Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Beer of the Week: Fantome Saison

What’s on Tap

A tale of two beers:

Rochefort 10 and Fantome Saison

By William Brand
Oakland Tribune
Article Launched: 09/09/2008 12:02:59 PM PDT

THIS IS A TALE OF TWO BEERS, both from breweries in the Ardennes in the west of Belgium. One is small and world famous; the other is absolutely tiny and famous only among beer geeks like me.

The first is Rochefort 10 ****1/2 It’s made at the Trappist Abbaye Notre Dame de St. Remy, a religious institution founded in 1230. This is a dark, strong, 11.3 percent beer, one of a handful that are made at the six Trappist abbey breweries in Belgium.

The second is Fantome Saison ***½, made by a lone brewer, Dany Prignon, who has a deserved reputation for being both daring and chaotic. No one really knows what’s in Fantome Saison, the big, 8 percent, luscious beer Prignon brews year-round.

  • Rochefort 10 is a deep coffee-colored beer in a style devised by monks in the Middle Ages to be strong and hearty enough to get the religious folks through 40 days of fasting during Lent. It truly is liquid bread. It delivers an aroma of dark malt and alcohol, full, somewhat sweet taste with warming alcohol in a long, malty finish.

A slow secondary fermentation continues in the bottle. Let it sit for six months to a year and you’ve got Five Star, world classic beer. An 11.2-ounce bottle is about $7 and worth it.

  • Fantome lies at the other end of the fine beer spectrum. His American importer, Dan Shelton of Shelton Brothers in Belchertown, Mass., says he’s unsure of the recipe and claims it changes constantly. Shelton says there is or has been apple juice, peach juice and coriander added to the beer.

It’s indeed a walk on the wild side: A dusty, unfiltered gold with a nose of spice and wet earth, the taste is mildly sweet with a tangy, spicy follow ending with a tart, almost sour note. I love this beer.

Fantome  is expensive. I paid $13 for a 750 ml.-bottle last week with no regrets. For an interview with Dan Shelton about his zany adventures with Fantome, check my blog: www.ibabuzz.com/beer.

Reach William Brand at whatsontap@sbcglobal.net or call 510-915-1180 and ask for his Retail Beer Store List or Good Pub List. Read more by Brand at www.ibabuzz.com/beer.