The inimitable Brasserie Fantome out of Soy, Belgium, brews a number of seasonal beers and assorted rarities highly sought-after by beer geeks everywhere. The Blanche in particular was a favorite of mine; it smelled and tasted strongly of white grapefruit. And who can forget the green Magic Ghost, aka Soylent Green-in-a-Glass?
However, the original Fantome Saison is the odd ghost’s flagship beer, and if you ask me, when it’s on its game, it’s still probably the best saison out there. Unfortunately, here in Florida, we don’t get a whole lot of it – so occasionally, I’ll hit up my favorite out of state online retailers, and make it a part of my order. Alternatively, go to Chicago or New York and bring back a bottle or two – it’s far more common in both of those areas. I don’t open these up very often, so this is going to be a well-savored 750ml bottle! I plan to travel to Belgium later in the year, and you can be sure that Fantome is high on my list of places to visit.
What makes Fantome’s eponymous saison so special? It’s dry, tart, herbal, powerful and yet, immensely drinkable. Let’s get drinking!
The Saison pours a clear straw (the below picture is of the cloudy, yeasty last pour of the bottle) reminiscent of many lesser beers, with a billowing, but rapidly subsiding bone-white crown. On the nose, it comes off as similar to some gueuze – musty sour apples and leather, but without the barrel character. Little bit of cut grass and wildflower bringing up the rear with more traditional “clean saison” characteristics.
Recently, I’d had some disappointing bottles of this particular beer, but I’m happy to report that this one is an awesome return to form! This is a lot closer to the Fantome I knew, and still love. Up front, it tastes a bit like kombucha with lemon – a tart impression that makes you think this is going to be a “sour beer,” but it’s more of a 1/5th tartness that, while pervading the entire duration of the pull, somehow manages to recede into the background and let the dry complexities of a world-class saison pull through – flowers, weeds, honey, slightly rotten orange juice, and that pinpoint hop bitterness, with just the right amount of carbonation. A beautiful beer,
Even though it seems easy to drink, at 8%, this Saison is no weakling. Savor this bottle over a couple hours or share it with friends who’d appreciate it. Not surprisingly, it pairs well with food – moules frites would be an obvious match, but I’m thinking a nice Florida lobster would be great too, or most crustaceans. I wish I could tote a bottle of this into Joe’s Stone Crab – who needs the Sauvignon Blanc? Also, as this is an artisanal farmhouse product, don’t forget the obvious match with another artisanal farmhouse product – cheese. Unfortunately, I only have a wedge of aged Gouda on hand. This wouldn’t have been my first choice for pairing with this beer – I might have picked a stout for a Gouda, or a triple creme for this. But lo and behold, it turned out to be an amazing pairing! The cheese actually muted some of the beer’s tartness and brought out more of the weedy honey flavors – an incredible match I would never have thought of. Lesson to be learned here is……when in doubt, pair saison with cheese. Ingrain that one into your brain cells. Cheers!