At the very best of times Fantôme beers can be tricky to pin down, to categorize, and to understand. That’s their beauty and indeed their point in many ways. Then from time to time you get one that defies even that ‘logic’. This is one of those.
Golden body with a nice, relatively finely bubbled white head. Some lace, and a thin film across the surface of the beer. Looks strong.
The nose offers some light, lemonade shandy notes, with a very slight hint of something else in the back end. That ‘something else’ really isn’t easy to pinpoint at all, but it’s definitely there, even if I can’t work out what it is.
The tastes follow a similar pattern to the nose, except that ‘certain something’ cuts in earlier and more profoundly. The elusive element is certainly bitter but it has a rather weird herbal taste about it too. Those two things I routinely expect from Fantôme, but this time it’s a bit ‘plastic-like’ (phenol?) actually. I’d normally run with the classic ‘band-aid/phenol’ line here, but it seems different to me this time. The herbal, spiced bitterness is absolutely as I expected, but even by Dany’s standards, this is a very odd flavor profile. At first you think you’re getting what I might call “normal” Fantôme – a unique bitter and spice combo – but it quickly turns into something quite different.
There’s no perceptible heat here, but just plenty of piney weirdness. As it warms, the bitter herbal notes change a little, but I honestly can’t quite get away from that plastic oddity. It’s a shame because the herbal bitterness is EXACTLY why I love Fantôme, but here there is added an extra element of something oregano-like that creates a very odd experience. Some people describe the taste as being floral, and I think that’s an option, but even that is not an adequate descriptor for me. Even if it were, it certainly doesn’t feel like what I might think of as ‘typically floral’. Finish is predictably dry and bitter, but it’s also pretty edgy and not all that rounded or subtle.
As can be the case with Fantôme this really defies description and explanation, and in that regard it’s not especially unusual, but there’s something that doesn’t quite sit easily with me, even from Dany. I much, much prefer Macaquincoing to deliver the weird Fantôme bitterness I lust after.