Now for a beer (and brewery) that has so far escaped me, each year during our annual pilgrimage to the Bruges Beer Festival my eyes would scan shelves and bar menus - searching for any bottles from this much sought after brewery, yet each year Fantome evaded me.
The reason for this scarcity? well the vast majority of Fantome is exported so finding it, even in its country of origin can often prove fruitless............NOT this year though.
Fantome was founded in 1988 by current owner and sole brewer Dany Prignon using equipment from the original brew house of Brasserie d'Achouffe. The brewery housed (as it still is) in a stone farmhouse in the small village of Soy.
Another reason that contributes to its scarcity is the fact that the brewery is only capable of brewing a single 750 ltr batch at any one time and this perhaps only once a week. Beers produced are variations on the Saison (farmhouse) style with many seasonal / annual bottlings often many brewed using herbs and spices.
Now on with the beer - carefully removing first the cap then slowly the cork a very loud POP sounds (all Fantome are housed in 750ml green bottles secured with both a cork and cap) after that I was expecting a gusher but no it just sat there in the bottle.
So slowly (and with much eager anticipation) I poured my first glass...Fantome Saison is a very lively beer, even slow careful pouring produces a huge, compact, bubbly white head that sits proudly atop a hazy, pale orange beer - only slowly falling as you savour each drop, any refilling of the glass instantly produces a rim filling head.
Aroma is tart and citrus, barnyard straw, sharp orchard fruits (crisp green apples) and also a faint tropical pineapple note. Subtle hints of spices (cloves) and a slight floral bouquet on the finish.
Taste follows with again orchard fruits (pears and peaches) grassy wet hay, a lovely balance of honey sweetness and lemon tartness coupled with a musty, bready, malty character before finishing with a subtle barvyard sourness.
All in all a beer that was no where near as sharp as I was lead to believe - complex, intriguing and totally artisnal yes. Come next year and the 6th Bruges Beer Fest my first stop will be that very same shop......this time for 2 bottles.