Tag Archive: Fantome


Fantome: Vertignasse (Belgium: Saison: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright green. Massive green to white bubbled head.

Nose: Minty. Wheaty. Lamb stew. Lime. Coriander.

Body: Lime. Sage. Wheaty. Moderate bitterness. Peppery. Minty. Peppermint and mint leaves.

Finish: Lime jelly. Moderate bitterness. Wheaty. Malt drinks. Greenery. Peppery. Mint.

Conclusion: This is the, I think, 2nd green Fantome beer I have had. I think. It’s not something you expected to see more than one per brewery of at the most. Anyway, considering that there is strong suspicion that woodruff is used to make this green, that could explain that flavour that I am having a very hard time pinning down. I have never tried woodruff in anything except a Chorlton beer which a) similarly confused me and b) wasn’t green. So, anyway, could taste like woodruff for all I know, I’m doing my best here.

What seems to come out of the beer is a mix of lime and herbal sage notes over the usual peppery, high quality saison from Fantome. The result is good, but seems slightly less than the sum of its parts. The base seems to lead towards their awesome Spring Saison but the … you know what, right or wrong I’m going to call it woodruff for now just so I have a word for it rather than just saying “green thingy influence” … the woodruff influence does overpower a lot of the lighter subtle notes that made that beer so awesome.

Now, it’s still good – but also more one note, or really more two note with the strong lime and sage like notes. There is an impressive, slow building, bitterness backing it, but again this is matched by the fact it overpowers the lighter notes.

So, fairly decent – though another one I would say to share – despite the lower abv the flavours can get wearing if you solo this beer raid (If you forgive the video game reference). There is a cloying note and a minty character that raises up, adding complexity, but it still becomes heavy going over 750ml.

So, good, kind of one note – I would say to go with some of Fantome’s other excellent beers over this merely ok but not great one. The curse of having such a great line up is that only ok ones like this seem weak by comparison.

Background: Another beer with style disagreement online- depending on where you look it is described as a wit or a saison. Frankly, considering whatever was added to it to make it green, it isn’t close to any style really – but I have leant towards saison based on my experiences. I don’t think official word has been given on what makes it green, but a few people have guessed woodruff, which seems a fair call. I adore Fantome saisons, they rate from ok to bloody excellent, and from just excellent takes on a standard saison, to weird mad experiments. All good. This one was grabbed at Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to some Rhapsody – great fantasy, storytelling metal. This was drunk the night before heading up north to go watch NXT wrestling – so I knew good times were ahead.

fantome-chocolat

Fantome: Chocolat (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy darkened yellow to apricot with a large off white head and some sediment.

Nose: Carrot and coriander. Wheaty. Light malt chocolate. Lemon fresh air. Orange zest. Dried apricot. Bready.

Body: Juicy but warming. Chocolate late on. Peach and cream. Rustic middle. Light chilli seeds. Sour dough. Lime. Slight custard notes. Blood orange. Blackpool rock.

Finish: Chilli seeds. Light green peppers. Chocolate and cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Ginger. Slight sour cream and chives. Apricot. Lime jelly. Dried banana.

Conclusion: You know what I like about Fantome beers? The fact that they can use a concept for a beer, show the concept clearly in a beer, but not make the beer solely about that concept.

Take this for example – chocolat by name – so, for most people they would this to be a dark beer and to be pushing all chocolate all the time, right? Except it isn’t. It is a beer that clearly has that light Belgian spice use, with a fruity but rustic base body and evident fruit sweetness. The chocolate only comes out late mid body and into the finish. Similarly, this has chilli powder in it – is it some heat factory? Nope, just a slight mild chilli tingle, not no more prevalent that any other spice in a Belgian beer.

So, you end up with a fruity Belgian Ale with only some hints of its saison base there, leaning instead towards the Belgian Blond Ale side of things. It is smooth, the saison notes coming in light rustic elements, but definitely more on the sweet cane sugar touched, fruity blond ale style. This then leads out into the warming and chocolate styled finish. Normally around now I would be talking about the shock of moving between two such distinct elements – but here they manage to make it feel like a natural progression.

Now before I get too raving about it here, there are weak points -with the amount of strong flavours it can get wearing, and feel more a beer you appreciate than enjoy – but for the most part it is well done. It has a very solid base, and the smoothness of the texture shows a beer that is very competently done. That wearing character mentioned is most evident over several glasses. At 750 ml it is definitely a bottle best shared to get most enjoyment from it. So, not as high flying as most Fantome ales – but a very solid middle ground beer, with unusual styling. So, enjoyable, but not one of Fantome’s exceptional beers – Still, kind of damning with very faint criticism there – still enjoyed it a lot.

