Back in 1986, three friends from Boston went on a trip to Europe. They were so inspired by the rich traditions of breweries in countries such as Germany and Belgium that they decided to start a brewery that emulated the love of beer and life they saw on their travels.
Harpoon Brewery has grown a lot in 30 years, and now brews beers in Boston and at a facility in Windsor, Vermont. But to New Englanders, they will always be the first craft brewery in the proud city of Boston (not to mention, hosts of the city’s best Oktoberfest party). Let’s take a look at some of their marquee brews – then stop by Liquor Barn and pick up a six-pack to share with friends.
Harpoon Ale is the one that started it all; first brewed in 1987, it was an award-winning amber ale that is now retired. Nowadays, the brewery has a mostly hop-forward approach. No brew is more emblematic of this trend than the Harpoon Leviathan. At 10% ABV, this ode to Melville’s Moby Dick packs a powerful, hop-forward punch. Its yellow/amber pour and white frothy head are a pleasure to tackle, with a great balance between malty sweetness and piney, citrusy bitterness.
The Craic is a seasonal brew, just released in time for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Holiday. An IPA interpretation of the traditionally mellow Irish Red Ale, this is a hoppy, malty, red/amber ale that will definitely get you in the mood for a party. Frost Hammer is another seasonal, heavy beer that’s meant for the bitter cold of a Boston winter. This Doppelbock features an alluringly sweet malty finish. It’s a limited edition so make sure to grab one before it’s gone!
One of the cool sub-sections of Harpoon’s brewery offerings is their UFO series of unfiltered wheat beers. They tend to be in the sub-5.0% ABV category and make an excellent choice for flavorful session brews. UFO R.A.Z is a delicious raspberry wheat beer that isn’t overly sweet and probably the best-known one in the series. UFO Twist is a beautiful blood orange-bergamot combination that delivers a tangy zing, perfect for the spring thaw to come.
Harpoon Barleywine is the brewery’s attempt to go toe-to-toe with notable Belgian stalwart Rochefort’s line of heavy, almost treacle-sweet Trappist beers. Harpoon ages their barleywine for six months in Bourbon barrels to add caramel and smoky depth to the maltiness.
If all else fails, Harpoon IPA is a straight-shooting session IPA with floral, crisp notes to balance out refreshing but not over-powering hop flavors.