Adoringly dubbed the “anti-establishment ale,” Founders Brewing Company’s latest limited release debuted on September 1, sparking rushes of phone calls and battles with bottle limits throughout the area. A handful of stores in the Jersey shore area were lucky enough to reel in a case, nearly all of which were bought up within a day or two. The 2010 edition of Nemesis is a beefy barleywine style ale, boasting a heavy duty 12% alcohol and 100 IBUs.
For this tasting, two bottles of 2010 and one bottle of 2009 were opened and poured into taster glasses for a group of friends’ enjoyment. Take note though that Nemesis is completely unique each year, with the ’09 edition taking the form of a maple bourbon barrel aged wheatwine ale.
The 2010 edition takes on an extremely dark color with some ruby red hues and brown undertones. There’s minimal head and retention, along with a slight detection of some spotty lacing. While breathing in, a diverse bouquet of scents swirl with oak, vanilla, alcohol, heavy malts, and an overall woodiness.
Creating an absolute wave of flavor, caramel malts and bold chocolate flavors begin the rush. This moves into oak, smooth vanilla, and a touch of cocoa nibs before bitter hops pierce through the palate. Oak and boozy warmth nearly flush the drinker’s face towards the end, generating a complex flavor from beginning to end. The finish leaves one final flash of booze, caramel, leather, and wood before slowly vanishing.
The consistency is obviously thick and viscous, but still remains smooth throughout the bitter and rich portions. At 12% ABV, the alcohol isn’t going to be invisible, but Founders masks everything surprisingly well. This is clearly an awesome beer which does about everything it can to live up to the hype. A year or so of age would probably tone down some of the heat, but this is still ready to drink immediately.
The 2009 release appears a clear bubbly orange-yellow with hardly any head, filmy retention, and a light ring of lacing. Its nose is complex and aggressive, releasing maple, bourbon, caramel malt, oak, and some boozy heat.
Slightly sweet maple and syrup open the flavors up, eventually moving into an assortment of oak, vanilla, and some alcohol fueled heat. A beefy malt backbone provides the foundation, along with caramel and licorice bouncing off the taste buds. Everything wraps up with wood and rich, warm alcohol before lingering slightly on the tongue.
This version is definitely hotter than 2010, even after sitting for the better part of a year. With rich flavors and a super slow drinking pace, the 2009 variety is unique and delightful, but borderline overwhelming at points. It almost drinks similar to bourbon, as the barrel aging really shines through in every swallow.
Each of these special beers maintains their own distinct properties, asserting themselves as bold, imaginative creations. Spend some time tracking down the 2010 Nemesis, and you certainly shouldn’t be disappointed.