The Harpoon Brewing Company opened up shop on the Boston waterfront quite early in the U.S. microbrew renaissance in 1986. The business was founded with four employees; the three founders (all classmates at Harvard) and of course, their brewer. Before starting the brewery, the founding team traveled throughout Europe in search of various beer and brewery styles upon which they would model their own (product research we think they called it). And while the inspiration may have come from traditional European breweries, the results have nicely expanded and evolved to their own distinctive brews, incorporating their own vision of stylistic alterations.
The brewery uses only U.S. grown hops and malts, so there are going to be some deviations from European styles (though in tasting the two brews we’ve featured for you this month, you’d have a hard time picking them out).Taking a few liberties in revising traditional styles was a component of their original inspiration to found a brewery, as one of their primary goals was to offer the community more distinctive craft-brewed options. A much appreciated public service, if we do say so ourselves.
Although the brewery is the 10th largest specialty beer producer, known throughout New England and other parts of the country, their main focus has been on impacting their local community. This is an important component of the brewery and pub lifestyle, which they witnessed while noting European traditions abroad. As they say on their website, “we learned to appreciate how much local brewers meant to their communities. They were not just manufacturers of a product; they were part of the social fabric. [Before starting the brewery] we asked each other, Why not do that in New England?” The result of this initial desire has won them an overwhelming approval from the locals, and beyond.
Harpoon has grown at an astonishing rate. From selling 1,300 barrels of beer in 1987 to 79,000 barrels in 2003, they’ve had to add a few members to their original workforce of four. Today, they staff 100 employees at two brewery locations. One of the more interesting stats about the brewery, besides that fact that their beer was the first to be brewed and bottled in Boston since 1964, is that they brew more beer than any other New England brewery.
On a final note, these guys have a very successful brewing company, but success hasn't changed the very friendly, welcoming demeanor with which the company was founded. The lads make it a point to provide a warm welcome to customers at either of their two breweries. If you can arrange it, try to visit during one of their seasonal brewery events, which have become rather famous in the more than ten years that they’ve hosted them (see their website for details).
For more information about the brewery or scheduled tours, call 888-HARPOON, or visit their website at www.harpoonbrewery.com.