Sea Hag IPA (version 2.0)
1 six-pack, $9.49++, 6.2% ABV
Purchased at Crazy Bruce’s, West Hartford
Ah the venerable Sea Hag. If you look at the history of New England Brewing beers, this is one that has retained the name the longest, I think. You had your Atlantic Amber (RIP) and your Elm City Pilsner (nee Lager) along with the Sea Hag for years and years… and that was about it for year-round recurring brews from the boys at NEBCO.
Now, of course, there are a whole host of incredible beers from the small Woodbridge brewery, and the plucky little Sea Hag stands alone as the longest running – in name anyway.
Because NEBCO totally and completely changed this beer in late 2011. They say there merely fiddled with the hop profile but between you and me, they killed an average (at best) IPA and re-animated it in the form of a fantastic American IPA.
This one’s a beauty; a rich and full-bodied India Pale Ale with complex malt character, blended with cascade hops and noble hops. The end result is a beer that satisfies the “hop head” out there and won’t chase away the newcomer. Drink it, it’s good.
Get a FREE Sea hag Wallpaper on your cell phone! Text ‘Hag9’ to 99134!”
Keep in mind that NEBCO hasn’t updated their site in about 9 years, so please forgive them. I wonder if that text thing still works though? I had to click through a few pages to get to this description (the same page describes the Amber Ale, a beer they stopped making years ago).
I didn’t even notice that the Sea Hag bit links to “The Legend of the Sea Hag,” which is apparently a real (not real) legend down in New Haven! I had no idea. There’s a whole (tiny) little blog devoted to the Sea Hag and everything. (Oddly, the Wiki page that used to exist, no longer exists. I blame the Sea Hag.
Years ago I thought I’d support local, when all we had local was Hooker and Olde Burnside. I bought some Sea Hag IPA and drank it and thought to myself, “this is why I don’t always support local.”
Two things were working against the beer then: I wasn’t really into hoppy beers and the old Sea Hag sort of tasted like what I’d imagine an actual Sea Hag would taste like. It was not a good beer to me.
So I wrote off NEBCO and sort of relegated them in my mind. When I started this website in 2006 and added our wineries and breweries in 2008 or so, I threw NEB on the list and again sort of forgot about them. All because their old Sea Hag was not the best.
Flash-forward to 2011. I used to do some silly brew haiku beer review thing and rated the Sea Hag a D.
Jump ahead a few months and I bought some more for this absurd exercise of drinking every Connecticut made beer I can get my hands on. Pour, picture, sip…
WHAT IN THE WHAT?! The Hag has risen. It’s delicious. Completely different. I am totally into hags now.
Seriously, I took another swig and wondered if I had been crazy in the past. Had my palate evolved? Did turning 40 completely change my tastes? Or, more likely, did NEBCO change up the Sea Hag itself?
I took to the Twitters and asked the world. The world responded: “The beer hath changed. The Hag is now good.” Very, very good. Part of me was pretty proud of the fact that I was able to detect the change. It always comes back to me.
So… this is a review of the 2012 (and hopefully forever and beyond) Sea Hag IPA. It’s as delicious as the can is badass.
For a straight-up American IPA, the Sea Hag hits you with more citrus and pine on the nose than most of the competition, but goes down with a bit more pine over orange. It’s dry and hoppy and lightly carbonated. At over 6%, this is a beer you’ll want to always have in the fridge.
This is an IPA you want to give to your friends to say, “Sorry, I don’t have any Sculpin right now, but Sculpins are fish and Sea Hags eat fish – that’s a fact – so this is as good as it gets anyway. Classic representation of the style.”
And then your friends will drink it, but one of them will hate it because he hates hops and pine. So leave him alone to go play Draw Something and watch “The Big Bang Theory” while the rest of you smile and nod in approval with a tacit understanding that you all got the Sculpin reference.
Overall Rating: A+
Rating vs. Similar style: A+