Many years ago when I began my journey into the craft beer universe, I realized pretty quickly that one of my favorite styles was the saison. These earthy yeast driven beers really captured my imagination and to this day I find my self leaning towards a saison more times than not when opening the beer fridge. I am not alone in my obsession with the historic style either. It is hard to find a brewery today that does not have there own interpretation of a saison. Modern day versions of the style can range from hoppy, funky, sweet, fruity and even sour.
For many craft beer lovers the epitome of the style is Fantome Saison. This quintessential beer comes from a tiny brewery in rural Belgium and has become quite difficult to find on bottle shop shelves here in America. Brasserie Fantome was founded in 1988 by Dany Prignon in Belgium’s southeastern French-speaking-region of Wallonia. 1 Prignon brews roughly once a week and produces less than 200 gallons at a time. The beer is all hand bottled on site and then sent around the world for eager beer lovers to enjoy. The recipe for Fantome is only known by Prignon and he is pretty tight lipped about it. It is rumored that the recipe various from batch to batch quite a bit but only one man knows that for sure.
Over the years I have had several different batches of Fantome Saison and not one of them have been the exact same beer. It is always an adventure when you open a bottle because you don’t always know what you are going to get. The most recent batch that I have in front of me is no different.
As I pull the cork I get a faint pop but upon pouring it into my glass I realize that there is almost no carbonation which is not normally the case with this beer. It pours a very hazy pale golden color and even with an aggressive pour straight down the middle of the glass I get no head whatsoever. As I bury my nose in the glass I get lots of wonderful fruit qualities including lemon, pear and apple. There is a definite funky barnyard quality that comes off a little musty, but not nearly as much as previous batches. One of the qualities I absolutely love about Fantome Saison is the massive funky brett character.2 This bottle definitely has it but not nearly as pronounced as bottles I have had in the past.
I take my first sip of the beer and the first thing that jumps out at me is again the lack of carbonation. The beer has a very viscous mouth feel as compared to the light and lively feel saisons are known for. As I swirl around that first sip I get a big juicy fruit character.
Lots of ripe pear followed by a citrusy lemon quality all with a very pleasant sweetness throughout. There is also a noticeable tartness that balances quite well with the sweetness. Again, the earthy barnyard flavors are there but not quite as prominent as I would like. All of the flavors play together quite well in creating a wonderfully complex beer with a lot of refreshing qualities.