Harpoon Brewery Celebrates 25 Years

By CraftBeer.com

Harpoon Brewery was founded in 1986 by beer drinkers. While traveling in Europe after college, Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary drank many wonderfully diverse, fresh, local beers. They saw firsthand how important the local breweries were to their communities. When they returned to Boston and realized that the same great beer culture did not exist, they thought “why don’t we bring that beer experience to Boston?” That was the genesis of the Harpoon Brewery.

Interview with Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary

Rich and Dan, along with George Ligeti, leased a space for the brewery in an old Navy shipbuilding facility on Boston’s waterfront. The first employee of Harpoon was Russ Heissner, a recent graduate of the University of California’s graduate brewing program. Russ brewed the first batch of Harpoon’s, Harpoon Ale, in his apartment bathtub. Rich and Dan hit the wedding circuit, sampling Harpoon Ale with friends, families, and pretty much anyone interested in giving it a try. While facing the challenges of a small company, Bostonians welcomed this new beer. It became clear that there were other beer drinkers out there thirsting from something more than what they had been offered for so many years.

In addition to Harpoon Ale, Harpoon went on to brew Harpoon Golden Lager and Harpoon Winter Warmer, the first craft seasonal beer to be introduced in New England. In 1993, Harpoon introduced Harpoon IPA as a summer seasonal. The popularity of the beer was so great that IPA continued to be brewed as a year-round offering, and it is now Harpoon’s flagship beer.

In 2000, Harpoon purchased the former Catamount Brewery in Windsor, Vermont. The second brewery nearly doubled the brewing capacity and enabled experimentation with new styles of beer. In 2003 the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series was introduced. The 100 Barrel series beers are limited edition one-off beers, each brewed by a different Harpoon brewer. The brewer is invited to choose a style, develop the recipe, and brew the beer. They only have one chance to get it right. Styles have included Barleywines, Wet Hop beers, Rye ales, Saisons, and many more. 

Harpoon has worked to become a focal point in the community. Visitors are welcome on a daily basis for tastings or to one of the brewery’s seasonal festivals in both Boston and Vermont. To keep abreast of every brewery detail, Harpoon drinkers are encouraged to become a Friend of Harpoon

Harpoon also works especially hard at being a good neighbor in their community. In 2003 Harpoon Helps, the brewery’s charitable giving program, was introduced. In 2009 alone, Harpoon raised more than $200,000 for local organizations and facilitated more than 2,000 volunteer hours. 

As Rich and Dan had hoped when they started the brewery 25 years ago, Harpoon has grown to be part of the fabric of New England.