You know, a few years ago, I would not be caught dead drinking a beer. That yellow, flavorless piss in a can that my college buddies lived on would have been my beverage of choice behind room temperature skim milk and flat soda. No offense if you enjoy mass-produced commercial beer – I didn’t know any better at the time either.
Maybe that was the world we lived in here in North Carolina before they popped the cap back in 2005 and allowed beers with more than 6% alcohol by volume to cross our borders. As a food fanatic who has always saught the highest knowledge of all things culinary, I was determined to dive head first into these uncharted waters.
Fortunately for you and me, the Triangle is an oasis of outstanding bars and beer shops for anyone who is willing to go out and explore. In the last couple years I have sampled and savored my way through as many diverse and distinct quality brews as I could lay my hands on, while constantly educating myself on what else is out there.
So what, should I now call my self a beer snob? No, more of passionate promoter of good drink. I want to share with you everything that I have discovered in my quest thus far. With an eagerness to learn and a miniscule budget, anyone who lives here can obtain some of the best beer in the world right around the corner.
For my first beer review, I am pleased to bring you Founders Nemesis 2009. This maple bourbon barrel aged wheat wine is the first in Founders Nemesis series – beers that will be brewed only once a year and apparently may change in style each year. The beer that I am holding in my hands right now will only be made once, ever. I love that! Nemesis 2009 was just released and a few bottles may still be available in the area, but I’m sure not for long (side note: I missed the 2010 Hopslam when it came around – anyone open to a trade?).
This beer was aged for nine months 80 feet underground within a gypsum mine in bourbon barrels that had once been used to age maple syrup. Wow, that’s a mouthful (and hopefully a tasty one). It clocks in at 12% ABV and 70 IBUs.
I crack open the top and can almost immediately smell the maple and bourbon aroma in the air. I pour it into my St. Bernardus Watou chalice, realizing that if I’m going to be taking pictures for these reviews, that I’m going to have to pick up some more cool glassware for you guys to look at. The beer cascades a deep orange amber with minimal head but a bit of lacing. The aroma is sweet, and with careful consideration comes across as a citrusy, vanilla maple front with a faint bourbon and alcohol end note.
As my first sip swooshes down my gullet I’m immediately confronted by a strong bourbon flavor that is overwhelmed by a huge alcohol wallop. Yeah, this beer is young, too young. Like a fine wine that needs to age in its bottle for years before becoming the best of its true self, so do the best beers (provided they are bottle conditioned). And this one certainly fits that bill.
There is a really smooth and generous mouthfeel to this beer, coating the palate. As the beer breathes more maple comes in, and the vanilla notes begin to open up as well, the flavor rich. The wheat wine essence at first seems like more of an afterthought, with just the barest hints of it toward the end of each swallow. But upon further consideration it does strike as a good structure upon which to frame the maple and bourbon.
For now I have to give this beer 3 stars, only because at this age the alcohol does overpower and obscure some of the beauty that this brew has to offer. I know that down the line a couple years the other bottles I’m cellaring will really come into their own and will shine as some of the treasures of my collection, a fine beer worth all of the wait and expectation. If you haven’t started a collection of beers that you plan on aging just yet, Founders Nemesis 2009 would be a fantastic way to start.