Background: I’ve been a huge fan of Fantome since I first managed to get my hands on their beers. This, a saison made with cocoa and chilli powder, was grabbed from Independent Spirit I am not quite sure if cocoa and chilli powder should go together, but hey, up for giving it a a try. Drunk while listening to some music from Louise Distras who I only recently heard – a nice mix of Billy Bragg and Riot Grrrl style punk to my ears. Due to an extended session on Dark Souls 2 this was drunk fairly late in the night. So far it seams weaker than the original Dark Souls – the bosses especially seem not as inspiring or awesome – still, early days yet – could be all the cool stuff is packed at the end.

Fantome India Red Ale

Fantome: India Red Ale (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Deep cloudy bruised apricot. Massive off white, lace leaving loose bubbled head.

Nose: Coriander. Lemon. Carrot. Lightly minty menthol. Peppermint and crushed mint leaves. Paprika. Light strawberry. Orange crème.

Body: Strawberry sweetness. Custard. Orange crème. Light hop character. Smooth. Prickle in the middle. Toffee. Earthy notes. Dried orange fruit sugars.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Toffee. Custard. Custard hop character. Some greenery. Solid hop bitterness and character. Sour dough. Earthy notes. Resin.

Conclusion: Apparently, at least best I can tell, this beer does not use spice in the ingredients. Instead all the spice seeming flavours must be coming from the hops, yep, as you may have guessed already, this is spicy as heck. Odd, no?

On top of that it is a fair mixed up beer. For all it is called an India Red Ale it actually has a hell of a lot of saison influence – from the soft custard hop styling of Saison Dupont, to the lime notes of Fantome’s own spring Saison, to the traditional earthy rustic saison styled base. A lot going on there. From the red side of India Red Ale we get an amber ale set of calls mid body which develop into some strawberry sweetness and chocolate toffee malt notes near the end.

As for the India part of the name? Well, it leans close to Belgium IPA in the smoothness, but the hop bitterness is only really a thing in the earthy bitter finish. Then again, India gets appended to pretty much any high hop ale these days, even some lagers, so having the high bitterness is not automatically needed I guess. That however is a rant for another day.

Early on the beer is a bit rough and greenery led, with an odd menthol character, but as the late end sweetness rises it manages to balance itself out, more or less. At that point in this, high abv, bottle it seems closer to the spicy, Belgian IPA character that its name calls to. Still a bit greenery and resin led, but far more recognisable.

Overall a bit rough around the edges Amber Ale IPA Saison mash up – not the best, but there is hardly a dull moment.

Background: A hard one to pick a beer style for this one is. It is listed as an India Red Ale, which would make me think an IPA variant, so list under IPA, ratebeer calls it the ever helpful “Belgian Strong Ale”. For me, it seems closest to a Saison, so lacking any other definitive call, and knowing Fantome’s reputation with Saisons, I’m going with Saision. Seriously, Fantome does awesome saisons. Incidentally some places has this thing’s name abbreviated as IRA, which for seem reason they don’t seem to call it that in the UK. I wonder why… Anyway, drunk while listening to many Meets Metal tracks, with Flashdance Meets Metal being the standout one. This beer was grabbed from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection. Warning, this is a frothy beer – The beer was rushing out and I desperately shoved the cork back in while I shoved the bottle neck into the glass to pour.

Fantome Magic Ghost

Fantome: Magic Ghost (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Deep lime green. Huge green touched head. Large amounts of carbonation.

Nose: Sweet lime juice and lime jelly. Green tea. Light rustic.

Body: Light earthy character and solid bitterness. Slightly milky mid body. Green tea. Sweet lime. Pepper and rustic notes. Vanilla toffee. Orange zest. Custard.

Finish: Dry. Oats. Good bitterness. Lime jelly. Good hop character. Tannins. Orange zest. Cherry pocked biscuits.

Conclusion: Comparison time! While this is green tea heavy it is not as a pure expression or as quality green tea tasting as Stone’s Ishii Japanese Green Tea IPA. It is however the only one that is actually green. While this is not as pure green tea tasting it does mean that, while not as good for the green tea element, as a balanced beer it probably comes out ahead.

