Harpoon is established as one of the preeminent craft breweries in New England. Their IPA and UFO series of beers are staples at nearly every bar in Massachusetts and beyond. Harpoon is currently brewed in two locations, Windsor, VT and on the Boston Waterfront. The Boston brewery recently opened up a large beer hall where you can grab a pint of fresh Harpoon or a flight samples to taste different styles. They also have a shop with Harpoon gear, growler fills, and they give tours of the brewery. My lovely wife and I stopped by on a recent Saturday around 2:00PM hoping to take the tour and then grab a beer. We were shocked to find that there was already a line just to get into the beer hall, and that the next available tour wasn’t for over four hours. Needless to say, the Harpoon brewery is a popular place to be, and if you want the full experience you should get there early. We still decided to grab a beer and check out the new beer hall.
The Harpoon Beer Hall is beautiful, a long, spacious room with high ceilings. Picture windows frame one side of the bar room, while the other looks into the brewery itself. The room is dominated by a massive rectangular bar, with multiple tap areas. The majority of the seating is long communal tables, perfect for socializing. There is clearly an effort to mimic an authentic German beer hall, and the energy in the room is palpable. They only sell Harpoon beers and ciders, and the only food is their signature massive soft pretzels. My only issue with the beer hall is the price, $8 for a beer, which is pretty steep, but it doesn’t seem to keep anyone away. The best feature of the Beer Hall is the availability of experimental beers. While Harpoon has a solid lineup of flagship beers I find that some of their best brews are often the ones that are not mainstream, such as their limited edition 100 barrel series. The brewers at Harpoon are constantly tinkering with recipes, and the experimental batches from their 10 barrel pilot plant get sold as brewery-only, limited time selections.
One of the pilot beers on our visit to Harpoon was First Frost, an American Pale Ale (I assume based on the flavor profile, they don’t give much in the way of details). Harpoon First Frost pours a clear straw gold with a mild but sustained white head. The smell is all American hops, solid citrus and resin aromas. The taste is also hop-forward, but balanced by some malt sweetness. The hops give notes of lemon, orange and pine, while the malts add some baked bread notes and sugary finish. The beer is clean, crisp and easy to drink, with a light body and solid carbonation. The aftertaste is interesting, there is a cloying sweetness you wouldn’t expect from a hop-forward beer. The sweetness isn’t overwhelming, just enough that you notice it, and it adds some interesting complexity. Overall a solid offering, the kind of pilot beer that makes the trip to the brewery worthwhile. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.