Sometime in March-ish of this year I somehow got in a Facebook conversation with Dany Prignon, who is the man behind Fantôme. I mentioned that a collaboration with him would be the highlight of my brewing experience. His response, “Daniel. Too much! I am just a brewer.”
As the year went by plans emerged for me to collaborate with two breweries in Spain. So a trip was planned with stops in other countries – including Belgium – along the way. Dany, to my surprise, asked if I was going to visit him at Fantôme. I said I would love to, as long as it wasn't a burden to him as I speak no French. And I made it clear; I am just a brewer – not a famous brewer, maybe a good brewer – but just a brewer.
Dany answered, call him when we get to the train station Gare de Melreux-Hotton near Soy Belgium. He would come pick me, my wife, and my mother in law up at the station. How could I refuse?
So after a two hour train trip from Brussels to Hotton, Dany picked us up as promised. We received a casual, entertaining, and thorough introduction to the small and functional brewhouse and surrounds. My mother in law helped on the bottling line for a short while. Tried many good beers. Spent the day talking about one thing and another. Had a hearty Belgian lunch at Restaurant Le Jacquemart Hotton with Dany and friends (I still have to do a Yelp review).
And of course I asked him many beer related questions; what grains and hops he liked, how he managed his yeast, and so forth. And you might think these are the secrets to making Fantôme Saison – but that’s not the case.
Here are the important things that I learned:
- A good brewer can make extraordinary beer in a simple and functional brewhouse.
- A good base beer can be the backbone to express amazing things – seemingly different beers – if you know how to layer complexities with creative herbs, spices, and other special ingredients.
- Even if you’re “just a brewer”, passion and creativity – and maybe the help of a friendly ghost – can bring magic to your beer
It was a fantastic day, a wonderful learning experience, and a great pleasure to meet Dany and make a friend of such an authentic, humorous, and charming person.
Thanks Dany! My wife, mother in law, and I are all happy to have made a friend of you.
À votre santé!
Now, the photos…