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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Fantôme Pissenlit

Total Score: 9.35/10 Peppercorns1RedApple1Orange1Tulipglass1

Been looking forward to this one: my first Fantôme beer. As you may know I am a massive Saison fan, I have an almost constant supply of Saison Dupont in my fridge, so when I see a new Saison at my local my general reaction is “giddy-up!”. Then I buy said Saison, whisk it home to my beer-boudoir (aka my kitchen) and crack it open to feast on the cloudy golden fluid within. Fantôme have always intrigued me, from the ghost on their label that looks like they should be sued by the Ghostbusters producers, to the crafty vibe I get from the way they market their beers – I mean Belgium is the original craft beer country, so that makes Fantôme double-crafty: a craft brewery from the craft country! This beer is brewed with dandelions too, hmm.

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

A: Cloudy amber/orange body with a thin and splotchy cream-coloured head with specks of lace on the side of the glass. A bit on the darker side for a Saison in my experience, but otherwise it’s looking tasty. 7/10.

S: Some rather nice yeast funk from the start providing a musty, cardboard-like funk that mingles well with peppery notes, a slight herbal tinge, some overripe cider apple sweetness and a dash of bubblegum. All the classic Saison characters make an appearance, it’s like a celebrity game show, only with beer aromas. Like a warm hug from an old friend [that’s 2 analogies in 1 paragraph – you can’t do that Doc]. 9/10.

T: A big and brash Saison! Flavours right out of the gate like a bolted horse. Tastes like a train wreck of weird and wonderful flavours on my tongue [Right! This is the Simile Police, we’re now stripping you of your right to write analogies, please step into this van]… sooo, I’m back from Metaphor Prison (which is a metaphorical prison, pun intended), this flavour profile contains the following: musty/cardboard funk, peppery notes, herbal tinge, overripe cider apples, dash of bubblegum, and an orange peel bitterness in the finish. It’s funky as a ____ jumping into a ____ with a ____ – all of which I can’t say without that damned Simile Police slapping me with several violations. It is good though, and the 8% ABV is well hidden. 10/10.

M: Medium bodied, almost zero carbonation but it’s dense where you get it. 7/10.

D: This beer reminds me of Dupont Cervesia in all the right ways, and that beer is #4 out of 1,004 for me, so yeah – it’s like that brew. This is a singular and superlative brew from Fantôme, a brew that will have me coming back again and again for more. So I guess you can call me a Fantôme fan now. 10/10.

Food match: Brasserie food with a twist, like a steak frites with deconstructed chips.

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Stone Saison Du BUFF Red & White Wine Barrel Aged

Total Score: 8.8/10 Coriander1Flowers1WhiteWine1Tulipglass1

Stone, I love Stone [not getting stoned – not into that, sorry!]. Damn their beers can be expensive though – this corked and caged 500ml bottle cost me around $36, that’s halfway to the most expensive beer I’ve ever bought ($60 for a 330ml bottle of Westvleteren XII), anyway you get what you paid for, and Barrel-Aged beers are expensive in general. The main drawcard for me with this brew was this: rosemary. I’ve been wanting to try a beer brewed with rosemary for ages. Also parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme “remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine” – who doesn’t love Simon and Garfunkel? Probably people born this century, but really what do they know? Yeah!

Poured from a 500ml corked and caged bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Fairly hazed pale orange body with a rather active white head that fizzles out pretty quickly leaving a thin lace ring. It’s no contender for best looking beer, but it looks drinkable nonetheless. 7/10.

S: Dry and musty Brettanomyces yeast upfront provides a decent barnyard funky hay-bale Saison credentials – this is definitely a farmhouse ale, there’s no disputing that. The rest of the aroma is dedicated to herbal and floral notes, with a bit of bubble-gum thrown into the mix. Yep, this is one of those beers I could sit in the corner and sniff for ages [as long as no one sees me acting like some sort of beer-sniffing lunatic]. “Sensational aroma!” is what I could have said more aptly. 10/10.

T: Flavour is a complex mix of the above: dry/musty and spicy Brett yeast, dry herbal centre with hints of sage and thyme, white wine grapes, hints of floral notes and bubble-gum, capped off with a looooong dry herbal finish. Flavours overall of a crazy complex and exceptional brew that is a little too yeast-driven and missing the rosemary, parsley and red wine barrel characters, however this was going to be a hectic brew and those flavours have no doubt been drowned out in the sheer cacophony of ingredients. 9/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a dense and prickly carbonation. 8/10.

D: This brew more than anything reminds me of Trappist brews like Orval – herbal rich, dry and spicy – and apart from the above noted flavours being pushed out by other flavours it is bang on what I was expecting. Oh yeah, and 9.3% ABV – doesn’t taste anything near that! Another admirable effort from Stone, though a bit too many Brett strains, go easy on the yeast next time Stone. 8/10.

