Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brew England Vistis: Harpoon Brewery (Boston, MA)

This past weekend we once again visited one of my favorite brewing companies, Harpoon Brewery, in Boston, MA with some of my closest friends. We're celebrating the fact that I’m turning old or otherwise known as 30, this week. Sarah organized a group of friends to join us in taking the tour for the first time. Though we’ve been there in the past (see Two Breweries, One Day), we had yet to actually take the tour.

Sarah went in the morning to purchase our tickets, so we could avoid the line that began stretching into the former parking lot. The brewery is now in the midst of expanding, so they have temporarily relocated their parking lot (despite previous mentions of having to park in the garage across the street) to just before the entrance to the actual brewery, so the free parking was a plus!

My best friend PJ and I are pumped to visit the brewery!

If you haven’t been to the Harpoon Brewery in Boston (or Windsor, VT), I highly recommend it. In my opinion, they are tied with the Magic Hat Brewery (Burlington, VT) in terms of awesomeness when it comes to their tasting area. It’s reminiscent of an Irish Pub, and c’mon…who doesn’t love an Irish Pub? More on the tasting in a bit…

We waited for the balance of our guests to arrive, and they did just in time to join the tour. We started on what I like to call “the observation deck”, to talk about the general brewing process – basic four ingredients (water, hops, grain, and yeast), mashing, lautering, the boil, etc. I call it the observation deck because the previous two times I visited the brewery, I only went as far as the deck which overlooks the brew house.

This was taken in Feb 2010 on the "observation deck"

After our talk of the brewing process, we headed to the brewery floor to talk about fermentation and get a sample of green beer. Green beer is fermented beer that has yet to be carbonated. We were given samples of the IPA, Harpoon’s flagship beer, and were told we’d taste the beer again after the tour to compare and contrast uncarbonated and carbonated beer. I’d say the green beer had similar flavors if it were to come out of a cask- which is served lightly carbonated, unlike bottel conditioned or force carbonated beers. It was flat, but still pretty good!

After talking about green beer (and trying to drink an entire tank of liquid goodness), we proceeded to their keg filling area, as well as the bottling line. Their state of the art keg washer/sanitizer/filler can fill kegs in a matter of minutes. Because their Vermont brewery doesn’t have this machine, and we were told it can take upwards of 30+ minutes to wash and fill a keg by hand, the Boston brewery is put in charge of 100% of the kegs produced by Harpoon. They estimated they produce approximately 60% of the bottles as well.

The storage area was next, which holds approximately 25,000 cases at any given time. That may seem like a lot, but in the wide scheme of things it’s not, considering how much beer they produce and how much is consumed on an annual basis. I don’t exactly remember what the stat was, but it was pretty big…I’m sure I help them out quite a bit myself.

Finally, it was back upstairs to the tasting room. That day their tap line up consisted of UFO Hefeweizen, UFO Raspberry, UFO Pale Ale, UFO White, Munich Dark (my favorite that day), Leviathan Imperial IPA, Belgian Pale Ale, Summer, Pott’s Landbier (100 Barrel Series), Ale, and Harpoon Cider. I tried most of these beers, and they were all good! (stay tuned for a Tuesday Night Tasting of Pott’s Landbier) It was great to taste these beers and share my thoughts with my friends. It definitely gave a different dynamic to the tour/brewery experience.

All in all, the tour was a great time. Their retail shop is located within the tasting area, and you can also purchase growlers, single beers, six/twelve packs, and cases to go. My recommendation is to grab a few growlers to go, which is a great way to take home some brewery fresh beers. If you're like me though, you'll probably spend $50-$100 on cool beer related stuff!

L to R, Top: Sarah, Chris, Eric, Andy, Jill, Peter, Nicky, PJ, me, Joe
L to R, Bottom: Meaghan, Jenn, Mike

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