The rustic, quality, bitter saison base is still very evident – with earthy hops and a slightly milky mouthfeel. Some of the wonderful subtleties of a Fantome saison do fall slightly before the green tea, but thankfully the tea brings enough of its own to compensate. In the midst of the two elements is a lime jelly kind of taste, a sweetness that keep the two heavy main flavours from clashing together. I am not sure if that lime is from the beer, the tea, or a mix of the two but the ease from the heavier elements that it brings is vital to the overall beer.

Oddly lime jelly seems to be a thing with green beers – it was last seen in “Signs Of Spring”. Oh, this beer is very bright green BTW, It looks lovely on the eye, and here thankfully matched with a quality beer rather than just as a weak gimmick.

It is done excellently, there are added notes such as pepper dryness and orange zest along with vanilla sweetness. Fantome knows exactly which elements would round and complete the beer. Sweet and fresh notes to wake up the savoury heavy base beer and special ingredient.

It doesn’t quite have the crisp perfection of some of their other beers, but what it lacks in crisp perfection it makes up with depth of character and being the wonderful beer and green tea mix that doesn’t skimp on either side of that equation.

A green beer that is far more than a gimmick, instead great and gorgeous.

Background: I keep going to write this as “Green Ghost” I mean, come on, it even has alliteration! But no, Magic Ghost it is. I am a huge fan of Fantome and they seem to be getting slightly easier to get hold of these days. This one, a saison made with green tea, was grabbed from Brewdog’s Guest Beer section. Well I think it is a sasion and so does beer advocate. Rate beer calls it a Belgian strong ale. I think I am right. But, of course I would. Drunk while listening to lots of New Model Army, I am so glad I saw those guys live as it really got me into their stuff.

Fantome Pissenlit

Fantome: Pissenlit (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark hazy apricot. Moderate white bubbled head.

Nose: Vanilla. Cut grass. Brown sugar. Wholemeal flour and bread. Fruit sugars.

Body: Apricot. Slightly sour stewed fruit. Herbal bitterness. Custard crème biscuits. Broccoli. Golden syrup. Creamy. Coriander. Creamy lime. Gunpowder tea.

Finish: Greenery and herbal bitterness. Nettles. Dry mint leaves. Charring. Rye crackers and pepper. Golden syrup. Light strawberry. Cream. Lime yogurt. Key lime pie.

Conclusion: Fantome continue to rock the saison world and then some. This time they manage to merge a lot of contrasting elements into one beer. On one hand it keeps the light, cream lime notes of their spring saison – Printemps, and it is as pleasant as that beer was; Yet at the same time it pushes the custard sweetness that is akin to the base of the awesome Saison Dupont. The mix of the two backed by the unusual elements of greenery led bitterness in the style of traditional pre-hop beers.

That last part is the difference make and the intriguing one. The bitterness is slightly acrid, like gunpowder tea mashed up with broccoli. Yes I know I have the worst way of describing good beers and that broccoli in beer sound horrid. However here it acts as that kind of rustic base a saison can have, matched against the sweet interpretation behind it.

It is genuinely good, quality wise it is up there with their Fantome: Saison ( I mean the one just called “Saison” in case there is any confusion). If I had to rate them I would say that a few minor quirks put this behind their lead saison, but that is a minor point. This has just enough of the expected, and just enough off the wall all matched with a high quality saison that puts it at a close second.

There is just so much to it, warmth brings progression to the already complex beer and brings out so much spice, stewed fruit and fresh fruit. So many subtle variations on their already established themes make this another spot on saison from Fantome. It is familiar and yet distinct, balanced perfectly on a knife edge.

Background: A beer made with dandelions, did not see that coming. Then again it is a saison and from Fantome, so that gives me enough confidence to give it a try. Fantome saisons are exceptional. Grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer section, this was drunk while listening to a bit more of The Eels, listening to them again recently reminded me how good they are as a band. I am aware I am putting this Belgian beer review up on the day after the attack on Brussels, my best wishes are with everyone affected.

Fantome Dark White

Fantome: Dark White (Belgium: Saison: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot skin body. Massive yellowed white loose bubbled head. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Wheaty. Peppercorn. Coriander. Slightly bitter.

Body: Lemon syrup. Lime meringue. Pepper. Bitter and earthy. Peach. Vanilla. Light brown sugar. Apricot.

Finish: Bitter, earthy and peppery. Charred wood. Wheaty. Acrid. Gunpowder tea. Apricot. Vanilla. high level of hop character.

