The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

Nemesis Unveiled! Bring On Autumn!

Today is the day for big beers. And by big, I mean beers with the mighty 12 percent ABV.

The Nemesis barley wine from Michigan’s Founders Brewing Company is available on tap and on shelves today. Founders has been busy tinkering with the recipe since the 2009 Nemesis.

What can change in a year? Quite a bit, actually. The 2009 Nemesis was described by Founders as “a Maple Bourbon barrel aged wheat wine holding 12% ABV and 70 IBUs.”

This year’s brew is a “dark barley wine that pours black with a subtle mahogany hue. Brewed with 5 malts and no shortage of hops for a pleasantly bitter booming flavor. Roasty and toasty with a multitude of tastes that melts on your tongue,” says Founders.

A barley wine is a strong ale that originated in this royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, this yadda yadda, this England.

There’s a subtle difference between a wheat wine and a barley wine. For one, wheat is a grass and barley is a grain. So, in the last year the raw material of Nemesis changed entirely. Both wheat wines and barley wines have similarly high ABVs, but they have different malts. When you create a mash for your beer, you pull out all sorts of goodies from the wheat or the grain. Those create the basis for the beer’s flavor. So – Wheat and grain!? Dogs and cats living together!?

Anyway, Founders wanted to maintain a strict street date of September 1, but over the summer there was a little distribution burp that found some cases of Nemesis on shelves in July, much to the consternation of Founders’, er, Co-Founder Dave Engbers (scroll down for Mr. Engbers’ post on the Beer Advocate forums). But now it’s here and we’re all the better for it.

So how’s this fucker taste?

Strong! Nemesis is not a beer that I would describe as a thirst quencher. It’s meant to be savored. The color is very deep and rich, while the head puffs up like a good loaf of bread at first pour.

The taste is crisp and sharply bitter. Nemesis is sweet, which is the case with most high-ABV beers. Despite the sweetness, the taste is more like that of molasses than maple syrup. The nose is smoky, and it makes me think of burning leaves for some reason. I can also taste honey and cinnamon. The honey is appropriate. This is a very sticky beer. I spilled some over the lip of the glass on my pour and each time I pick up the glass, my fingers are all tacky.

Halfway through, I noticed that the head remained as a line of suds around the rim of the glass. I wish I’d had more of a snifter glass or a tulip to pour it in, instead I used a crystal glass that has a nice rounded shape but isn’t really an official beer glass. I need beer glasses.

Nemesis is not a session beer. After one, I wouldn’t go back for another. But to linger over just one, well, that’s a luxury. If you’re buying it to drink at home, I could see even splitting a 12-ounce bottle between two people. I could also see drinking this beer with dessert.

September is a great month to release a beer as rich as Nemesis. This is one you want to sit down with on a cold evening. It’s very autumnal, and on a day when the temperature is pushing 100, it’s nice to have a reason to look forward to the changing of the seasons.

Nemesis is on tap at my local watering hole The Double Windsor as well as The 4th Avenue Pub and The Gate. You can also pick up one up retail at Park Slope’s Bierkraft, which is what I did. When I asked the guys at the shop if they’d tasted it yet, everyone was quick to point out their adherence to Nemesis’ release date. Good kids those Bierkraftians.

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May 2020