The Old Growler’s 2013 visit to the Harpoon Brewery in Boston

On June 27th, 2013, The Old Growler visited the then two-year-old Harpoon Brewery in Boston, MA.

As I remember It

Across the Front Point Channel from Boston, where Seaport Boulevard joins Northern Avenue, you will find the Harpoon Brewery and Beer Hall. Modestly situated in a mixed industrial area it takes a little searching to find. However, up the stairs, or by elevator, you soon find yourself in the Harpoon Beer Hall. Through the large glass windows you can watch the kegging and packaging operations.

This is what you will find should you visit the place around three o’clock on a Thursday afternoon.

There are two things to keep in mind:

  1. The black tap handles designated specialty beers.

2. Here as well as at the brewery in Vermont, are the only places where you can get Harpoon Ale on draft. (but then you already know that!).

While I was here I had a chance to chat with CEO Rich Doyle about the facility. He told me it has been in operation for two years. His favorite features of the Beer Hall are the round chandeliers, communal tables and the pretzels. Appropriate, traditional and distinctive.

There is only pretzels on the menu, prepared by a pretzel chef and served with an assortment of dipping sauces.

For the next 3 minutes or so, Brewer Sean Cornelious will take us on a tour of the brewery. It’s a bit noisy so listen carefully!


1. Harpoon Dry January Triple IPA

The information on the back of the can tells us the rationale behind the brewing of this beer.

“We’re not sure who came up with the idea of spending their January Beer free, but we’d like to go on record and say that sounds awful. So instead of joining in and forgoing booze for 31 days, we’re doing Dry January a little bit different.

Featuring an abundance of Calypso, Zythos, and Mandarina Bavarian hops this Triple IPA is designed for those who prefer to imbibe on a cold winter’s night no matter the month.”

What Harpoon Brewery Has to Say

The Harpoon web site also tells the story of the reason for their “Dry January” but then offers these additional vital statistics: 

11% ABV

70 IBUs

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Deep orange, light haze

Aroma: Pear, pineapple, tangerine, lime

Mouthfeel: Soft and full-bodied

Taste: Fruit salad, biscuit, honey, grapefruit

Finish: A punch of pithy citrus

You can read about it here:

What we Hear from the Web

The lone review on the site notes

“Caramel amber color. Nearly clear. Small head. Some streaks for lace.”

“Not as boozy as I’d expect for a triple IPA. Still, there’s plenty of caramel and enough alcohol to fit the profile.”

“The body is thin, but the carbonation level is low, giving the beer a lighter feel. This mouthfeel leads to a deceptive potency. The malt is darker and toasted. The finish is hoppy (bitter) with solid alcohol warmth. Long aftertaste.”

My Observations:

I was impressed by the balance of the flavors of this beer. Although it was 11% alcohol by volume, there was no noticeable warmth of alcohol. The rather high bittering units, and the selection of hops used most likely had a significant influence and cooling effect.

As mentioned at the close of the video, this a beer to enjoy with a substantial dinner, or as an after dinner drink.

As a great fan of the folks at Harpoon I will admit a bias. That aside, this was a most impressive beer.

2. Harpoon Winter Warmer

The Harpoon Brewing Co. website tells us this about their Winter Warmer…

ALC/VOL: 5.9%

IBU: 23

“Cinnamon and nutmeg in a beer. When we first introduced this beer, let’s just say that people weren’t exactly sure what to make of it. But after close to three decades of brewing this classic, there is no greater fervor for any of our seasonal beers than this one right here. Bring on the spice!”

“Brewed since 1988, this beer has become a New England seasonal classic.  Cinnamon and nutmeg dominate the aroma.  The taste is a rich combination of the holiday spices and the hearty malt backbone.  There is a mild sweetness to the finish along with the lingering flavor of the spices.”

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Dark copper in color

Aroma: Cinnamon and nutmeg

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied

Taste: Sweetness of the malt and spice are balanced by bittering hops

Finish: Blend of cinnamon and nutmeg

Specialty Ingredients: Cinnamon and Nutmeg


Full disclosure: I have a long history with this brewery. Back in 2000 and 2001 they sponsored me for the yearly “Boston Dine Around.” This was a program that had a restaurant sponsor and author of a cookbook to host two dinners at the restaurant. This provided a unique selling point for the restaurant in the “off season”, and the author a chance to meet the public and sell a few books. The program included a book signing opening night, a signing at a local book store, and a potluck luncheon for all participating authors and catered by the restaurants involved.

I remember both of those years as being hosted by Upstairs at The Pudding restaurant as well as The Mass Bay Brewing Co. I admit they are especially fond memories.

All of that said, I can subjectively say that I have enjoyed all of the beers that have been brewed at both the Boston and Vermont breweries.


Peter (The Old Growler) LaFrance

A Visit To Harpoon Brewing Co.
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Ronnie Simpson
Ronnie Simpson
3 years ago

Cheers, Growler. I really enjoy the Harpoon brews and one day would like to take a tour of the brewery. Thanks for this very informative article.

First, let me introduce myself. I am Peter LaFrance, author of Beer Basics and Cooking & Eating With Beer, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. – 1995). I have also been published in American Brewer, All About Beer, and Ale Street News.

I have been writing about the brewing industry since 1984. Credits include contributing editor for Restaurant Management and Top Shelf magazines. I have also written for Beverage Media, New Brewer, Beverage Dynamics, and All About Beer magazine.

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