Okay, here’s how stupid I am, and why I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a beer reviewer.
You may be thinking, “Wait, you’re starting your post comparing two beers by saying you’re not qualified to review beers? Why should I even read this?”
Excellent question. Let me explain.
I’m doing my comparison tasting between the two MerBears — Coronado’s and Bear Republic’s. If you weren’t aware, this is a unique collaboration in that both parties involved brewed their own unique “tweaks” to the recipe and released them as separate beers.
What more natural comparison could there be, right?
So where does my stupidity play into this?
Here are my initial color notes when I first poured each beer:
“Bear Republic — darker, Amber, garnet
Coronado — copper, deep gold”
But, the more I looked at these beers as I was tasting them, I noticed they looked exactly the same. Then it hit me, and I later confirmed this with Bear Republic, each brew is based on the same grain bill, meaning the malt recipe is identical. The only difference is in the amount and varieties of hops used.
OF COURSE their color would be the same. Hops don’t affect beer color.
So how could I be such a dope?
I’m so unconfident in my ability to describe beers that I feel I need to add words, even if they aren’t necessary. Therefore, two beers, two sets of descriptors. For everything. Of course these are different colors, they’re different beers, aren’t they?
Lesson learned — don’t overthink things, and don’t try to sound smarter than you are. Simple language is best, even if your descriptors aren’t that, well, descriptive.
So let’s get into the meat of this, as the distinctions became apparent in the smell and taste.
Coronado seems to have a more hop-forward aroma — more pine needles and sap, more of a “twang” in the smell, if there is such a thing.
Bear Republic has a bit “deeper” aroma. More damp, woodsy pine forest. As it warms, more pecan, butterscotch, and a hint of coffee emerge.
As for flavor, Coronado seems to have a bit lighter mouthfeel, although to be completely honest I don’t know if malt or hops, or both, play more of a hand in that. Again, I could be overthinking this.
There’s more spice in Coronado’s version, and the rye seems a bit more pronounced, which I like. Definitely a more peppery bite here.
Again, the “depth” seems more evident in Bear Republic’s. Hops don’t leap to the front quite as quickly here. Especially as it warms, more nutty, toffee notes emerge.
Interestingly, even though the IBUs are higher in Bear Republic’s recipe, Coronado’s seemed more bitter to me. There’s a lot of talk lately about the “juicy” New England IPAs that are becoming more popular, as well as how accurate (or not) IBUs really are as a measure of bitterness. I’m sure the two are related, and I thought about that while tasting these beers.
To wrap this up, both versions are stellar, and comparing them was a joy. Since you’re twisting my arm to choose, I’d say I prefer Bear Republic’s just slightly to Coronado’s. If I had to slap some sort of arbitrary score on them — out of 10, Bear Republic would be 9.5, and Coronado 9.
Bottom line — if you find either, or both, of these, grab them.
Okay, maybe this wasn’t a half-bad review. Thoughts?