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Harpoon Brewery is an American microbrewery, with plants in Boston, Massachusetts and Windsor, Vermont. Founded in 1986, the brewery was the first company to obtain a permit to manufacture and sell alcohol in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in over 25 years. In 2000 it purchased the former Catamount Brewery plant in Windsor VT. Harpoon has played an important part in the rebirth of the microbrewery system in the United States. As of 2010, it was the ninth-largest craft brewery and 16th-largest overall brewery in the United States.
The brewery is best known for its Harpoon India Pale Ale. It brews multiple other year-round beers including the award-winning Dark, UFO Hefeweizen, UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen, UFO White, Leviathan IPA Rich & Dan's Rye IPA, and Boston Irish Stout, its latest full-time offering. It also brews several house beers at Boston bars, "1636 Brew" for Harvard's Cambridge Queen's Head Pub and "Sevens Ale" for The Seven's Ale House in Beacon Hill.
Harpoon has four seasonal beers, such as an Octoberfest Marzen style Ale and Celtic Red, a beer made in the style of an Irish red for St. Patrick's Day. Another line of beers from Harpoon is its '100 Barrel Series' series, which consists of a number of one of a kind batches. A few of the more popular 100 Barrel Series have been reissued as the 'Encore Series', again in limited quantities.
Locally, Harpoon has become famous for their annual festivals that they hold at the brewery. Their St. Patrick's Day, Summer BBQ and Octoberfest festivals have become a staple in the Boston party scene. These are normally weekend long events filled with music, food and of course tons of beer. Harpoon also organizes an annual 5-mile run and a brewery-to-brewery bicycle ride. June 2010 was the 10th Anniversary of the "B2B Ride" with over 300 participants in the 148 mile ride.
Harpoon used to produce several non-alcoholic sodas, including root beer, orange and cream, and cream soda, but ceased production in 2009. However, Harpoon root beer is currently available at both their breweries.
Harpoon was officially born on June 19, 1986 when the Mass Bay Brewing Co. was incorporated, though its origins precede the actual date. Rich Doyle wrote the business plan for the Harpoon Brewery during his second year at Harvard Business School. At that time, he was unable to find the variety of beers that were available in Europe, nor the rich beer culture he had enjoyed there. Breweries in the U.S. had changed from being a part of the local community to remote facilities serving national markets. The craft brewing revolution had yet to bloom. Rich teamed up with Dan Kenary and George Ligeti, who also shared a passion for local brewing, to form a company.
Harpoon was an early participant in what would become a major resurgence in local, craft brewing in the U.S. Small breweries were sprouting up, particularly in the Northwest and in New England, eventually giving the U.S. more breweries than any other country. The Harpoon Brewery enjoyed this surge in interest, during which time annual production increased nearly 8 times, going from 7,200 barrels to over 55,000.
In 1997, Harpoon installed a state of the art bottling plant and substantially increased its production capacity. With a line-up of beers that now included UFO Hefeweizen (UFO, per the label, standing for "UnFiltered Offering"), Harpoon continued to grow. When the former Catamount Brewery went up for sale in 2000, Harpoon purchased the Windsor, VT brewery and began brewing there in October of that year. The tradition of festivals was continued in Vermont, with two annual events held in the fields surrounding the brewery.
The steady growth of Harpoon, along with an abiding commitment to quality, led to further changes to the brewery in Boston. Starting in 2002, fabrication of a new brewhouse began in Germany. It was later transported to Boston via containers and installation began in late 2002. 2003 saw the first brews from a new, state of the art brewhouse. Having become the largest craft brewer in New England, Harpoon took a page from its early days with the launch of the 100 Barrel Series.
December 2008: Harpoon Expands Its Boston Brewery