Harpoon Beer Hall

Discussion in 'New England' started by Auror, Jan 29, 2013.

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  1. Auror

    Auror Defender (642) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Had a chance to go to the Harpoon (Boston) Brewery Beer Hall soft opening (Friends and Family session) tonight. I guess it is opening to the public on February 1st. The space is really nice, overlooking the brewery and with a decent cityscape on the other side. It's mainly a huge bar (with a second for backup) and a bunch of long beer hall tables (and a few standing room circular tables). It seems the only food they will have is pretzels, but they were hot and delicious, with a few interesting dipping sauces including peanut butter caramel. The lack of a full food menu might make it more of a tour overflow place. No TVs either, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Lastly, they had a decent retail store and growler station attached. They had about 10 different glassware types, with almost as many styles for sale (although seemed a bit pricey), as well as 6-packs and clothing. I considered buying a few glasses, but didn't pull the trigger. I did purchase a growler, partially to watch the state-of-the-art fill machine work. It C02 purged every growler, and it seemed remarkably easy to function for employees (probably cuts down on a lot of lost product due to foam, too). Employees only had to put the empty growler in and cap it when filled. Here's hoping they don't let any sit uncapped too long.

    As for the draft menu, they had...everything Harpoon makes on tap; around 20 options, including the two current 100-Barrel and two Leviathan series. Even more of note, they had 2 pilot beers on tap. One was a lemongrass mint hefeweizen, which was decent, but a bit subdued. Aroma was nice, although a friend said it smelled like a grandmother's bathroom (she must use something lemon-scented to clean). The second was an imperial saison, and it was truly excellent. Like a 10% abv Tank 7, it went down real easy with a nice lemony flavor, light body, and dry finish. I would have guessed 6% (I had to ask and have my jaw drop when he said 10}. Great for casual craft fans and anyone who likes citrusy saisons. I don't think it's the same as the retired Leviathan Saison Royale. I ended up getting that as my growler choice ($14 + 64oz glass for the Leviathan, 100 barrel, and pilot beers). We had free beers tonight, but I think someone said regular beers are $5.75 or so, probably more for the premium options.

    I recommend stopping in, and I'm sure it'll be a great place to chill before/after a tour. Anyone else planning a trip over soon?
    jamvt likes this.
  2. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (662) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I'll be in the area this Sunday and was thinking of swinging by early afternoon before the Superbowl. I did want to give it a few weeks though, as I figure it will be uncomfortably packed that first weekend. I'll post here if I do end up going.
  3. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    I'm glad the shorter trip from tank to glass won't stop anyone from experiencing Boston markups. Oof.
    AdamP and tehzachatak like this.
  4. Auror

    Auror Defender (642) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Yeah don't take that as gospel on the price since I didn't pay it, but that's what I thought someone said.

    But yeah... making their money back on free tastings after tours I guess :wink:.
  5. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Seems about right based on the prices at their fests.
    warchez and Auror like this.
  6. fineout

    fineout Initiate (0) Apr 23, 2010 Rhode Island

    the reason that they got the bigger hall was to offset how packed it used to be, they seem to have done their homework from what ive heard and I'm sure it will be better than it had.

    I was upset to not get an invite to the friends event but I also applied on the last day of registration.
  7. ljkeats

    ljkeats Devotee (405) Jun 27, 2007 Massachusetts
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    According to some tweets, not opening to the public on Feb 1st. Website only says early Feb.
  8. Auror

    Auror Defender (642) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    From what I hear it seats 300 with 500 capacity, so that shouldn't be an issue most of the time.

    I went in the lottery with my friends and none of us got it. I got it through an industry connection, fortunately.
    fineout likes this.
  9. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    How late is it going to stay open? Is it still going to be early evening or into the night? Unless it stays open later, it's really just going to attract the post-tour crowd...
  10. jamvt

    jamvt Disciple (389) Aug 5, 2005 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

  11. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

  12. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (662) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Have you ever been to their Harpoon fests? There's plenty of space both outside and in the tent and those become incredibly crowded. I assume it won't be like that every single weekend night, but I can see this first weekend easily reaching capacity.
  13. AReno00

    AReno00 Initiate (0) Apr 2, 2009 Massachusetts

    Complaining about a $5.75 beer? Maybe cities aren't for you.
  14. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Nah, it just irks me when breweries charge some if the highest prices around. It just seems greedy to pocket the markup that would normally go to a wholesaler and not pass any of that savings along to your customers. Breweries are happy to talk about how much they love their fans, but only as long as dollars aren't involved.
    AdamP and halfshell like this.
  15. PaulB

    PaulB Initiate (0) Sep 3, 2002 Massachusetts

    I hear you (and lulz re: transpo costs crack) but I understand Harpoon has always quoted sensitivity about not "undercutting" the zillion bars in neighboring downtown Boston that sell its products. Fest prices for a pint have been higher than one would expect for a decade or more.

