spent the previous four years celebrating the entire catalog of Natty beers (you know, Light and Ice), Hennepin was a mind blowing eye opener. Of course, I still had no idea what good beer was, and given PA's draconian liquor laws, my beer wonkery grew slowly (one case at a time). The only thing I knew about Hennepin was that it was made by Ommegang and that it was a "Saison". Exploring Ommegang's other offerings was rewarding. Exploring every saison I could get my hands on was... confusing.

It was around that time that I began to suspect that Saison is the least coherent beer style in the history of beer. Here's a quick glance at a typical saisons run back in the day:

Saisons

I drank those three beers one weekend and was floored. I actually liked all three, but they're absurdly, comically different. The one that really threw me for a loop was Fantôme. That's the one that popped up at the top of the Beer Advocate best saisons lists, so I pounced on it when I finally found a bottle somewhere. Then I drank it and my eyes popped out of my skull. What the hell is this stuff? Nothing at all like Hennepin or Dupont, this thing was weird. It was all lemony and tart and earthy and I had no idea what to make of it. And the damn label wasn't even in English, so I had no idea what I was drinking. It was super complex though, and even as a nascent beer nerd, I was picking up on that. I'm now a full-on Brett and sour fan, so this is no longer a problem.

Ghost hunting has thus proceeded over the past few years, even as these beers have become harder and harder to find. I've partook in a couple other tastings of Fantôme's "regular" saison (as well as some variants), and I've noticed something curious. Let's call this the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Fantôme: sometimes the beer is sour and spicy and funky, and sometimes it's just plain funky. And sometimes it's inbetween. My most recent experience leaned heavily towards the funk without the corresponding sour. I have to say, I don't like that as much, but then, it's still pretty great:

Fantome Saison

Fantôme Saison - Pours a hazy golden orange color, almost fruit juice looking, with a couple fingers of ghostly (sorry, couldn't help myself) head. Nose is filled with earthy, musty, funky Brett, along with some unidentified spice character. Taste is sweet and spicy, peppery, maybe coriander too, lots of that earthy funk makes an appearance as well (along with all those weird Brett descriptions like horse blankets and damp cellars), and a hint of lemony zest too. Not nearly as "bright" as I remember, and only a faint hint of tartness. In fact, I even sometimes got a little smoke out of that Brett character. Not nearly as much as La Dalmatienne, but it's there. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, but still smooth and generally easy-going. No trace of booze at all. Overall, funky, complex, unique, and fascinating, as always... though I wish there was a little more of that tart sourness, which I know from experience takes this to another level. As such, tough to actually rate: B+ or maybe an A-?

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and coked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/30/13.

Fantôme is infamous for being inconsistent. This is normally a fatal flaw in a brewery, but given the nature of wild yeasts and bacterial beasties, most beer nerds give Fantôme a pass on this, as when it works, it's a face melting experience. When it doesn't, it's actually still pretty good. I'll just have to break out that PKE Meter and hunt down another bottle. Speaking of which, I actually have acquired some other Fantôme offerings (and some other wild Belgian offerings), so be on the lookout for those soon.

Fantôme La Dalmatienne

| 2 Comments

I wasn't originally planning on drinking a bunch of smoked beers last week, but you never know what you're going to get from Brasserie Fantôme, and when I cracked this one open and realized that it featured smoked malts, I figured I'd just go with it. What can I say, it was a smokey weekend.

Fantôme was never easy to find, but it's even more difficult these days, so when I saw this La Dalmatienne, I pounced. Background information is sparse, but it appears to be one of Fantôme's trademark funky, almost sour saisons, but with a touch of smoked malt, just to further confuse the saison style definition. There's also another version La Dalmatienne that has a black label with white spots, but I'm reliably informed that the one I had was the better version. What dalmatians have to do with any of this is anyone's guess (they ride on fire trucks, smoke comes from fire, ipso facto a smoked beer?), but let's strap on our proton packs and hunt some ghosts anyway:

Fantome La Dalmatienne

Fantôme La Dalmatienne - Pours a bright, mostly clear golden yellow color with a couple fingers of white head. Smells funky with some more traditional saison spice lurking in the background, and a rather prominent (but not overpowering) smoky aroma. The taste is lemony sweet, a very light fruity tartness, some funk, and that smoke from the nose. That smoke is the odd man out, though not in an unpleasant way. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and lightly acidic, making it a sorta bright brew. Overall, an interesting brew, that smoke could have been a disaster, but I think they pulled it off. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/19/13.

I need to find me a regular hookup on Fantôme beers. They were never plentiful around here, but they seem to have gone the way of the loon in recent times. Anywho, after I had this beer, I threw caution to the wind and embraced the smoked beer theme that had been developing, which lead to tomorrow night's beer, a puntastic New Zealand entry that sounded like it would be a disaster, but was actually amazing.