Food match: Roast chicken with a herb salad and roasted veggies.

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Bacchus Brewing Saison Du Melon

Total Score: 6.25/10 Peppercorns1Biscuit1GreenMelon1Tulipglass1

Back to Bacchus again! Can’t help myself can I? Well this brew #19 of theirs for me, and they (i.e. Ross) never cease to amaze me with the weird/wonderful combination of beers they come up with. This one is Saison Du Melon, a Saison brewed with Dupont’s (of Saison Dupont fame) yeast strain – which should make this an awesome Saison as I love me some Saison Dupont. So where does the “melon” come in to the equation? This is the Ross Kenrick brilliant bit: utilising that most melony of hops [FYI I once dated a Melanie who ironically had quite a melony personality] Huel Melon hops. Melon-driven hops and Saison yeast with a Pilsner and wheat malt base – what did I say: brilliant! Let’s see how she goes then.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Clear golden body with a crazy active white head that fizzled out to pretty much nothing – interesting reaction from the Dupont yeast perhaps? Although Saison Dupont usually fashions itself a decent head. Must be something else. 6/10.

S: Aroma is totally driven by that spicy/peppery Dupont yeast, hint of Diacetyl (butterscotch note) as well. Not much else in there, is there anything from the hops? Hard to tell through the yeast and Diacetyl (which TBH is a bit unacceptable in a Saison anyhow). This beer is behaving oddly like one I made Saison yeast – had a fizzler of a head and Diacetyl in it too. 5/10.

T: Touch funky/weird from the get go. Spicy/peppery barnyard characters mixed with a dry cracker base and a light melon character – luckily the Diacetyl isn’t noticeable here, otherwise that would probably be a drain-pour scenario. Finish is bone dry and thirst-inducing. Not bad. A really different take on the Saison style with the stripped back flavours and the dryness in the finish – the yeast has less to work with and as a result contributes less to the flavour profile than say, I don’t know, Saison Dupont. In any case it tastes more like a Lager than a Saison. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a very excitable carbonation – let’s just say I couldn’t count the burps I had on both hands. Yeah a bit too much CO2 here. 6/10.

D: Yeah ended up with more of a Lager than a Saison here, which is a bit disappointing because the promise of a melon flavoured Saison was really what drove me to buy this. Bacchus has few misses among their hits but this is one of them. Although, that said, if I was rating this as a typical Adjunct Lager it would have scored a bit higher for me. 6/10.

Food match: Pizza, if you can handle all the burps this beer induces.

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To Øl Snowball Saison

Total Score: 8.55/10 Lemon1Peppercorns1Flowers1Tulipglass1

To Øl. I love saying it. It rolls off the tongue: To Øl… To Øl… actually I lie: I’m still a bit fuzzy on the “Ø” pronunciation… I’ve heard that it’s said like “or”, but then “or” doesn’t work with an “L” after it… “To Orl”? (someone from Scandinavia help a brother out here!). ANYWAY I’m expecting another tasty drop from this gypsy brewer – To Øl certainly doesn’t f**k spiders (to coin a popular Aussie bogan euphemism) when it comes to brewing, so I’m expecting BIG flavours without compromises. Their DIPA Underground was like a punch in the pancreas for me and I’m hoping this being 8% ABV (instead of 8.5% of the DIPA) will mean that the sugar content isn’t so diabetes inducing… here goes!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Spectacular cloudy Harvest gold body with a firm and slightly creamy half centimetre white head that leaves some lace scrawl on the side of the glass. Bit darker than the average Saison, but this is To Øl so all bets are off. 8/10.

S: Brett funk from the get-go which leads on into a floral/earthy and an acidic noted aroma. There’s nothing outstanding about the character of this Saison, it could be a Belgian Saison if I was blindfolded. Waiting for something to jump out I noticed a slight hospital disinfectant touch lingering in the background… weird or am I overthinking it now? Perhaps that’s the band-aid smell other craft beer reviewers have noticed – I’ve never noticed it before, huh, I get it now. 7/10.

T: That acidity noted above is ever present here – herbal bitter lemon throughout the profile. Starts out with a hint of Brett funk (barnyard character as I like to call it), follows through to pepper/floral/earthy notes… actually this is one of the easiest drinking 8% brews I’ve had. Balance is sublime and no alcohol noticed in the profile. Pretty damn tasty… too damn tasty! Aftertaste has a slight menthol note – Aha, a hint of alcohol! 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a nice dense/creamy carbonation, goes down like liquid-silk (patent pending). 9/10.

D: Kinda glad this doesn’t come in a 500ml can (or 750ml corked/caged bottle!) as it’s dangerously easy-drinking this one. I finished the bottle like it was a soft drink, I’ve struggled more with light beers than this one. If you’ve ever liked a classic Saison and thought “I need to get drunk a little bit quicker” then this is the meal ticket for you. To Øl nailed this one. 9/10.

