Although a business should always endeavour to cater for its most knowledgeable customers, it’s far more important to make sure you are accessible to the casual, regular punter who is going to provide you with the vast bulk of your income.
Sometimes I forget this and stuff the shelves with high-end, esoteric booze which attracts a small fan base of collectors, but many folk find intimidating/bewildering. Which means that often, after the initial buzz has wound down, I’m left with a bunch of bottles that can be hard to shift.
In many instances this is no problem- Lambics and Imperial Stouts can age gracefully, so I’m not that bothered if they gather a patina of dust. However, some heavily hopped beers really are designed for immediate consumption and become dull & lifeless after a couple of months, also many bottle conditioned beers can get “gushy”
A prime example of the latter are the beers of Dany Prignon, founder and brewer of Fantome: Home to what many consider the world’s greatest saison.
At the end of last year, I Had to radically discount a few bottles of his beer owing to their age and explosive tendencies.
The reason they had sat around to get into this state is threefold.
- they ain’t cheap.
- They have “idiosyncratic” (ugly) labels
- They were full of weird & experimental nonsense.
(They were also absolutely banging)
Because I rarely learn from my mistakes, i have just splurged out and got in a stack more Fantome saisons, including what may be my most ill-advised purchase to date: The Fantome Chocolat
The bittersweet character of chocolate is a notable component of many stouts and porters, but adding it to a saison, which is all about balance, texture and mouthfeel, seems like a particularly bad idea. However I’m delighted to say that Dany (who specialises in bad ideas) has crafted something delicious.
My bottle poured a not particularly attractive hazy amber colour, with a small, off-white head, which sat happily on top of the beer all the time I was drinking. It’s highly carbonated, with a near constant stream of fine bubbles
It has a complex, earthy, funky nose. With aromas of leaf mulch, leather and a strange (but welcome) hint of peat smoke
The palate is dominated by complex layers of malt, biscuits, toasted lemon and cereal. It is weightier than most saisons with more body and length, but other than adding to the beers substance, the chocolate doesn’t make much of an impression: I had feared something Nesquicky, but it’s actually very subtle. It doesn’t even finish sweet; instead it leaves you with a little peppery bite from the addition of ancho chillies.
I was prepared to hate this stuff, but I’d be very happy to drink a few more bottles.
(which is handy, because it’s hardly going to fly off the shelves)