Love Beer...Love Life

by Marty Nopper, Tastemaker in Residence

Writing for our Spirited Table team definitely has some advantages, even if my reading audience only consists of 3 family members. I write about beer and life experience. Well, a good gig just got better. A few months ago, Mark Nolan and Chris Bonacci of the Marketing Department for Harpoon Brewery in Boston, MA., asked if someone could come by to check out the brewery.  Our Resident Director/Owner/ Website Queen, aka Cindi Sutter, hinted that this may be something I could tackle. Not sure if I could squeeze it into my summer schedule, I purchased my ticket 7 seconds later and waited an agonizing 38 more days before arriving at the hop sauce saloon. The pain was finally over once I touched down in Bean Town, stopped by the hotel to drop off the bags and made my Uber guided journey to the Mecca of Mash, Harpoon Brewery, an employee-owned brewhouse in Boston, MA., started by 3 buddies with a love of beer and a love of drinking beer together.  Sidebar I: Bean Town refers to the regional dish of Boston baked beans. According to, back in colonial days, a favorite Boston food was beans baked in molasses for several hours. Sailors and traders called it "Beantown" while the locals did not refer to their city by that nickname.  

After securing a spot in the 4 pm tour, I waited patiently until the announcement was made to start the journey. Thoughtfully, Mark was kind enough to comp a couple of beers and a pretzel. Sidebar II: for those of you that don’t know, Harpoon is famous for their beers but also for their pretzels. They are made with Harpoon IPA and come in various flavors, including Salted, Parmesan and Cinnamon Sugar. You can’t lose!  Being as there were 20 minutes to wait, I thought I'd use one of those brew coupons to get the head right. I decided on Juicer, the newest elbow bender sporting a 6.6% ABV with a pleasing 58 IBUs. Looking forward to the first quaff, I was surprised at the initial first hit fruit flavoring followed by a definite IPA bitterness. Lighter in color, it was a mouthful and had the typical appearance of a New England Style IPA, complete with that hazy look produced by the wheat malt that doesn't fade with time (although in a pro's hands, time is not a factor). Citra and Galaxy hops star in this citrusy and lively IPA. This is definitely a winner for those seeking a palate-pleasing punch.

Anyway, back to the tour. After our wonderful guides, Megan and Sarah, had introduced us to the Keg room, (just FYI, each fully loaded keg runs about 170 lbs), we proceeded through the processing area where mash is made, yeast is added and centrifuging initiated. Believe it or not, this whole brewing process takes about 2 weeks to produce a single sud. With the utmost anticipation, we stopped in to the Tasting Room. For 15 minutes, we were educated into what malted sodas they offer, what makes them unique and how Harpoon really makes their ale biscuits special. Most of the participants of the tour came to play and we sampled 15 of the 117 offerings from Harpoon, Clown Shoes, and UFO. Clown Shoes and UFO? WTH El Marteen? You going New Mexico on me? Did you join the circus? No senor, but let me tell you where I did travel to...destinations including Camp Wannamango, Boston Irish Stout, Golden Lager and Hoppy Adventure, a deliciously drinkable DIPA that posts a respectable 7.8% ABV but without being overly hoppy as the name implies. First brewed in 2015 as a pilot beer, it was put into the employee lounge where it became an instant smash (7.8%, remember?). Detecting citrus and fruit on the taste buds, it is truly a manly sud that could even be enjoyed by many of my female drinking buddies as it has a very tropical nose. Typical of their other India Pale Ales, there is a haziness and a fluffy white head. With our 15 minutes in heaven up, we travelled by the break room (are you kidding me? Are those taps in there? Where do I apply?), we finished our tour at the cap and bottling station for some Q & A and learned a little about the myths surrounding why our frosted beverages are served in the containers they are. Sidebar III: Ever wonder why your beer smells 'skunky'? Here, it's called 'light struck' and results from light passing through the libation, ruining its taste. According to Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, 'Beer with off–aromas is often colloquially said to be “skunked,” but those who have encountered a skunk-like flavor in their beer rarely know how close they are to the truth. Certain compounds in hops are light sensitive and when exposed to strong light a photo-oxidation reaction takes place, creating the intensely flavor-active compound 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (MBT). MBT is one of the most powerful flavor substances known to man. Commonly referred to as “skunky,” the pungent odor compound resembles that of the famously malodorous defense spray deployed by skunks.' That's why they serve their brewskis in colored bottles! All in all, I would highly recommend for someone who even has a passing interest in beer making or whether you have no clue as to how what you drink is made. Megan and Sarah are unbelievably fun and educated into Harpoon history, making the tour a must for the alcoholic acolyte.

