People have a love/hate relationship with Brasserie Fantôme. It’s easy to love Dany Prigon’s Walloon brewery at times; its flagship saison when fresh and properly handled is the epitome of farmhouse perfection. But more often than not, the emotions Fantôme elicits from people are surprise, shock, and sometimes utter confusion. It’s said Prigon never repeats a recipe, and you can believe it. (It’s also said he doesn’t drink his own beer, which I’m not even sure what to think about.) Every time you open another Fantôme bottle, you never quite know what you’re going to get. And that’s kind of thrilling.
Brewing a beer with cocoa powder and chilli pepper isn’t exactly odd in the year 2015. But those adjuncts are for the most part only seen in maltier beers: stouts and porters and the like. Certainly not pale-coloured saisons. That’s what makes Fantôme Chocolat so strange and, actually, so tasty, as the slight chocolate bitterness melds well with the farmhouse funk.
The Coffee Ruby: Very Bitter Taste
It feels like a non-English-speaker named one of Fantôme’s strangest-named saisons – and you’ll soon see, that’s saying something. Yes, it’s a coffee beer, but just as with Chocolat, we expect coffee beers to be maltier offerings, not lighter, more delicate brews. The Coffee Ruby is not quite ruby coloured but more burnt orange, the iconic Fantôme spiciness mingling well with some fresh coffee bitterness.
Being one of the more common Fantômes available makes people forget how truly odd De Noel is. Belgian Christmas beers are nothing unique, but a dark saison with chocolate malts, spiced with honey, caramel, coriander, black pepper, and other “holiday” flavours? Yeah, that’s kinda strange, but totally delicious.
Like an energy drink for beer geeks, Amazonian Ghost is a saison brewed with the guarana plant, a highly caffeinated stimulant found in the Brazilian rainforest. Amazonian is bitter and super funky and surely a better way to alcoholically pep yourself up than Four Loko.
Fleur de Bomal
Saisons are famous for the unique spices that often infuse them for added complexity. Orange zest, and coriander are common. Not common is oregano, which is the predominant flavour in this brew, giving it the taste of, oh, how can I put this: saison pizza.
Seemingly not brewed in years – see this label from 1996 – Shii-Take is, yes, Fantôme’s famed mushroom saison. Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to find any online information about this beer other than the fact that Prigon, when questioned if he would ever make it again, simply responded “Ouf!” So probably not, I guess.
Usually Fantômes have names that make you wonder what exactly you’re going to get. And then there’s this offering, which tells you exactly what to expect. Besides being extra sour and funky (due to Brettanomyces and lactic acid), it’s also atypically boozy for a saison, clocking in at 10% ABV.
Green-coloured beers are nothing new, particularly in the US with ghastly green-dyed brews unleashed every St Patrick’s Day. But while Fantôme’s first foray into green beer was somewhat gimmicky, it was also a damn good saison, specially made for the 9th Rencontre des Brasseries du Luxembourg Belge beer festival.
More prevalent than Vertignasse yet somehow even odder, this is surely Fantôme’s craziest-looking offering. This saison pours at times an Ecto Cooler neon green, and at others a truly unappealing split pea soup colour. That’s just due to the green tea that infuses this brew.
They say this is the only saison in the world brewed with dandelions. And not just any dandelions, but ones picked by Prignon himself from the fields that surround the Fantôme farmhouse. The dandelions give the beer a rich goldenrod colour and Pissenlit literally translates to “pee in bed”. Well ok!
By Aaron Goldfarb
Aaron Goldfarb (@aarongoldfarb) is the author of The Guide for a Single Man and The Guide for a Single Woman.