Harpoon Brewery offers perfect Boston brewery experience

Courtesy Jennifer Straitz

Now in its third year since opening, Harpoon Brewery Beer Hall, an addition to the brewery which has been around since 1986, provides a prime destination for the 21+ crowd that won’t empty any wallets. 

A very reasonable $5 per person allows each visitor access to the large Beer Hall and Brewery Tour, during which visitors have the opportunity to sample unlimited amounts of beer and cider on tap for an approximately 20 minute period in the tasting room.

If that’s not enticing enough, delicious pretzels and pints are available for purchase in the hall as visitors wait for their tour to start, or as they relax after their tour is finished.  Seasonal cycling of flavors draws visitors back again and again, so while seniors can check this off a pre-graduation bucket list, there is always reason to go back.

There are a few thoughts a prospective visitor should keep in mind, considering the popularity of the brewery. The Beer Hall often reaches capacity, which may leave visitors waiting in line outside until they can be let in. 

While not a problem in warmer months, this can make for a very chilly wait in mid-winter.  One way to circumvent this issue is by arriving earlier in the day.  The brewery opens daily at 11:00 a.m., at which time visitors can buy as many tickets as they want for a same-day tour time of their choosing.  If drinking before noon feels off-putting, visitors who have bought their tickets are allowed to go off to one of the several restaurants nearby. After enjoying lunch, visitors can return to the brewery and cut the line 15 minutes before their tour begins. 

Arriving at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday in January, the next tour time available for a large group of 12 people was at 4:00 p.m. However, it is possible that, with a smaller group, the next available tour would have been earlier.  Nevertheless, after making it into the Beer Hall, the wait passed quickly. 

Long wooden tables, wrought-iron lighting fixtures and large rectangular windows facing a snow-covered Boston gave the hall the feel of a ski resort and added to its jovial atmosphere. Visitors could purchase various flights or individual pints to enjoy with their soft pretzels.  The “UFO Gingerland,” which Harpoon describes on their website as “a gingerbread-inspired wheat beer” was a nice, light first choice despite the fact that the gingerbread taste was more subtle than expected. 

The real highlight of the hall was the pretzel options; the “Salted Pretzel,” served with “IPA Cheese” and “Ale Mustard” dipping sauces was very warm and doughy — a perfect pairing for one’s beer.   Other pretzel options include the sweet “Cinnamon Sugar,” accompanied by peanut butter and maple cider icing, or the savory “Parmesan” with marinara dipping sauce.  While more food options seem tempting, it is likely that full meals would increase the already cumbersome waiting time.

After a few fast hours of chatting and relaxing with friends, it was time for the tour itself.  Visitors don safety goggles before entering the packaging and brewing area, which makes for some ever-important selfie opportunities. 

Visitors listen to interesting historical facts about the brewery’s roots and learn about the different steps in Harpoon’s brewing process, including finding out about some of the key ingredients in the beers.  It was a little disappointing to discover how short the informative portion of the tour was; it would have been nice if this section was slightly more in-depth, or at least slower.

 The tasting room, however, more than made up for the first part of the tour.  As a tour guide described the different beers on tap, visitors could start requesting a taste of the various options.  A warning bell sounded when five minutes of tasting were left so visitors knew to ask for their last sample of the IPA, UFO, stout or cider of their choosing.

A great experience all around, make sure to give yourself time to fully enjoy all the brewery has to offer — and don’t forget to try a pretzel. 

Harpoon Brewery is located at 306 Northern Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02210, conveniently next to the Harbor Street T stop, accessible via the SL2 bus from South Station.  The Beer Hall is open Sundays-Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursdays-Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tours on weekends run on Thursdays-Fridays 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 11:20 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.mCheck out the website for a full brewery tour schedule.


Summary

A great experience all around, make sure to give yourself time to fully enjoy Harpoon Brewery. And don’t forget to try a pretzel.

4 stars
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