8% ABV from a 750 mL
I never thought I’d be a saison fan, but sure enough, I have become one late in 2009. Coincidentally well out of saison season as we hit the snowy, bitter winter of New York. Oh well, I’ve never exactly drank to season any how. Of course, it’s easy to fall for these French-named, Belgian beers when you’re drinking some of the best of the style, as I did twice in the last week while snowed-in and with nothing to do but get drunk and play Cranium by myself (harder than you think).
I’d been looking for Fantome Saison for well over a year since I’m a shameless follower of the Beer Advocate Top 100, where Fantome has long resided and, luckily, I finally stumbled upon a sole bottle at a beer store in lower Manhattan. Believe me, I paid a handsome penny too but it was well worth it. I loved Fantome mainly because it’s not what I–probably erroneously–”expect” from a saison. It’s not thin, it’s not simplistic, it’s not bordering on non-alcohlic. No, this sucker is like a double saison. It opened so foamy it seemed like new life was still being created as it just oozed from my bottle. Incredibly citric with the usual suspects of lemon, orange, and peach giving it a little tartness though this is no simplistic brew. Very refreshing as per the style, but with some nice heft as well, though still majorly drinkable. This was a solo drinking effort, and unlike Amelia Earhart I enjoyed every single second of the journey.
Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs
7.7% ABV from a 750 mL
While some of Southampton’s “little” bottles and tap-only selections are no great shakes, their big boys, specifically from the “750 Series,” are nothing but huge winners and that is again the case here. You’d have to be an expert horticulturist to completely understand what you’re drinking as des Fleurs is flavored with a blend of edible flowers including L. augustifolia, A. nobilis, C. officinalis, R. canina and H. lupulus. OK, whatever. Excluding hops of course, the only other beers I can ever recall drinking that are made from, you know, flower flowers would be Elysian’s Avatar Jasmine IPA and Dieu du Ciel! Rosee D’hibiscus and neither of them hold a candle to this effort. Extraordinarily fragrant, truly like stuffing your head in a rose garden while someone sprays perfume over you, the taste is also deliciously herby and sweet, atypically full-bodied and thick for a saison as well. I just sucked it down like Vitamin Water. Of course it’s incredibly unique, but this is truly one of the most flavorful saisons I’ve ever had and one of my most pleasant drinking surprises of the year. (Then again, so was Southampton’s Grand Cru. Perhaps I’m just not showing these Publick House boys enough due deference yet? Never again will I folly.) I shared this beer with my two non-beer connoisseur sisters who absolutely adored it as well, leading me to believe that us fellas can now present this beautiful flower beer to our wives instead of, you know, real flowers. Of course, I’m not married, so why the fuck would you trust me on that?
Fantome Saison and Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs are truly at the apex of the saison style alongside only, let’s say, Boulevard Saison-Brett and, maybe, Hennepin and they should be sought out accordingly. (And don’t think I don’t feel like a bit of yokel for having three of my four favorite saisons being from Kansas City, upstate New York, and Long Island.)