One of biggest breweries in the northest is located right here in Boston’s backyard, well shipyard anyway. Harpoon Brewery (www.harpoonbrewery.com) is located in the Seaport District and is open to tours seven days a week. It’s relatively easy to get to (Red line to Silver line and a short walk), has decent tour sizes and of course, free samples.
For five dollars, you get a free glass and a walk through the entire brewery and brewing process, complete with colorful tour guides, delicious fresh brews, and a fun atmosphere. You get to learn how several types are beers are made, how they are fermented, bottled, and stored.
The process of taking hops and other ingredients and turning it into beer is quite fascinating. The use of yeast and the storage for fermentation as well as the impressive “green” processes helps to make the experience at Harpoon very unqiue. The company recycles water used for heating and cooling, reprocesses the yeast, and of course manages electricity usage, all helping to reduce its carbon footprint.
Harpoon has a self-described “Frankenstein” bottler which is composed of multiple machines which is monitored by six or seven guys every day. Yet the brewery also contains a state-of-the-art “keg elevator” which cranks out a full keg about every fiften seconds, compared to the old machine which did one keg per minute. While this location is smaller than the other (located in Windsor, VT), it can still store over 50,000 cases of beer.
The store front of the brewery is one of the most impressive things about this location however. There is a entire corner covered from top to bottom in cans from around the world, dating farther back than the 1970s. Everything from Rolling Rock, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Guinness to “generic” light and regular beer, Stella Artois, and Smithwick’s, this wall is great for the older generations who can look back with interest, and perhaps longing or distaste, and marvel at how far the brewing process has come.
The company is constantly improving on the process and the beer selection, both under the Harpoon name and its UFO brand. This year, it experimented with something new: Pumpkin beer. Everyone seems to be doing this lately, but UFO definitely hit the right notes. The beer is lighter, a little sweet, a little bitter, and of course a mouthful of pumpkin. It better be since it contains approximately five pounds of pumpkin mash per keg.
Another unique opportunity that the company offers is the 100 barrel series, a limited batch of brews in experimental and new flavors and recipes. A different brewer creates it each time and once it’s gone, it’s gone, never to be made again. From Oyster Stouts to Rye IPAs, each one is definitely worth trying, if you can get your hands on it.
Harpoon also offers the usual merchandise as well as the opportunity to rent a room and become a member of the 5:30 Club. If you rent the room, after normal tour hours, you can bring your own food (and guests) and Harpoon will supply the brews. Plus, after the tour, it’s highly recommended that you grab a “growler” (64 ounces of bliss) and fill it with your favorite selection of the day. The best part being that it is refillable, so bring it back, pay for another round (for less than the cost of a six pack), and enjoy another flavor.
Harpoon was founded by two Harvard guys who had been traveling around Europe and realized the vast difference in the style of brewing and drinking abroad. They wanted to bring that style back to the US, where the brewing process was mostly done by big brewers who didn’t really care as much about their customers or products. So the idea was born and brought back. Over twenty years later, the company is still growing strong, attracting new customers and creating new brews every year.
Harpoon has quickly become a local favorite and one visit to the brewery will help to show you why this is a brewery worth your time and money. The people are great and the beer is even better. So take the time to go on over and you won’t be disappointed. Harpoon is located at 306 Northern Ave, Boston, MA and can be contacted at (617) 574-9551.