There are, I’ve discovered, roughly two paths through the dizzying world of craft beer. The first is to find a style that you like, and seek out other beers in the same style. The second is to find a brewer you like, and to drink all his things, and then move on to other brewers. For the most part, I’ve been the second variety of drinker. As a result, I’m often looking for breweries that are new to me to try. One brewery that I’ve heard ever so much about is the Belgian brewery Fantome. Fantome, of course, is French for “ghost”, and the bottles, appropriately, have depictions of spirits on them.
The brewery is mostly known for making saisons–farmhouse ales–which are generally brewed during the winter, but consumed late in the summer. The beers are characterized by floral, citrus, and peppery flavors–or, at least, so I’ve read, as my exposure to the style has been minimal, at best.
Fantome’s Brise-BonBons has changed my perception of the style entirely.
Mrs Thursday and I met Mama Thursday and Thursday Family Friend, Mo (as in Maureen, not as in “Larry, Curly, and”), at Monk’s Cafe, which is an absolutely stellar Belgian-style gastropub in Center City Philadelphia. We sat down, took our time to consider what we wanted, and then ordered a round of brews with just enough food to fend off any sort of driving impediments later.
Mama Thursday got a Belgian Trappist tripel, Rochefort 8, which is Mrs Thursday’s favorite, desert island, number 1 a-okay beer. Mo enjoyed the tastes of Belgium, as well, with Duvel. Mrs Thursday stayed domestic, getting Breakfast Stout, from the Founder’s Brewery in Michigan. And I tried Fantome for the first time, ordering a 750ml bottle of their Brise-BonBons.
Monk’s, for all its wonderful qualities, is not a well-lit place, so I cannot speak much to the look of the beer, except to say that it was darker than I expected. Additionally, the beer came in a green bottle, which is odd for a Belgian beer–or, really, for a high quality beer from any country. The fact is that light ruins beer, and the thought is that brown protects beer from light much better than green does. As a result, almost all small breweries, which rely on having products of consistently high quality, use brown bottles to best protect their beer. Green is surprising.
The beer smells sweet and bitter at once. Like apples. Not the red Mackintoshes that Mama Thursday used to stick in our lunchbags. Like the green ones. Granny Smith? I think so. Lovely smell. Definitely a bit of apples, with plenty of pepper sprinkled over them.
The beer is sweet on the tongue–that apple taste comes back, ever so slightly, with the malt. As the beer floats back in the mouth, a bitter hoppy taste takes over, with strength. As the beer goes down the hatch, there’s a distinct, strong, pleasant, and lingering pepper flavor–a flavor that gets stronger as the beer warms up in the glass.
The beer was, truly, fantastic, and I feel compelled to try both more beers by Fantome, and more saisons in general. Not to mention to try BriseBon-Bons again, and again, and again.