When you think of craft beer in Boston, two breweries come to mind for the majority of us: Harpoon Brewery and Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams). And to have the opportunity to sit down with a craft beer legend like Harpoon’s Dan Kenary and to get his take on Harpoon as well as on the state of the industry was beyond exciting!
What’s coming down the pike at Harpoon? Any new releases we should be looking out for?
We will be releasing the 47th installment of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series this month called Saison Various – it’s a blend of 4 different Saisons brewed by 4 different Harpoon brewers. It’s a very unique, interesting beer.
In October, we’ll be releasing Harpoon Black IPA, a limited-release IPA. This was originally brewed for the 100 Barrel Series but we liked it so much, we’re bringing it back.
Our annual homebrew competition, the Harpoon Kettle Cup, is in full swing at the brewery right now, so we will be getting a new addition for the 100 Barrel Series later in the fall from that competition when the winner is selected in September.
Describe the process of picking a 100 Barrel Series beer.
The 100 Barrel Series gives our brewers an opportunity to individually showcase their tremendous brewing talent. Different Harpoon brewers toss around their ideas for a beer, it’s discussed internally, and beers are added to the lineup.
The aforementioned Kettle Cup, our annual internal brewing competition, has more recently become a part of the 100 Barrel Series. Harpoon staff from all departments brew together in teams and a winner is selected by popular vote via a blind taste test during our company outing day at our brewery in Vermont. The winning beer is brewed as a 100 Barrel Series beer.
We have also started to come up with ideas for 100 Barrel Series beers on our annul Harpoon Beer Culture Trips. Each year, we take Harpoon employees celebrating their 5th, 8th, 12th, and so on, anniversaries on a trip to Europe to visit breweries and enjoy some European beer culture. We’ve developed great friendships with many of the breweries we’ve visited abroad and have collaborated on several beers for the series.
Harpoon doesn’t just brew in Boston. Why did you pick Windsor, Vermont as a second location?
One of the pioneers of the craft brewing movement, Catamount Brewery, built a beautiful brewery in Windsor in the late 90s. Unfortunately, Catamount went out of business and the new, state-of-art facility went up for sale. We purchased the brewery in June of 2000.
Vermont has been a wonderful place to brew beer. There are so many beer lovers in the state, and it’s a beautiful place to brew and drink great beer.
Harpoon started throwing a craft beer festival many years ago. How did this all come about?
When Rich and I started Harpoon in 1986, we knew that we wanted to build a place that would welcome beer lovers to gather, socialize, and enjoy our beer together. The first festival was our Octoberfest back in 1990. At that point, we weren’t sure how much longer Harpoon would be around – things were looking bleak – so we wanted to throw one big party at the brewery to celebrate with our friends. We were surprised that so many people came! The brewery was packed and we were so understaffed with the overwhelming turnout, we had to call on our friends and family to come and help us out! As Harpoon beers caught on, we wanted to continue in that same spirit of welcoming people to the brewery and celebrating local beer together. We now have three festivals in Boston and two at our brewery in Windsor.
The craft beer industry has experienced a tremendous amount of growth in the past 10 years. Do you think the industry can sustain this?
Absolutely. At only 6% of the market, we have a long way to go to convert millions of Americans into better beer drinkers. There will be plenty of bumps along the way, but I am confident that continued growth lies ahead.
If you could go on a beercation, where would you go?
I am very lucky to have been going on beercations for more than 30 years and have visited well over 250 breweries in the US, Canada, and Europe – so many great beers, wonderful breweries, and good friends. Top of my list right now would be a visit to New Zealand where the craft beer scene is taking off and a friend could help me set up a great trip.
If you could build a dream 6-pack, what beers would be in it?
Harpoon IPA, Pilsner Urquell fresh off their bottling line (not purchased in US), Harpoon Baltic Porter from 2011 or 2012, Stewart’s Brewing Edinburgh No. 3, Harpoon Octoberfest, and Potts Landbier.