It was the best of yeasts. It was the worst of yeasts.
Well, maybe not the worst.
I have now brewed with both of the dry yeasts known as Abbaye, one from Fermentis and one from Lallemand.
Disclaimer: this is not a scientific report but an empirical one.
I am always on the lookout for good dry yeasts for all the obvious reasons, ease of use, storage, and pitch rate. I still use liquid yeast for beers which are dependent on a strain that can't be had in dry form.
At the end of last summer, I brewed a relatively simple Belgian pale and fermented it with Safebrew Abbaye from Fermentis. The first thing I noticed was sulfur coming through the airlock. Though this is not unusual in a fermentation, this beer reeked! Room filling sulfur! I treated it as I would any beer throwing sulphur, kegged it and figured it would dissipate. Well, it never really dissipated, but it did get to a drinkable level. I am sensitive to sulphur, so others probably would not notice it. My wife didn't notice it.
The appearance was a bit cloudy and it held a thin layer of foam. The aroma was woody and fruity with a touch of unripe grapes. Did it smell Belgian? I wasn't sure. The flavor was fruity and sweet (though it finished relatively low) with a touch of pepper. Did it taste Belgian? I could taste the pepper but it didn't taste like any thing I've ever had. Overall, I decided that I wouldn't use it again. I had a hard time getting by the sulfur and it really didn't meet my anticipation of how a Belgian Pale should taste.
A month and a half ago, I brewed another simple Belgian pale. This time, I pitched a sachet of Lallemand Abbaye yeast. I tapped the beer yesterday. The first difference was apparent during fermentation; there was no sulfur.
The second difference is that this beer pours crystal clear right off the bat. It keeps a nice layer of foam and regular pattern of lace on the glass. The aroma is spicy and definitely Belgian. Underneath the spice it smells grainy and bready with maybe a touch of stone fruit. The flavor is very clean and dry malt with the same hint of stone fruit as the aroma. The peppery spice is there with a hint of noble hop flavor from the Hallertau hops. This one is definitely Belgian.
I will use this one for my Belgians. It may be a little clean for a Belgian yeast, but I will play around with fermentation temp in subsequent brews.
Take it for what it is worth and try it yourself, but to me, the Lallemand Abbaye yeast is way better than the Fermentis Abbaye.