Inside the Harpoon Brewery

Boston, Massachusetts

It sounds like every MBA’s dream.

After a boozy summer tour through Europe, spend the second year of business school not sitting with recruiters but writing a business plan to launch a brewery. Obtain a liquor license, hire a couple of friends and start what will become the single largest craft brewery in New England.

Dream? Make that a reality for the founders of Harpoon. Twenty years later, their brewery continues to operate full-tilt at the same waterfront location in downtown Boston. A big fan of their beers, including the flagship IPA, we stopped by today for a tour and $5 tasting.

An energetic guide — your typical bearded, kind of hippie beer enthusiast — explained the brewing process which wasn’t nearly as complicated as one would think. In fact, there are only four ingredients in beer: water, barley, hops and yeast. But it’s the recipe (that is, how the ingredients are mixed) that gives beer its unique flavor.

Harpoon doesn’t typically brew on the weekends but a flood earlier in the week had set back production. So, we were able to watch beer go through the whole process, from boiling water in huge aluminum vats to the final step of bottling into kegs.

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At the tour’s conclusion, we got to the matter at hand: the tasting.

A bell rang and the taps opened as we sampled the IPA, seasonal, ciders, UFOs and premium 100 Barrel and Leviathan brands. The UFO White was one of my favorites — it’s brewed with orange peels and had this crisp spiced wheat beer flavor.

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After thirty minutes, the bell rang again and the taps closed off.

Walking back to the parking lot, it was hard not to start thinking of a business plan.

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