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Posts Tagged ‘Harpoon’

This brings me to the second half of the title, Harpoon. I have mentioned Harpoon IPA in other posts, “the standard setter for IPA’s” I said. What we have in Harpoon’s IPA is a brew for the long haul. We don’t buy it in four-packs; we purchase 12 bottle boxes which disappear from the fridge at an alarming rate. This is a substantially different drink than the Lion. It is steady, refreshing, and holds its attraction over time, day after day.

LabelHarpoon wasn’t always that way. When I first tasted the original Harpoon Ale I was sadly disappointed. Maybe it was the earliest days of Sam Adams and Geary’s Ale, before the craft brewing renewal caught fire. I found the brew unimaginative. after a few attempts to come to grips with Harpoon I gave up and stayed away for some time.

Eventually though with a revamped label and an IPA to offer I gave the brewery another chance. I have never looked back. They found the key to an ultra-fine brew. As Alex says in his comment to my Leviathan post where I say that Harpoon IPA is the standard setter,  “Could not agree more. It may even be the standard setter for beer in general.”

ipa_b_g_200x367(1)The real dividing line of beer is the brew that becomes a standard drink vs. the brew that is a novelty, a “seasonal”, an occasional, a “yeah, that wasn’t bad!” Harpoon IPA is the standard, much like Sam Adams is a standard. Lion Imperial is an occasional.

I popped a twelve pack of Harpoon IPA into the fridge recently and have reached in nightly with delight and poured a glass full. Ah, after a day of work, the hops bring out the crisp flavor with a fullness, a drinkability, a refreshing zing. Ah!

HaveAnotherEC_Stamp

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ballentine2

As I was saying in the previous post: Ballantine XXX Ale became the standard setter for my beer drinking evaluations. I must admit though, the bulk of beer drinking in those early years consisted of cans of Bud, Schlitz, Pabst or local favorites Carling Black Label (“Hey, Mabel! Black Label!”) and Narragansett (“Hi neighbor! Have a ‘Gansett!”). However, when I felt the need to remember my beer drinking roots I sought out a six of XXX Ale.

As time went on I discovered Guinness Extra Stout. For those who equate Guinness to the draft version available now in tall cans or bottles there is a distinctly different brew found there. No, the Extra Stout was a strong, full-bodied, earthy ale. It was sold in four packs of  11oz bottles, later in 12 oz six packs. I stumble upon it every so often now and grab some.

This Guinness perfectly matched my expectations of earthy bitterness that Ballantiine  first awakened in me. The combination of the two makes a great Black and Tan by the way. In fact I got to the point of keeping a case of both on hand, drinking either one straight or mixing the two for variety.

In the early seventies up in Stillwater, Maine, I came across my first Narragansett Porter. Now here was a quiet sleeper! A great earthy porter for the low price of common ‘Gansett. The shopkeeper said he kept a supply on hand for some of the old timers – sort of a remnant of the stronger American brews that the lighter lagers of Budweiser and others had replaced. 

Well, conveniently, my wife worked for a local store and the owner agreed to order in cases of ‘Gansett Porter and Ballantine XXX just for me. They came in the returnable and reusable “bar” bottles and heavy returnable cases. This was way before bottle bills and recycling had surfaced. So now for a low cost I had as good a selection of brews as the later micro and craft breweries produced at premium prices.

Well, meanwhile in the background, the New England brewing industry was slipping away. Fallstaff had purchased both Ballantine and Narragansett, Carling had started its collapse, eventually closing  the Natick brewery. With A-B opening its Budweiser brewery in Merrimack, NH local beers slipped away. Now brewed by a Miller plant under license from Pabst, Ballantine and some of the other old labels still exist.

So after Budweiser ran all the old time brews out, the tables now turn again and Harpoon and Boston Beer (Sam Adams) are buying up other breweries and turning out high quality brews in New England. (Not that Budweiser is threatened, what with A-B and a few other national powerhouses holding 90% of the US beer market.)

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