Harpoon beer gets a makeover, complete with a tiger

A look at the new design.
Harpoon Brewery
A look at the new design.

Harpoon Brewery has dropped its harpoon.

The South Boston-based brewer has given the label to its flagship beer, the Harpoon IPA, a dramatic makeover.

Both the harpoon and the lilies in the corners are gone, swept away by a cleaner-looking design, one with a tiger face in the middle, flanked by two flowers. There are also descriptors — hoppy, floral, crisp — that weren’t there before. The color scheme is similar, with the same shade of blue still dominant.


It marks the first major change to the beer’s look — there was a tweak in 2009 — since its inception in 1993. Harpoon will eventually roll out similar labels across all of its beers during the next 12 months. The face-lift is, in part, being driven by the increasingly stiff competition for craft beer drinkers’ dollars.

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“We hope it does help us stand out . . . that we’re easier to see on a shelf that’s just packed with craft beer brands,” said Charlie Storey, Harpoon’s president.

The new look was developed in-house, with help from brand strategy agency Catapult Thinking of Boston, and announced in an email to customers on Thursday.

Storey said Harpoon executives liked the design so much that they wanted to get it circulating as soon as possible, even though other Harpoon beers will still have the old look. The next beer to change will be Harpoon’s Take 5 Session IPA, in March, and the last will be the Winter Warmer, in time for next fall’s release.

“If we wanted to do it all at once . . . it would have meant waiting a little longer,” Storey said. “We did make that trade-off. Hopefully, our brand franchise is strong enough that our consumers won’t be confused by that or be turned off by that.”


When co-founders Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary started the company 29 years ago, they wanted a name that had some connection to the Boston area, and one that could be easily represented in a graphic image, Storey said. But in simplifying the label, the designers decided that the word “Harpoon” was enough, that a silhouette of an actual harpoon was unnecessary, Storey said.

Then there’s the tiger. Yes, tigers live in India, so the animal could be construed as a reference to the history of the India Pale Ale style. However, Storey said there’s no real back story to the tiger: It was just a random image that tested well with consumers.

New icons will also appear on Harpoon’s packaging for its other beers. They won’t necessarily all be animals, though. “We’re not going with hippos on this one, [and then] lions on another one,” Storey said. “We’ve found images are important. They help with the storytelling of the beer, even if they’re not directly related to the beer.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.