Conclusion: This is probably the harshest edged of the Fantome beers that I have tried so far. It doesn’t list itself as a saison on the bottle, but seems to closely follow that style with a wheaty character and robust rustic bitterness.

Up front in the early parts of the body it as actually pretty well delivered; Easy drinking, and at a moderate abv it seems placed right for the citrus notes amongst a light pepper character. Quite moreish and so I was expecting another Fantome classic.

Then the latter half of the beer comes in and takes you into the finish via what feels like being hit by a sledgehammer. It is a huge mix of earthy character, charred wood, pepper and gunpowder tea. The lasting notes are an acrid oak and pepper punch to the taste buds. It doesn’t fit. The hop character feels almost nanny state like, which is a beer I enjoy, but the style doesn’t work well when transplanted into a totally different beer.

It was so close to being awesome as well. The balance of sweetness and bitterness in the early body is excellent and gives pleasant contrasting notes that is far too easy to drink. Maybe I should be happy that the bitter backstop breaks your progress and forces you to slow down, but it definitely hurts the overall feel of the beer. As you get used to the beer it seems to balance the two halves better, maybe it is acclimatising, maybe it is the beer warming; Either way it never quite reaches a perfect balance though – the rough second half is always present.

Half awesome, half over harsh. Well made but not to my tastes. I would say it is the weakest Fantome so far – still an ok beer, but flawed in the finish.

Background: I can’t even get the energy together to point out that surely dark white is grey. Anyway, Fantome – huge fan of Fantome and especially their saisons. A quick google around online shows that there seems to be some dispute on if this is a saison or not. It seems saison like to me so I have listed it under that. Drunk while listening to the Electronic Super Joy OST, it is ok – mainly listening to it as I had just completed the game and its DLC and noticed it came with the soundtrack. Game was ok, but no Super Meat Boy. Decided to use the wheat ale glass craft beer sis gave me at Christmas. Not quite the correct style, but it was the only glass I had not tried so wanted to give it a run. Thanks sis.

Fantome Hiver

Fantome: Hiver (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy reddened orange, with a large yellowed head.

Nose: Dry. Carrot and coriander. Mild ginger bread. Bready and wheaty. Ripe banana and stewed banana. Yeastie.

Body: Funky yeast. Carrot and coriander. Brown sugar. Wheat and bitterness. Banana sweets. Bready. Toffee malt drinks. Greenery and mint. peppermint. Kiwi. Sour dough touch.

Finish: Lemon. wheat. light bitterness. Coriander. Bready. Peppermint and pepper.

Conclusion: Fantome! Saison! Let the party begin! Another very different version of the saison style from Fantome here. Rougher and heavier spice than before, there is a mix of grounded coriander and an odd peppermint that comes in almost as a sour twist. It creates contrast, half way between a earthy grounded saison and their zesty fresh Printemps Saison.

As it is a Fantome Saison I am not surprised at all that it is high quality. It is very grounded, with lots of wheat and bread characteristics, and yet has this understated brown sugar sweetness that, after the sour peppermint, creates a second unexpected twist. Of the three Fantome saisons I’ve tried so far this is probably the weakest – the quality is no less high, but the expression leans more towards the fascinating that the more easily enjoyed others. It is just in how the elements interact, there are so many odd elements that they almost shouldn’t work but do.

The beer does grow in sweetens as it goes, the banana elements and toffee malt drinks rise to creating a more soothing backdrop for the harsher elements, and here it is at it best. For the most part however it still isn’t one for easy going drinking – it is all about the examination, this doesn’t work so well as a casual chatting drink – the rough elements are the first impressions, and the fun comes from taking time to get to know it.

Different, like a hard to get to know possible friend with hidden depths. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but well worth the effort. A high quality saison.

Background: Fantome. After never finding any for years, they seem to slowly be getting easier to find in the UK. This one was picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer selection. Again, eagle eyed viewers may notice something odd with the photo – I’m still getting used to the new light source. This was shared with friends, at 8% and 750ml it would not be wise to do otherwise. Had a bit of Erock’s Meet Metal on in the background, always fun.

Fantome Pritemp Saison

Fantome: Printemps Saison (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy reddened orange. Off white head that soon diminishes. The head has a sud like nature.

Nose: Jiff lemon. Ginger. Orange zest. Washing up liquid.

Body: Honey. Lime and lemon sherbet. Barley cakes. Fresh orange juice. Cinnamon. Lemon sponge. Key lime pie. Strawberry in the middle.