So, now the task of deciding what to blog about. Of course, I'm at a brewery and want to write about all the alcohol but don't have the time or space here (or liver for that matter). Do I try all 117?  Just the IPAs? UFO session? According to Brew Bound, "UFO is a portfolio of wheat beers that are a little bit different, a little more refreshing and flavorful, and most importantly, a beer that everyone can enjoy. The name UFO stands for UnFiltered Offering; all UFO beers are unfiltered, leaving the yeast suspended in the beer which creates its signature cloudy appearance. UFO hit the scene in 1998 with a Hefeweizen. Since then the UFO line has grown to include flavorful year-round offerings like UFO White Ale and UFO Raspberry, and fresh seasonal offerings such as UFO Twist and UFO Huckleberry". What about Clown Shoes? Serious? Yes, they are and there ain't nothin' funny about this lineup. A local brewery acquired by Harpoon late last year, Clown Shoes offered up 2 choices on tonight's menu including Hoppy Feet, a brazen Black IPA clocking me in at 7%, and an appropriately named Hoppy Pale Ale with the label Baked Goods (I felt like Duncan Hines after a couple of these). Well, they have made it easy on me and there are only 24 happy hopsicles on tonight's  board, including 10 Harpoon (I spy a sour) ranging from a very session-like 4.3 to an optical altering 7.75% West Coast IPA (Ouch), 3 fruited UFO and 2 seasonal UFO concoctions, and, as mentioned earlier, Clown Shoes. Entering the German-style brewhouse complete with bench seating and stacked end to end, I settled in at the bar. Curious as to the name and reminiscing about the fun I had at band camp (no, it wasn't the flute), I selected the Camp Wannamango as the sampler only teased my liver enzymes during my visit to the Tasting Room. Refreshingly easy to consume, this 5% Pale Ale boasts a tropical lightness that contains all the requirements of the blend but finishes with the expected heartiness and drenches the throat in a kiss of mango. Realizing that I actually had to go to work tomorrow (alright, I was out of free tickets), I decided to try one more to complete the cycle, um, blog, before hittin the road. I feel a little like dancin’ at this point so it’s gotta be Hoppy Feet! Clown Shoes it is! This Black India Pale Ale was served in a goblet, it’s burnt sienna suds carrying a full head of creamy texture and the body to match with a bitter, hoppy finish. I could really taste the coffee notes in this malted beverage but not too overpowering, and potentially some chocolate (maybe that’s the 5 others talking)??? With the head quickly disappearing, I found myself halfway through it before I realized how much I liked it. With the 7% ABV quickly catching up, I decided that I needed more food.

Well, the time was finally here. With most of the crowd finding their way to the entrance, I thought it appropriate for me to take my Juicy Clown Wannamango soaked hiney home. Passing the merch shop on the way out, I ducked in for some souvenirs from my visit to the Hop Land Adventure, landing a Harpoon hat and bottle opener with some magnets for friends. All in all, a great stop when in The Hub city and many thanks to the Harpoon Team for entertaining me. Fresh suds really make the difference. Give Harpoon Brewery a try and tell me El Marteen sent ya! As always, drink responsibly!

Click - Harpoon Brewery  for more details.
306 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02210  
336 Ruth Carney Drive, Windsor, VT 05089  802-674-5491