Fantôme De Noël

| No Comments

Brasserie Fantôme, they of the farmhouse saison, is a strange beast. According to Beer Advocate, they currently produce 24 different beers - 20 of which are saisons. And I suspect that most of them are funky, wild saisons (as opposed to super spicy or super dry saisons). I've had a few of their offerings before, but they're hard to find and the labels usually aren't in English (seriously, look at all those accents and umlauts and stuff*) and I never really know what I'm getting. Mysterious stuff but the beer nerds seem to love the beer and all the labels have this mischievous looking ghost on them and what's not to like? I've already talked about the surprise of my first Fantôme experience, and my most recent experience was also surprising, though this time in less of a good way. As Christmas beers go, this one is definitely of the "make it stronger" variety - it's the highest ABV beer they make. Unfortunately, it wasn't carbonated very well:

Fantome De Noel

Fantôme De Noël - Pours a surprisingly dark color for a saison. A cloudy brown colored beer with minimal head (seriously, a vigorous pour produced next to no head). Aroma is full of tangy sour smells with a lot of sweetness in the nose as well. Taste is not nearly as sour as I expected from the nose, but there is a tart, tangy character to it. It's very sweet tasting though, with some spicy complexities emerging as it warms. The mouthfeel is very disappointing though. It's light on the carbonation, which makes it a little too syrupy. This is really unfortunate, as the rest of the beer feels like it would be fantastic if only there was some more carbonation... It was certainly drinkable and it's not like I didn't finish the bottle or anything, heck I even enjoyed it, but I was still bummed. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip on 12/17/11.

As with all things Fantôme, I don't really know what to make of this. Is it supposed to be undercarbonated? Did I just get a bad bottle? Even if it was just a bad bottle, does that indicate lax QA on their part? According to the label, head brewer Danny Prignon changes the recipes for his beers every year. Does that mean that next year's Noël beer could be much better? Strangely, I don't think I'll mind testing that out next year (assuming I can find a bottle). It's all part of the mystique, I guess.

* All two of 'em!

Fantôme Hiver

| 2 Comments

The word "saison" is French for "season". Originally brewed in Winter for consumption during the Summer harvest, saisons were meant to provide farm hands with hydration during the long, hot hours in the field. Not because they were a bunch of lazy drunks, but because a lack of potable water meant that very low alcohol (3.5% or so) beverages were preferred for such a task. In modern times, the style is brewed year round and the ABV has risen considerably (5-8% and sometimes even higher). Basically, what this means is that the saison style makes no sense whatsoever. They are usually relatively light colored, but that's not much to go on. They can range from light bodied and refreshing, to sweet and spicy, to even sour ales.

Fantôme, a traditional farmhouse brewery specializing in saisons, has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I've managed to find a few of their beers before, but the labels weren't in English, so I had no idea what I was looking at. My first Fantôme saison was quite an eye opener. I was, by then, a big fan of Ommegang Hennepin and Saison Dupont - big spicy brews that are nothing like the sweet and tart Fantôme. I haven't quite acquired a taste for sour beers, but Fantôme's beers certainly warrant further exploration. I picked up this bottle a little while back and was quite pleased:

Fantome Hiver

Fantôme Saison D'Erezée - Hiver - I believe this is the winter seasonal offering from Fantôme, apparently one of a series of beers focused around the 4 seasons. According to the label, head brewer Danny Prignon changes the recipe for this one every year, so I'm guessing this one is from the 2010/2011 winter (there's a place for a date on the label, but it's not filled out - the cork does have a cryptic number on it though: 086/477044, whatever that means). There are two weird things about the bottle I have here. First, it's capped, but also has a cork (that you need to use a corkscrew for). Second, the bottle is green (which provides no protection against light, the source of skunking in beer). This one is weird, since Fantôme and Dupont (traditional Belgian Farmhouse breweries that specialize in saisons) both use green bottles. Is there something about saisons that is actually open to being lightstruck (that can't be right, can it)?

It pours a little darker than I was expecting. A cloudy, light orange color with about a finger of quickly disappearing head. The smell is dominated by aromas I characterize as white wine or champagne, with just a hint of typical Belgian yeast poking through. Taste is similar to the aroma - there's white wine/champaign notes, but not overpoweringly so. There's a clear and prominent tartness in the taste, but it's not overpowering at all. It comes through more in the sweet finish than anywhere else. It's... unusual. When I start drinking, it's like my brain immediately recognizes the hallmarks of a sour beer and sounds an alarm: brace for sourness! As I said before, it does come, but it's not quite as powerful as I expected. And even stranger, I don't think that's a bad thing! Mouthfeel is well carbonated but smooth. Overall, a very good beer and a refreshing change of pace for me. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/29/11.

Certainly a brewery and a style that I need to explore more often.

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Fantôme category.

Evolution is the previous category.

Farsons is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.