Finish: Fresh lime. Golden syrup. Light aniseed. Kiwi

Conclusion: Wow, ok, this is nothing like what I expected. I had been somewhat primed to expect a similar beer to their normal Saison but with a spring twist. Nope. This is an as fresh as can be beer full of lemon cakes and cinnamon spice. It is like a mashed up batch of Mr Kipling’s Lemon slices that have been mixed up with key lime pie and shoved in a beer. It is intense, and can come in too strong. The aroma is so fresh that it reminds me of the artificial citrus notes you can get in washing up liquid at times.

This is combined with very Easter styled sweetness with notes of honey and golden syrup. This is in no way a subtle beer. The citrus is huge and the sweetness sugar shock. It is very fruity, with all those aforementioned flavors and even occasionally strawberry coming out. Slightly sharp and utterly refreshing, while being insulin requiring levels of sweet at the same time.

It does feel a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut though. The flavours would probably be just as interesting if they were more subtle, and may even be better. This would also have the benefit of letting the base saison show a bit more. Here it does not seem to have much of the rustic base character at all.

It is astonishing fun though, fresh from the moment of popping the cork, to the last moments of the finish. A rare beer that seems too big and brash. It reminds me of what I said about the recent Dupont beer. They have already made a nigh perfect saison, and they can’t just turn out that again and say “jobs done” so they turn out this. Not just different, but radically different, and I can’t blame them for that and, in fact, respect the risk taking.

It has resulted in a beer that is so enthusiastic that it is putting forth all the notes all the time. Reigning it back a bit could have made it another classic saison, but it still very fun and enjoyable for all that.

Background: After the exceptional Fantome Saison I have been keeping my eye open for their beers. So when I found this, their seasonal spring saison, I had to grab it. This was found, again, at Brewdog Bristol. This was drunk while listening to ” another cold cup of coffee from the Clash” to nick a phrase.

Fantome Saiso

Fantome: Saison (Belgium: Saison: 8%)

Visual: Deep banana yellow. Tiny amount of sediment visible. Cloudy body. Very large yellowed bubbled head.

Nose: Strawberry yogurt. Wheat and bitterness. Red cherries. Banana sweets. Vanilla. Coriander.

Body: Good bitterness. Berry pocked biscuits. Lemon. Wheat. Strawberry, but in a spiced way? Light milky or ice cream like touch. Pepper. Chilli seeds. Orange notes.

Finish: Dried red berries. Big bitterness. Wheat. Coriander and warming spices. Funky yeast and banana. Key lime.

Conclusion: Fantome. Finally. I’ve been looking for beers from this lot for ages. Now I have it, poured out in my glass, ready for consumption. The quest’s end. The denouement.

This is…actually well worth the wait. It is a beer of distinct saison style, neither feeling the need to tone it down for the wider market, nor feeling the need to mimic the awesome Saison Dupont. Which is good. I mean Saison Dupont is great, but we already have that.

This is lovely in its bitterness, smooth in texture with an ice cream creaminess, spiced and yet doing that spice like spiced red berries and strawberries. Do people even spice strawberries? I don’t know, probably, people are perverts and will try anything. I mean that in a good way. Anyway that is somehow what it tastes like. It is smooth, bitter, sweet, earthy and fruity. Oh fuck yes!

There is heat from the spice, and a chilli seed character that gently works to warm you. Also the abv probably helps, but mainly the spice. It is great, the berries and creaminess call to, well, strawberries and cream, but the earthy bitterness and spice call to a rustic farmlands and,,,,

Hold on, strawberries and cream. Farmlands. Is this a deliberate parody of the epitome of British summer? Well played Belgium well played. Beat us at our own stereotypes.

Anyway, a beer to share as the big flavours and earthiness can get a bit heavy over the full 750ml bottle but as that, yeah, it is great. Up there with Dupont. Just drink it.

Background: Fantome saison! Not that you would know by looking at the bottle which says “Fantome: Biere Artisanale Sur Lie”, but trust me, it is the saison, I have checked. Anyway, this was picked up from Brewdog Bristol. Bristol! I have been searching for Fantome beers for sodding ages, including during two visits to Belgium AND I FIND IT IN SODDING BRISTOL. Fantome beers have a good rep, though are held to a bit varied between batches. This was drunk while listening to Bad Religion: Recipe For Hate, the first Bad Religion album I ever bought and still one of my favourites.

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