Date visited: June 2015
Boston was the first stop of our 3 week trip around America so, inevitably, it was home of the first brewery visit of the trip: Harpoon Brewery.
I have to confess I’d never heard of this brewery before the trip until James recommended we check it out so I was a little sceptical at first. However, Harpoon’s beer is widely available throughout the bars of Boston so it wasn’t long before I got to sample some of their goods. I opted for their staple Harpoon IPA in the first bar we went to after arriving in the city. The combination of a long journey and it being my first beer on American soil made it all the more enjoyable – it’s a very good IPA in its own right but all these factors multiplied my enjoyment tenfold. I was definitely looking forward to checking the brewery out the next day.
After doing the Freedom Trail (highly recommended if you want to see a lot of Boston in a day or so), we decided to walk to Harpoon Brewery for a much needed rest and to reward ourselves with some fresh beers from the source. The brewery offers tours every hour so we opted to join the next one which was due to start in 45 minutes and sampled some of Harpoon’s bar offerings in the interim.
There is a small gift shop at one end of the beer hall selling Harpoon merchandise (I picked up a Harpoon IPA t-shirt for James as a birthday present). The beer hall itself is huge and very accommodating – I wasn’t expecting a bar area to be quite this big at a brewery so was pleasantly surprised when we entered the building. The bar itself sits in the middle of the hall and is preceded by several large wooden tables and benches offering views of the downtown skyline. However, as we’d spent all day wandering around the city, we opted to squirrel away behind the bar and sat at a table with a window overlooking the Harpoon canning production line – a little mesmerising and almost as impressive as the views of the city.
After taking stock of our surroundings, we returned to the bar for more liquid refreshment and also grabbed some pretzels to keep us going. The pretzels come freshly baked from the oven and are both massive and delicious! There were a choice of dipping sauces but we settled on the IPA cheese, ale mustard and marinara all of which were on point.
The time soon came for the tour to begin so we made our way to the designated area. The tour itself was fine, the guides gave us a brief history of the brewery and also explained how their beer is brewed.
Pretty standard brewery tour affair, right? We thought so too. However, halfway through the tour, we were taken to a small bar area with 15 taps. We were given 15 minutes to sample as many of the beers as we wanted for free (⅓ pint measures) so we duly obliged and sunk as many as we could. I’ve never seen this before on a brewery tour and it was definitely a plus point – who doesn’t like free beer?
The standout beer that I sampled here was the Leviathan IPA – a 10% double IPA which packed a huge hoppy punch. On the other end of the scale was the UFO Big Squeeze Shandy – a radler which I didn’t enjoy in the slightest. Grapefruit, wheat and a weird latex smell meant this wasn’t a combination I was in a hurry to try it again.
We returned to the bar for one more beer and then tried to figure out the bus timetable back downtown – which is surprisingly difficult if you’re a) not a local b) slightly drunk and c) a navigational moron like me.
All in all, Harpoon Brewery is well worth making some time for if you’re in Boston and like beer. I’ve heard sightings of the Harpoon IPA on tap in some pubs in London but have yet to find it myself.
Favourite beer: Leviathan IPA by Harpoon Brewery (obviously). A 10% DIPA.