Brasserie Fantôme - Magic Ghost

Brasserie Fantôme - Magic Ghost

Beer Club featured in Rare Beer Club

Style:

Belgian Strong Herbed Ale

Country:

Belgium

Alcohol by Volume:

8.00%

Brasserie Fantôme - Magic Ghost

  • Alcohol by Volume: 8.00%
  • Bottle Size: No
  • Serving Temperature: 45-55° F
  • Suggested Glassware: Tulip or Oversized Wine Glass
A green bottle? Uh-oh, aren’t we told to fear green bottles? Well, if you have a thing against green, you might be in trouble. More on that later… The label seems to be telling us something in its own quirky, quaint, noueau-vintage vaudevillian sort of way. Depicted is a magician, conjuring up a series of ghosts or Fantômes—what does it mean? By opening this bottle, are you going to physically manifest these spirits? Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the beer was an ectoplasmic green color, as if the brew itself was the Fantôme? Well, onward we go; gather the necessary tools: you’ll need a bottle cap opener and a corkscrew to release this beast, but it’s worth it. Pour the beer into the proper glassware, but don’t be spooked—we’ll just say it—the beer is unusually colored. From bottle to bottle, the hue can vary; we’ve seen anything from bright neon green to an olive-toned color with any neon glow only conjured when held to light, especially the light of a computer screen. The head starts out well proportioned, but it quickly dematerializes into total nothingness, so, along with the color and the spontaneous decapitation (of the beer, not the drinker—this is a friendly spirit after all), you’re left with a very unusual looking brew. Ah, the Fantôme is up to her usual trickery. The brewer almost never gives up his secret spices, and this beer is no different, so we’re left to our senses to decipher the ingredient list. On the nose, we got notes of raspberries and nectarines, as well as wafts of lemon and lime, with a delicate spiciness as well. As it warms, notes of green tea really take hold. Perhaps a hint of dill? Aside from the prominent fruit notes, expect a sturdy backdrop of “saison-ness”—think straw and a slight bit of funky, musty yeastiness. The flavor starts with a malty, citrusy sweetness that almost instantly is supplanted by a balancing tartness. The two hang in such balance that the beer finishes refreshingly dry. Green tea notes come through, as do the fruity notes noted in the aroma (especially raspberry, lime and lemon), plus suggestions of kiwi. When melded with the acidity, the fruity character helps to give distinct notes à la granny smith apples. As it warms, some suggestions of ginger ale develop. This is a complex, if not mysterious beer, with quite a lot going on. In the finish, expect a nice, clean wheaty twang and dryness, with almost no alcohol detected. At full warmth, and toward the end of the bottle especially, earthier, minerally notes not unlike spinach make an appearance, as do particles of green sediment. Yes, green sediment. Don’t freak, just embrace the uniqueness of the experience. Overall, this intricate, beguiling, spooky brew is fruity, spritzy, earthy and refreshing. People may be put off by the color, but they’d be depriving themselves of a truly rare treat. This ain’t no St. Patty’s Day green beer, this is the Fantôme’s version, and it really is something we are thrilled to share with our members. We’ve quite selfishly bought up most of the bottles that are being brought into in United States, which was a small quantity to begin with, so, enjoy it, and hoard it from the nonbelievers!
There is a fermentation-friendly phantasm at work in one brewery in Soy, Belgium. Thankfully this ghost doesn’t have any malicious intent, though she can get a bit wild when she decides to spike the brewer’s recipes with a blend of secret herbs and spices. And she plays other tricks, like ensuring that the same beer is often radically different from batch to batch… She’s even been known to convert stout to a Belgian strong dark ale. More of a prankster than poltergeist, her mischief is accented by her supernatural talent for creating some truly haunting spiced farmhouse beers. More evidence of her non-demonic demeanor is that she plays well with others, permitting human pal Dany Prignon to take most of the credit for these world class, award-winning beers (in exchange, of course, for having the brewery named after her). Brasserie Fantôme (the Phantom Brewery) has come to represent unabashed creative freedom of expression, and earned itself a reputation for being, well, borderline insane. Between the ghost stories, the ‘spirited’ behavior of Monsieur Prignon, the wild variation from beer to beer, being exceptionally guarded about what spices have been used in the recipes, or experimenting to the point of acute eccentricity (mushroom beer anyone?), you can maybe understand why some people think there may be a madman involved. Hey, you know what they say, behind every good madman there’s… a phantom. Wait, we may have screwed that up… well, you get the point. But it’s not really the reputation for zany flare that has made Fantôme’s beers highly sought after—it’s the beer. Their namesake beer, Fantôme Saison, a golden brew of 8% alcohol by volume, was rated a perfect 10 in “The Beers of Wallonia,” a worthwhile read penned by authors John Woods and Keith Rigley. The brewer (either Dany or the phantom) uses local ingredients and herbs, such as dandelions found growing outside the brewery, spicing their numerous farmhouse ale variants with such skill and panache that people have been taking notice since the brewery was founded in 1988. But it’s easy to throw a bunch of spice in a beer. Making it taste good, however, bringing out the best elements of an unusual spice without crushing the beer’s natural flavors or spooking the yeast into catatonia—that’s the real magic and mystique in the Fantôme beers. To boot, these are some of the most freshly fruity beers found in Belgium—how “they” do it we really don’t know—it really is almost paranormal. Another odd conundrum is the fact that their beers aren’t well known, even within Belgium. But for those who have had the pleasure (or occasionally, the peril) of tasting Fantôme’s concoctions, the experience is not soon forgotten. And that’s another reason the name is quite apropos; Fantôme’s beers are very difficult to find, materializing only rarely—yet so many of us beer geeks have heard the stories of their existence. When we recently had the chance to capture the elusive Fantôme, we suited up like the Ghostbusters, donning our Proton Packs, and zapped as much of the stuff as we could into our ghost traps. It’s a risky business, catching ghosts, but our members are worth it. To find out more information about the brewery, learn French, then punch up www.fantome.be.
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