Friday, 4 November 2016

#325: Haunted

Unexpected and unexplained hiatuses are the kind of things you always fear from a blog - it is most often the death knell of said blog, and for a while I toyed with the idea of simply listening to the wretched chokes and coughs of the Destrier as it passed through the portal into the grey wasteland of forgotten online materials. The longer I waited, distracted and weighed down by other projects, work and personal life, the more it seemed I could hear the virtual flies buzzing around the soon-to-be corpse of this blog. 

Thankfully, some spark did kindle the interest I had left in this endeavour and, more thankfully still, I had continued to drink beer and annoyingly take photographs and notes as I went. As such, I do have something to work with, though I've decided to simply leave behind a fair few notes from the last notebook (it has been that long) and start from scratch with materials I started gathering in late August. 

One of the few beers to make it from that last book is this - a few days too late to tie in with Halloween but a scary number nonetheless.

This is Fantôme. Fantôme is one of those (perhaps the archetypal) mysterious and often lauded breweries whose reputation seems to travel further than its beer; this brilliant profile of the brewer(y) by Belgian Smaak, however, explains that most of the beer does in fact travel far - more than 90% of it leaves Belgium. Recipes are ever-changing and shrouded in mystery, but the recipe for this 2015 edition of Printemps should probably be written down on a piece of paper and flung in the bin (shout out to my dad for this devastating put-down, best applied to the phone numbers of bad tradesmen).
The omens were bad; a stripe of skunky stuff is what first coils from the neck of the bottle, but this thankfully changes when you get the ghost into the glass. From here you get a pleasant if ever-so-slightly alarming shout of lemongrass with shades of lemon zest, mint and slightly acidic wheatiness. On the whole, though, it's a clean and cool leafy nose with a hefty smattering of prickly spice and an almost rosy perfume character. 

At this point I'm wary - there's no doubting that this is a heavily flavoured saison even if you didn't read the label - but still optimistic. I even concluded here that the aroma was a suitably summery, fragrant and fresh one.

There are fewer reasons to be joyful about the taste, though; cooling mint and lemongrass form the main effect with a sweet, syrupy lemon finish quickly and aggressively cloying and quashing any degree of drinkability. It's not refreshing, unsurprisingly, but it's also just not very enjoyable as a sipper, and despite being admittedly unique (it will certainly live long in my taste-memory) it's just not interesting enough as a novelty to justify finishing. The flashes of elderflower and lingering aniseed notes are cries for help, and after grinding through a full glass I decided to treat my sink to the rest of the 750ml bottle. 

This turned out to be an experience that started with just a wobble before gradually degenerating to the point where you have to assess the choices you have made and the options that now lay before you. Perhaps there is a reason this sort of thing doesn't fly in Belgium.


  1. Good to see the Destrier back in the saddle once more.

    Fantôme beers can be seriously sketchy, in my experience. I don't know how it has such a great reputation.

    1. That said, I'd happily try any others that cross my path... the right price.