Well, there’s the rivalry—Yankees vs. Red Sox, Giants vs. Pats, Bruins vs. Rangers, Celtics vs. Knicks (and add the ‘Nets to that now), but we’re talking about sports, not beer here. And when it comes to Harpoon, well, maybe we can try to compete a local New York brewery against them, but why would you want to?
NYC already embraces Harpoon: We see their flagship IPA at a number of local bars with its signature orange tap, and I can’t help but want to be whisked away to Boston’s “hah-bah,” drinking their beers on a sail boat, possibly whale watching…
But there’s much more to Harpoon than just their IPA. I’m sure you’ve seen their UFO’s (UnFiltered Offering for all of you neophytes) and most likely their seasonals. You may have even been privileged enough to pick up a recent 100 Barrel Series at your local great craft beer store. But if you’ve never been to Boston and visited their brewery, well you don’t know beans (apparently beans are a big thing up there).
Two Girls One Pint (along with StevieAnn from Sassy Beer) were fortunate to venture up there last Monday and experience it for ourselves—this place is the real deal, with great, drinkable beer. They should know good beer—they have been around since 1986. And Harpoon doesn’t need fancy commercials to get its point across…the beer speaks for itself.
The brewery was the first company to obtain a permit to manufacture and sell alcohol in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in over 25 years. This is thanks to their founders, fondly referred to as “Rich & Dan,” who attended Harvard and after traveling Europe, were inspired enough to start their own brewery. For us, it’s hard to believe that Harpoon is “that old” (ok so 26 is not old by any means but in the craft beer world, it’s ancient).
Upon visiting the brewery, one is greeted with a metal gate displaying the four essential ingredients: Water, grains, hops, and yeast. The tasting room is warm and friendly—samples are offered two times a day (at 2 pm and 4 pm) and full brewery tours are offered on the weekend. We were surprised not only by the warm greetings from our tasting room hostesses, but also but the diverse offerings.
Aside from their signature IPA complete with its orange tap handle, also available were the UFO (and its raspberry version), 3 current Leviathan offerings (more on them later), some experimental beers from their 400 gallon series (basically a home-brewer’s wet dream), their current seasonals (Winter Warmer and Chocolate Stout), their newest 100 Barrel Series brew (El Triunfo Coffee Porter), their amazing cider, their Dark (formally called Munich dark) and their new all-round Rye IPA. The selection is overwhelming, especially on a Monday afternoon.
Without leaving the room, guests are lucky enough to be poured samples of any beer they desire (it’s really hard to choose one) then given a story behind the beers and the brewery between swallows. Twenty-first birthdays are celebrated, old friends reunited while new friends are made. The tasting room becomes a meeting place for a bunch of strangers with one thing in common: Their love of great beer.
If you haven’t tried it yet, the not-even-one-year-old Rye IPA is a highly enjoyable beer for those of us who lean toward an everyday IPA (not overly bitter or hoppy). The citrus notes from the hops are balanced by the spiciness of the rye. I’ve been drinking this baby all week like it’s my life support!
The Chocolate Stout is solid (I’m ashamed to say this was my first introduction to it). Now that I’ve had it, I’m not quite sure how I went without for so long—it’s dark and roasty but sweet enough without being too dessert-y. Chocolate milk for grown-ups! And what girl (or boy) doesn’t love chocolate? It’s also perfect for this time of year (it is a seasonal, after all).
For those of you who’ve never enjoyed a Harpoon Cider, you’re in for a real treat. It’s extremely natural tasting (from an apple orchard 40 miles away) and employs their signature yeast so it doesn’t just taste like you’re drinking a sparkling apple juice.
Try it mixed with a Winter Warmer. While I normally don’t advise mixing beer, we can make an exception with this, a concoction called “Apple Pie.” The sweetness of the cider paired with the spices of their winter seasonal creates a perfect treat for a cold day.
Their Leviathan series are the high ABV ones (Imperials). All of them are great but strong—approach with caution! On tap currently in their tasting room was their Imperial IPA (sooo good), a Russian Imperial Stout (one to take home and age), and a Baltic Porter.
Their Dark (formally called Munich Dark, but the name seemed to intimidate people) is a perfect example of the kind of beer I am really into drinking right now—A Dunkel, the dark color is a ruse to the light-bodied, velvety textured beer disguised behind its cloudy brown (mahogany, for you fans of wood) color. This seems to be the favorite in the Harpoon world, amongst staff and fans alike.
So what other beers did we try? And what was it like being taken on a one-of-a-kind brewery tour by Harpoon’s Chief of Brewing Operations, Al Marzi? What does Harpoon have in store for 2013? For answers to all of those questions, stop by later this week for the Second Part of our series on Boston’s Harpoon Brewery!