Have you been to New York City lately? If you are a craft beer lover and spend any time in Manhattan, you have probably noticed that people down there are boozing in the dark ages, where mass-produced snooze brews are the norm.
Look, I’m not knocking New Yorkers so much as I am lambasting the mobsters who still run distribution there; furthermore, I am well aware of the many phenomenal taprooms and breweries in the region, especially in Brooklyn and Queens. But since New York City automatically wins in so many damn cultural categories, I hope it at least serves as a minimal point of pride for their neighbors to the north that the Connecticut suds scene is comparably promising.
I have said for years that Connecticut beers can hang with those from Mass or the Empire State or anywhere; in some cases, they may even surpass. I found my way to several taps and coolers on a recent trip that way, and returned with a few cans that you should request from your local package professionals.
Thimble Island Brewing Company Sea Mist New England IPA
Here we go again with can art that competently complements the product inside, not unlike that whole theory about how people drive vehicles that look like them (it’s a thing, I swear, look it up, truckface). Like the nautical line drawing that drew me in to buy this four-pack, there’s something mesmerizingly calming about Sea Mist and its blend of Amarillo and Mosaic hops. Sort of like the state from which it hails, there is nothing showy or bombastic at all about this New England IPA—it’s not swelling your mouth up, or causing facial spasms, or anything of that sort. And that is where its brilliance lies; it’s so incredibly smooth that it is hard to believe it’s packing 7% ABV. At the same time, it’s a juice bomb in its own right, subtle as its explosive hop nature may be.
Citysteam Brewery Focused Haze New England Style IPA
Unlike the much more refined Sea Mist via Thimble Island, this is one of those hazy numbers that is not so much tooled for my taste, but that I suspect is something that most hardcores will find to be a sublime sip. If there’s any similarity with the aforementioned delicious winner, it’s that the name is fitting; here, the Focused Haze doesn’t tip too far toward any one sense in particular. It’s sweet but not too syrupy, and it’s nothing like the hazys that are fast approaching the viscosity of mead (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Oh, and one more thing about this beast—it has an aftertaste that is alone worth the endeavor. That’s not always a good thing, but in this case you may want to write a poem about it.
Hanging Hills Brewing Company Oh, New England!
Hartford’s Hanging Hills has yielded the best of the bundle (of those that I discovered, at least; I sampled about 20 in total). Given, I’m a sucker for the packaging, which pays tribute to the 1976 self-titled masterpiece by the Modern Lovers, the legendary outfit led by the great Jonathan Richman. While we have no doubt the reclusive Richman would be annoyed by this honor, I still placed the can on my shelf after enjoying this standout one-two punch of an already funky bunch. At 6.5% ABV with Citra and Centennial hops, Oh, New England! delivers a pleasantly light bite that creeps up your tongue far enough to tickle your tonsils, but that doesn’t bring the burn of lesser bitter brews. I really love this one, and the empty on my shelf is killing me. Local sellers, please note.
Citizen Strain/Grain is an amalgamation of a bunch of us who, in addition to the hard and oftentimes depressing journalism we report for the Dig, also enjoy sampling and writing about the various beers, spirits, and cannabis products that vendors from near and far send our way. If you want us to check out your product, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.