Fantôme – Hiver

Reviewed by on January 31, 2014 in Winter Guide

The Details

  • Brewery: Brasserie Fantôme

  • Origin: Belgium

  • Rated On: December 27, 2012

  • Best Before: N/A

  • ABV: 8.0%

  • Ideal Temperature: between cold and cellar temperature

  • Style: Saison

  • Rating: GOOD !

The Review

Brasserie Fantôme is noted for producing the saison style year-round, and as ‘hiver’ equals ‘winter’, of course, this is their holiday, end of year offering.  Beyond the name (and renown), the only other indicator of seasonal affiliation is the general listing of ‘spices’ in the specified ingredient list.

This 750ml bottle pours a slight cloudy, dark golden amber hue, with three fingers of puffy, thinly foamy off-white head, which leaves some randomly sized flecks of fuzzy lace around the glass as it very slowly seeps away.  It smells of moderately smoked, peaty malt, like Islay meets Habana, with a seaside medicinal character that I have to stretch a bit to relate to any farmhouse funk qualities of note, though horseblanket and wet musty grain come to mind, somewhat. The taste is much more approachable, relatively, right off the bat – a caramel-tinged grainy malt, some lingering fleshy smokiness, a surprising, bitter noble hoppiness, a prominent sulphur character, a bit of soft, musty barnyard, lightly wafting gasoline fumes, a touch of tanned leather, and some burgeoning vinous notes.

The bubbles are generally supportive, and little more, the body an almost medium weight, and actually smooth enough, given the (mostly superficial) swirling demons around this whole project. It finishes off-dry, the pale malt sweetness enough to successfully counter the not quite played out smoky medicinal, musty notes, as the bitter hops hang out in the background, laughing and lounging.

One heck of a complicated, complex, and very busy beer, mes amis. It swings wildly from the dankest of Scotch influences, to the (almost) serenest of softy malty, yeasty farmhouse incarnations. Apparently there are some generic ‘seasonal’ spices added to this unholy mix, but I am patently unable to discern their provenance, given the distracting otherness overtly on display here. Interesting to try, given the brash blending of influences.

Brady White

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