Founders Sweet Repute: 12.6% abv
Background: We should all be familiar with Founders at this point, being one of the more prolific breweries in Michigan. Founders has had major success with their Backstage Series, which is a series of experimental beers which have been bottled in 750 mL bottles for public consumption. This is a great way to promote new beers and experimental styles. The last review we did of an experimental beer was Bolt Cutter, Founders’ 15th Anniversary Barleywine. This time around, we are reviewing Sweet Repute, a wheatwine aged in ex-bourbon ex-maple syrup barrels. That sentence alone should raise your eyebrows. Needless to say, the combination sounds like a recipe for syrupy sweet disaster. There is only one way to find out!
Nose: The nose starts off with a strong presence of wheat, oak, and bourbon. That does a pretty good job of describing this beer. This definitely has some notes of fruitiness, with sweet orange citrus, melon, and tropical fruits right off the bat. There is a subtlety of raisons that comes across, with an even more compelling sense of dry vermouth. The nose is rather tangy. There was noticeable pineapple, with some hoppy bitterness as well. Honey adds some sweetness to the nose. As the beer warms up, the yeasty, bready character becomes more dominant. Overall, the nose is dominantly sweet and fruity, with a definite callout to its grassroots.
Arrival: The arrival is a great introduction into this beer, with a mixture of flavors which play as montage to the aforementioned nose. There is a large number of different sensations, including the bready, wheat-like character, along with a complex fruitiness as well. The arrival shows off a unique taste of lemon-lime soda, with a crisp refreshing mouth-feel.
Body: The body has a thicker mouth-feel, with a sense of honey and fruits dominating the body. The bourbon oak really comes through here. There is a lot of honey and sweetness in the body, in a very sugary, syrupy texture. There is a substantial amount of malt in the body as well.
Finish: The finish concludes with multiple complexities. There is a dry hoppiness that dominates, with a sweet bourbon and honey in the finish. There is a little bit maple in the finish, but it really doesn’t shine through, which we feel is a good thing. Instead, there is slightly more molasses to be found in the finish. There is a good amount of fruitiness in the finish, but it does not over-dominate the beer. There is also a strange taste of bubble gum noticeable from the body into the finish.
Final Comments: Sweet Repute dances a line of sweetness and complexity, offering a ton of full, thick flavors, but never providing an over-dominance of sweet flavors. Between the wheat malt, the maple/bourbon barrels, and the high proof, it seemed inevitable that this would be overbearingly sweet. Instead, it mixes thick, sweet flavors with a balanced, interesting hoppiness and dryness. Don’t get us wrong, this is no IPA. It just handles itself in a very composed manner. KCM thoroughly enjoyed this beer, even though the maple got lost in the cluster of flavors for most of the event. It is also worth mentioning that although this and New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole (R #7) are distinctively different, you would not lose much by going with New Holland’s wheatwine.
Why you’d buy it: You like limited release beers of a sweeter style and high proof.
Why you wouldn’t: You can’t find it, and it is more expensive than Pilgrim’s Dole.