How much beer can you drink in ten minutes? That question right there was pretty much the theme of the Harpoon Brewery tour and tasting.
In my alcohol-production-facility tour and tasting experiences, I have come to find that these attractions come in all shapes and sizes. When I went on whiskey distillery tours down south and in Scotland, I found myself learning about the product from start to finish on tours that lasted 45 minutes at minimum (more here). However, in my recent wine tasting experience in Dorchester, the host rushed through the offerings and there was not much learning to be had (more here). While I enjoyed my experience at the Harpoon Brewery, I would say that the tour and tasting experience leans heavily toward the tasting side of things.
Harpoon Brewery tour and tasting tickets (at the time of this writing) are only sold on the day of for 30-minute timeslots at $5 each. Even though it was only around 1:30pm on a Saturday, the front room was filled with people (mostly young adults) with pints in hand and flights on the table.
Our tour group was quite large and overwhelmingly populated by young people (like my friend and I). One of our two tour guides gave a quick intro and then led us straight to the tasting room without explaining anything about the factory (except to crack a few jokes about how the employees drive forklifts and rarely see the light of day).
In the tasting room, the tour guides divided and conquered. After we received tasting glasses, one had the pleasure of yelling out the beers on tap along with a few facts about each and the other filled and re-filled glasses as we were allowed to request any one of the available beers.
The first beer that we tried was the classic Harpoon IPA. Debuting in March 1993, Harpoon’s IPA became an instant hit and was number one for that summer. When the company started to pull the IPA from production in favor of other seasonal beers, Harpoon received thousands of hand-mailed letters in protest. With such backlash, Harpoon made the IPA a perennial offering and to this day the IPA accounts for around half of all of the company’s beer sales.
After the IPA, the room relaxed, and fewer people paid attention to the presentation of the beers and more were concerned with just sampling everything that was on tap. Other beers that were briefly presented included the DragonWeisse, a grapefruity, rosé-like beer, which is pink, tastes neither like rosé nor like beer, and is… just watery (would not recommend).
Also, there is the White UFO (UFO standing for “unfiltered offering”), which is a pleasant, wheat beer, which I highly recommend if you are a fan of Blue Moon. Additionally, we were introduced to “City Roots,” a cider offering, as well as hard seltzers.
While one guide introduced the beers, the other was hard at work, cranking the lever and filling glasses. There was no stopping in the presentation to allow people to sip and ask questions, rather one had to make a choice about whether to drink or listen, as both were hardly possible as there was a crowd near the bar and conversations did not cease even when the guide asked the group to keep the volume down.
Once the guide got through yelling out the attributes of a handful of beers, he announced that we could drink as much as we wanted for the next ten minutes. Some people took this as a challenge, as I overheard one group saying that they wanted to sample everything, and others an invitation as they dashed up to the bar once the announcement was made.
Overall, with the Harpoon Brewery tour and tasting, you get a lot for your five bucks — all you can drink beer, some fun facts, and everything is done within 30 minutes (no time to get bored, I suppose!).
If you want something quick and want to skip straight to the drinking, the Harpoon Brewery tour and tasting is for you. If, perhaps, you want a little more information about the brewing process and beers that you sample, I would recommend the Samuel Adams Brewery tour in Jamaica Plain instead (more here).