Thirty years ago, Harpoon Brewery cofounder Dan Kenary threw a party in Cambridge to introduce the nascent beer company to the public. On offer were bags of Smartfood — “we were four unmarried guys” — and kegs of Harpoon Ale, the company’s first beer. Some of the late revelers crashed at Kenary’s apartment on Beacon Hill.
Kenary recently recalled the memory in conjunction with the release of a new 30-pack celebrating Harpoon’s 30th anniversary. In it are two each of 15 beers from across Harpoon’s storied history, including that infamous ale, made before Harpoon became synonymous with IPA.
“It’s a mild English style pale ale,” Kenary says of the beer now. “The hop is very subtle. You get a fruitiness from our yeast. But back in the day, it was considered out there.”
Also in the pack are Octoberfest (1989), Harpoon Dark (1998), Leviathan IPA (2008), and Hoppy Adventure (2015), as well as other brews chosen and voted on by Harpoon staff, who recently became employee-owners of the company.
Drinkers sifting through the case (if you can get it up to your apartment — it’s heavy) get a good sense of how craft beer has evolved in 30 years. Stick to IPAs, for example, and Harpoon takes you from its subtly bitter flagship IPA (1993) to Leviathan, a sticky, resinous force of a beer (10 percent ABV) that defined the bigger-is-better craft mantra of a decade ago. From there, Take 5 (2014), Harpoon’s session IPA, dials back the bitterness and alcohol level, while Hoppy Adventure’s upfront citrusy aroma represents what many drinkers crave from the style today.
But the pack isn’t all pale ales. Kenary said he pushed hard for El Triunfo (2012), a bittersweet porter made with Equal Exchange coffee. Dialed up from there is Interrobang (2016), an imperial espresso stout that has the highest ABV (18 percent) in Harpoon history and will have limited availability on draft until December.
“The internal name of it was ‘Jesus Juice,’ ” says Kenary. “At some point it got up to 19.5 percent.”
If that’s a little intense for your mood, there’s also Sweet Spot (2016), an easy-drinking golden ale.
“Especially with fall, we’ve had some warm days and some cold days,” says Kenary. “Different beers are right for different days, times of day.” The Harpoon 30-pack is currently available in stores for a limited time.
gary dzenGary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen