Man, you remember when saisons weren’t made by tiny breweries from Vermont and made up a good chunk of everyone’s best of list? It’s like you had to go to Belgium to get a good saison, and this one from Fantôme was (and still is) one of the most highly rated examples of the style. I got this bottle all the way from Belgium via the glorious internet, cracked it open, and did what every good beer geek does; took diligent notes. This fella clocks in at 8% ABV.
The beer is getting its sais on (get it?). It pours a lovely hazy straw color with a huge white head. The lacing was ghostly throughout the whole session. It just hung around and stared at me while I wasn’t looking at it, then would turn away as soon as I faced it like those ghosts in Super Mario World. Nerdy ghost references? I got’em.
Whoa, this beer has some crazy earthy-smokiness going on. There is a slight funkiness and hay-like aroma, almost like Brettanomyces character. There’s a lot of Belgian spice, coriander, and even some black pepper. Right at the end there’s a touch of lemon and citrus. There is very little alcohol on the nose considering this is 8% ABV. Other than that odd smoke aroma, it smells pretty typical of a good saison.
Ok. Alright, so… Ok. First thing I notice is intense smokey-earthiness, bitter and almost like burnt rubber. It’s actually a little unpleasant . It’s followed by some typical saison character – spice, pepper, lemongrass, hay, and citrus zest. Even though it starts off fairly harsh, it ends beautifully on the tongue. It goes through this weird transition from being unpleasant to being quite enjoyable in the short time it takes to take a sip of this beer.
Mouthfeel is what separates saisons from other styles. This particular beer is a prime example. It is effervescent, dry, and drinkable. It drinks more like 4% than 8%, so it’s no struggle taking a whole 750ml bottle to the dome. That can be either a good thing or a bad thing but, hey, I’m not here to judge you over whatever you do after drinking an 8% saison.
The word on the street is that this particular batch is exceptionally smokey compared to this beer’s usual flavor. Bearding that in mind, this is my first time trying this beer so I’m not in a big hurry to grab another bottle any time soon. It starts off with an intense industrial bulldozer of flavor and ends like a memory-foam pillow. It doesn’t blow me away, yet keeps me drinking. This is a nice saison, but I wouldn’t go crazy trying to get your hands on a bottle – which is fortunate because it doesn’t last too long on the shelves if and when it makes it there. You could almost say it becomes a phantom.