Fantôme De Noel

Total Score: 9/10 DarkFruits1Clove1Cherry1Tulipglass1

Season’s Greetings from those lovely chaps at Fantôme! Well, yes you’re right – it’s not Christmas, but for the first time in what feels like ages it’s starting to cool down in Queensland, perfect time to crack open a De Noel and feast on the (no doubt) delicious goo inside. I’ve only tried one Fantôme thus far, Pissenlit, which was rather excellent and enough to convince me that Dany Prignon and team have a special energy happening in Belgium, which for a country that brews the best beer in the world they still like to do things by the book (only difference being their book is massive and unique to the rest of the world). Another thing – this beer contains honey, and I do love the rare beers out there that utilise this valuable ingredient.

Poured from a 750ml corked and crown capped bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Aye she looks great: deep red/brown burnt umber body, possibly cloudy but hard to tell, with a nice bold Ecru head that thins out to a lace ring. Loving this colour – it’s like a murky forest waiting to be explored. 9/10.

S: Getting hints of dark fruits (plum, fig and sweet cherry) mixing with a woody and tart black cherry note, there’s a real forest floor vibe as well. Hints of honey and clove in the background… bit of cardamom pods too. This definitely strikes me, from the aroma at least, of a Saison that will peak when it’s warmer and more flavours/aromas come out to play. 8/10.

T: Nice! Flavour is somewhere between a Saison and a spiced Mead, with notes of: Dark fruits, woody (one might even say spruce – at least the label says it) tones, honey, clove, cardamom, pepper, and a touch of tart black cherry. Thankfully the tart cherry is more of a background attraction than the main star – as you well know my enjoyment of Rodenbach Caractère Rouge was soured [pun intended] by the amount of sourness in that brew. Finish adds a light herbal bitterness. As a winter warmer it fails in that the 10% ABV is very well hidden… or it succeeds depending on your views, me I like a winter warmer to give me a slight kick at the end if only to slow me down – Fantôme De Noel has little of that “kick”. 9/10.

M: Pretty luscious with a mid to heavy bodied and a creamy Weizen-esque carbonation, great stuff. 9/10.

D: All round another winner for Fantôme, who are quick becoming a favourite of mine. Their beers are deceptively simple and complex at the same time, Dany Prignon is a master of brewing. Gobias some more! 10/10.

Food match: If it ain’t turkey it ain’t worth eating with cranberry sauce.

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Stone Xocoveza

Total Score: 9.4/10 Chocolate1Chili1Clove1Tulipglass1

Sometimes you find a Christmas beer that you can’t wait to open – much like a little liquid Christmas gift to yourself – Xocoveza, Stone’s take on a Mexican hot chocolate with added chilli, cocoa, vanilla, coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg is indeed one of those brews. It’s been sitting in my fridge all ominous but tasty-looking for a fortnight and like an impatient hobbit turned into a foul twisted creature I’ve eyed it off every day thinking “soon my precious!”.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Quite dark, almost black, a chocolate brown body: Like a black man that follows me everywhere, I call him Leon, he’s about half as tall as I am, depending on what time of day it is. He likes to play the timpani, and he is a watercolour. The head is nothing more than a tan lace ring though, still tasty. 8/10.

S: Spicy chilli-cinnamon-nutmeg-oh-my-god-my-brain-is-about-to-explode-with-delight goodness… also noted is dark/milk chocolate with a cacao nib smack down: Damn this whole situation is about to get real chocolaty now, in a good way – nay the best way possible, bring it Xocoveza! 10/10.

T: F%^k yeah!!! Stone have brought the flavour train to tastebud central! I don’t normally get so giddy about a beer but f*#k this is every adjunct listed on the bottle in sublime harmony creating a flavour tour de force. If you wrap your mitts around one chocolate beer this year make it this. All flavours listed on the bottle FYI are all present and accounted for: Cocoa, coffee, chilli, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg – throw in dark/milk chocolate, dark fruit and a woody touch towards the finish. Is it all too much? Surprisingly: No. 10/10.

M: Body is a slight let down, medium though I feel given the style it could use a little bit more creaminess and heft. Carbonation is mid to low and ever-present. 7/10.

D: The most disappointing part of Stone Xocoveza? Finishing the bottle… would love to have had this in a US Bomber (22 oz or 650 mls), all good things must end as they say, however I noted a few more bottles left down at The Archive – a stay of execution perhaps? In summation: I love this beer and want to drink it all year round. Disclaimer: I do love a good Mexican hot chocolate. 9/10.

Food match: Anything Chipotle – chipotle steak, chipotle pork, chipotle cat, chipotle baby panda, chipotle small children, chipotle Apple II computer, chipotle plesiosaurus, chipotle daily-planner – this will do it all.

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