Food match: Chicken is your main meat with this bad boy.

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Birra Baladin Wayan

Total Score: 5.8/10 Pear1BrownSugar1GreenApple1Tulipglass1

Birra Baladin Wayan is next in my gifted mixed 5 [again read my review of Super Bitter for disclosure ‘n stuff] as #4… of course the only logical question before reviewing this beer: is this brew in anyway endorsed by the Wayans brothers? And if so which brother? If it’s Shawn or Marlon, no thanks, but if it’s Damon then I say: Mo’ Money! This Wayan is listed as a Saison, it should be interesting to see where Birra Baladin go with this – Nazionale was different and fantastic and the last one I had: Isaac was classic to the style of Witbier, so they can go either atypical or archetypal these Italian craft brewers (Birra Del Borgo don’t even try to ascribe to a style – unless that style is “freestyle”).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy AF with a heap of yeast clumps floating around – this is going to get yeastie (boys!). Colour of the body is an orangey-brown due to all that yeasty goodness. Head is almost non-existent, a thin white ring inside the glass. 6/10.

S: Big juicy ripe pear, musty/almost dirty yeast, apple sauce… yes apple sauce, you think I just make this shit up for fun? [yeah, well, sometimes]. Hard to get past all these esters and yeast characters – it’s a bit of a fruit stew here, not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s not a very clean aroma either. 6/10.

T: Yeah this one sat in the car for too long and refermented – it’s nothing like what anyone else has written about it, all I’m getting is a weird pear and apple pie with an overbearing musty yeast character. Shame, because so far the Birra Baladins have been pretty tasty. That said it’s not all bad – just a bit amiss. Finish is balanced between light medicinal bitterness, sweet pear, earthy/spicy yeast. Aftertaste isn’t great, tastes like I licked the dust off a dusty tome… umm, I’m guessing because I haven’t actually tried that… 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, thin with a couple burps here and there from the carbonation. 6/10.

D: Bit of a shame with this one as I love a good Saison. I did keep this in my beer cellar (aka kitchen cupboard) not sure when or how the secondary fermentation took place but it definitely would have transformed the flavour of this beer big time – as I got to the bottom of the glass it started to look like the trub at the bottom of my homebrew bottles… did I drink it? Yeah, yeast is full of nutrients/protein, never fear the yeast (or the reaper for that matter). 5/10.

Food match: I feel like eating blue oysters now for some reason.

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La Sirène Urban Pale

Total Score: 8.4/10 Flowers1Grapefruit1Bubblegum1Tulipglass1

Every once and a while you find a brewer at the top of their game and for La Sirène is one of those brewers. They simply don’t seem to know how to put a foot wrong. Yes, yes, I get that all their brews are basically a variation on the same style: Saison, but I say if you can nail one style consistently whilst adding new elements to it then why would you give that mojo up? Alternatively there’s a time and place for being a revolutionary mad-brew-scientist like Ross Kenrick @ Bacchus as well. Frankly I love that there is one Aussie brewer out there who can ace a Saison like La Sirène can. This is Urban Pale – their first canned beer and I admit I tried one last night and it was so damn good I then proceeded to finish off the entire 6-pack [yep!].

Poured from a 330ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy tangerine body with a decent 2 centimetre off-white head that uniquely has a mixture of dense/sea foam bubbles – the head soon subsides to a splotchy lace blanket. This is one attractive Saison here. 8/10.

S: Punchy aroma of orange peel, floral hops, coriander spice, grapefruit hints and a tinge of bubble-gum… it’s quite an ester-driven brew thanks to some superb yeast action: The original La Sirène yeast strain was bought back from northern France and has over the years had Australian wild yeast introduced to give it a touch of funk… it’s obviously working – James Brown would get down with this funk! 9/10.

T: Begins lightly tart, floral hop notes come mid-palate, leading on to a citrus orange and grapefruit light bitter rind finish and a touch of pepper. Do what I did last night and let this baby warm up to 12°C and you’ll get more of a bubble-gum note and touches of clove – that’s the temp a real Belgian Saison should be drunk and it’s telling here that Urban Pale improves as it draws inexorably closer (in this Queensland summer heat!) to 12°C [Bill: Listen to this dude Doc, he knows what he’s talking about.]. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a fairly dense and creamy carbonation. 8/10.

D: Hot damn, not since this La Sirène Urban Pale has a brewer of Saison reminded me of the brilliance of Brasserie Dupont. Beg/borrow/steal to get your hands on this exceptional Australian Saison [err, actually don’t steal, stealing is bad mkay]. Price-point-wise at $28 a 6-pack it’s a touch on the dear side… but it is mighty tasty… that old drinkers dilemma. If I had anything to constructively add in my critique – it could be ever so slightly sweeter. That’s it. 9/10.

Food match: Bit of an all-rounder flavourwise, let’s spin the wheel and go: Sushi!

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