Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Harpoon Beers

by Patrick Henning

At the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, Massachusetts they have recently begun to roll out a number of new beers as well as relaunch some of their very popular seasonal beers. I was fortunate enough to attend a twofold event at the brewery. On February 22nd they relaunched their seasonal spring beer Harpoon Celtic Ale. Also that night the staff had organized an event to go hand in hand with the release of the beer, a care package drive for soldiers deployed overseas. By providing a donation of items to be sent overseas people were allowed to hang out with the staff and enjoy complementary beers with them celebrating the release of Harpoon Celtic Ale. Harpoon also had four other beers debut over the past two to three weeks, all very different and appealing to many tastes.

The first beer that I will review was the keynote beer of the event, Harpoon’s Celtic Ale. At the brewery one member of the staff, Charlie, gave a brief history and explanation of the beer in honor of its release. He explained the Celtic Ale is done in an Irish Red style, with its distinctive flavor profile and traditional red color. Harpoon initially brewed this beer under the name “Hibernian Ale” but was explained to us, but the marketing did not favor the name and it was switched to Celtic Ale in 2009, and now the beer could not be more popular. It is also the spring seasonal beer that Harpoon offers and goes nicely with the St. Patrick’s Festival hosted at the Boston Brewery (coming up March 2nd and 3rd) early next month. The beer is brewed using a caramel malt giving the Celtic Ale a caramel and nutty flavor. The hops used to finish it off are Willamette Hops, explained by Charlie “which really balance of the malt.”

I found this beer to be an excellent representation of an Irish Red Style. I must confess that a mediocre market of Irish Reds had left me hesitant of most, but the Harpoon Celtic Ale shed a whole new light on the style for me. Harpoon Celtic Ale’s deep amber color creates for a truly remarkable look, the beer also has an excellent light hops aroma. It hit on all the notes as Charlie said it would. The malt does give it those great notes of caramel and nuttiness, and the hops balance the beer out leaving a clean finish. This beer is excellent for spring, a tasteful addition for the new season, not heavy like a winter stout or too light as some summer pale ales are.

The next rotational beer that Harpoon has recently brought out is in their Leviathan Series. The Leviathan series is a bigger beer in every sense of the word. The series is much higher in alcoholic volume, typically around 11% ABV, but also has much larger flavor profiles in the beers; their year round Leviathan Imperial IPA is now joined by another one of their Leviathan Series ‘Quad.’ Quad stays true to the Leviathan style being it is a bigger beer, with the 11% ABV it is hard not to miss the alcohol taste in the beer but it is complemented by other flavors that give the beer an amazing complexity. Leviathan Quad is in the Belgian style that has a dark auburn color. It offers a slight caramel flavor with a touch of hops that balances the sweetness of the beer so as not to mask the flavor, but accent it. Leviathan Quad is an excellent beer and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys big beers with bold flavors.

One of the other beers to be featured by Harpoon in the past few weeks has been their most recent brewing of their Hundred Barrel series, so named since only one hundred barrels of the beer are brewed, the typical batch size at the brewery. These beers vary in style from session to session, since the recipes are submitted and brewed by the Harpoon Brewery staff. Now in their 40th Session of the Hundred Barrel series is their Black IPA. This beer was introduced at the end of January and has been a huge hit. A number of the staff commented that the Black IPA is their ‘go to’ beer at the moment, as it is much different from their flagship IPAs, Harpoon IPA and Leviathan IPA, and addictively delicious. The beer is done in the India Pale Ale style and uses a new specialty malt, Midnight Wheat. Giving it a dark almost stout like appearance, but in the IPA style. The beer is incredibly hoppy measuring in at 67 International Bittering Units, or IBUs. Putting that into perspective Budweiser measures in around the low teens, Harpoon IPA has 47 IBUs, so this beer really packs a hoppy punch.

The beer was brewed by Matt Deluca of the Boston Brewery. I was fortunate and met Matt at the debut event for their Celtic Ale. Having had the beer a couple of times in different bars and the brewery itself I had developed quite a liking of the Black IPA. I mentioned this to him and he replied that he was very proud of the beer and is looking forward to working on another hundred barrel series to compliment the Black IPA, soon to be Harpoon’s White IPA, using a similar method.

Harpoon’s Black IPA has become one of my favorite beers in the last three weeks. I am a huge fan of this IPA style and this beer beats out a number of them hands down. It is an exceptional showing of the style and shows how you can really re-envision a style and make a superb product.

The last two beers that Harpoon is featuring currently are two pilot brews, very small batches of beer used to try out a product, in this case different styles. One of the pilot brews that were available to be sampled at the event was ‘8 Lives.’ This beer has an interesting history as the assistant manager Ryan explained when Harpoon Brewery acquired its second brewery in Windsor, Vermont; they purchased the site from 8 lives brewery and bought their labels as well. The 8 Lives pilot brew was brewed by Scott Shirley. The beer has a rich golden color. It also has refreshing aromatics with a small amount of aromatic hops. The flavor of the beer is reminiscent of fruit but not very prominent on the tongue. I thought this beer had an excellent flavor and a good finish, a very approachable beer for different tastes.

The last of the new beers that Harpoon has to offer is another pilot brew, the West Coast New England IPA. As I had mentioned I am a big fan of IPAs and was excited to see a second new IPA they had come up with. The West Coast N.E. IPA was a good beer but a bit modest of a showing when you look at the other IPAs that Harpoon has to offer at the moment, there being three others right now. This beer was a more modest of an IPA which allowed a number of other flavors to shine throughout the beer. This beer with its golden color and mildly opaque clarity has an intoxicating floral scent. The beer has large flavors of fruit, as well as a distinctly citric tanginess, with a punch of hops which give a good dry finish. Though this IPA was not as hoppy as I normally like my IPAs this was an excellent batch to show how versatile it is, one person who was with me does not normally like the hoppiness of IPAs but enjoyed this one because the mild hops accented the flavors in the beer. The pilot batches were excellent to try and it is interesting to be able to see what sort of styles the brewery is doing.

Overall the newer beers that Harpoon is featuring are a tribute to the brand. Harpoon is progressively showing the Boston area their versatility and how progressive they are by striving to deliver out consistently delicious and innovative beer styles. Though these beers may not be your style I encourage you to attend one of their tasting sessions during the week and try them out for yourself. I recommend all of their year round beers, but a lot of the nuances of Harpoon Brewery are in the smaller batches and season beers. With that I hope everyone has the opportunity to try the excellent products they are coming up with. Cheers.

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