    This place seems cool, look fwd to checking it out
  16. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Yeah, that's the common refrain. I personally think it's straw man--bars' business is based on much more than simply dispensing beer. If they were concerned about losing customers due to prices we'd see much lower prices than we do now. There's simply no way a beer hall in the Seaport area offering $5 pints of Harpoon (sheesh, is that too much to ask?) canabalizes business from downtown.

    Sorry to steer OT--it's a peeve, and I find the excuses equally irksome.
    pjl44 likes this.
  17. bradalmanac

    bradalmanac Initiate (139) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts

    fyi, according to one of the Harpoon crew at the beer hall last night, they're still on target to open this Friday at 11am. Well worth a visit. Place is going to be nuts during the next ACBF, and will be a go-to spot before shows at the Bank of America Pavilion this summer, too.

    Their standard lineup will indeed be $5.75/beer. More limited/higher alcohol beers will be $8.00. I tried and loved that Imperial Saison, as well. Definitely doesn't taste like the 9.8% they estimated it at. Sampled the Lemongrass Mint Hef (one of those Pilot beers - i.e. a test batch), and yeah... that's not anything I need to try again.
  18. Auror

    Auror Defender (642) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Yeah I got a growler and I'll probably review it/add it to BA soon.
  19. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,126) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts
    Staff Subscriber

    They can't undercharge for their beer, bars that carry their beer would not be happy.
  20. TheMonkfish

    TheMonkfish Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2012 Chad

    I've worked about a quarter mile from Harpoon for 15 years and have yet to visit the brewery - I seriously have to get down there one of these days. I should probably travel with an empty growler in the trunk going forward (and no trunk does not mean my ass.) :slight_smile:
  21. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,553) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Subscriber

  22. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,553) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Subscriber

    This isn't a theory either, it's the main reason why Harpoon will be charging $5.75 for a pint. It's also why pint prices at their brewery festivals have been similar to bar prices too.
  23. fineout

    fineout Initiate (0) Apr 23, 2010 Rhode Island

    I went last night to one of the friends and family events (THANKS AUROR!) and was really impressed with the place. The atmosphere of the place is really cool and the bartenders are nice and helpful. I've always been impressed with the people that harpoon has working for them between the tours and the bartenders, they all seem like they love the beer they make. The pretzels are made with spent grain from the beer they make (supposedly) but all that matters is that they are delicious and they make an IPA cheese sauce for dipping. Not much for me to say besides things that auror said but I tried the lemongrass hefeweizen, the imperial saison, the harpoon dark and the rye IPA. The dark and the IPA I have had before and I'm a big fan of both of those. The saison was delicious, holy crap it hides the ABV well, very light and has a really good citrus flavor. The lemongrass hefeweizen I could see as a really good summer beer, I was happy that the mint didnt come through a ton and mostly just gave it a bit of a crispness on the mouthfeel. Overall I can't wait to go there again it is definitely a cool place to hang.
  24. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    But they can overcharge for their beer and piss off consumers? They can't at least match Sunset, not exactly the cheapest dive, at $5.25/pint?

    If Harpoon grew a pair and actually tried pricing their beers at, say, $5/pint, nothing would happen. Maybe an owner would throw a hissy fit, but the vast, vast majority of accounts wouldn't give it a second thought. Heck, with an annual capacity of 200,000bbl, all of Boston would have to drop their beer to make a dent that's not lost in the rounding. If I owned a bar, I'd be much more pissed that Harpoon was offering a competing venue at all, regardless of price. If their accounts don't care that they're opening up a 300-seat beer hall, there's no way they're going to enact retribution for undercutting their price by a buck.

    There's another brewery here that consistently undercuts its draft accounts and no one seems to care. The cheapest place to buy CBC beer is at the brewery. That doesn't stop Lord Hobo and other Cambridge bars from serving their beer.

    I'm not expecting wholesale prices. I just think that buying beer at a brewery shouldn't be more expensive than buying it elsewhere.
  25. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,553) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Subscriber

    The average price for a beer is ~$6 now in Boston (and rising), so $5.75 is not overcharging within the context of why and no one is forcing you to go there and buy a beer. They also have new overhead to pay for.

    Anyway, not here to argue. Simply stating why they charge what they do.

    PS - Welcome to the Boston area. :wink:
  26. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (958) Mar 17, 2009 Washington
    Beer Trader

    CBC is not a good example since they are a restaurant/brewpub. They most likely want people to come to their place to drink beer than somewhere else since thats how they make money.
    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  27. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    CBC's business model is inconsequential to the bars that still happily buy their beer knowing they'll be undercut.
    Tell me about it. I've been here long enough to remember when I thought $5 pints were pricey.
  28. WickedGoodBBQ

    WickedGoodBBQ Initiate (0) Mar 8, 2012 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Not to mention I don't believe they are operating a non-profit. That beer hall project is quite the investment to recoup I'm sure.
  29. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (958) Mar 17, 2009 Washington
    Beer Trader

    People understand that CBC is a brewpub and not a brewery that doesnt necessarily need to sell its beer on-location to stay open.

    They've been doing free hour long tastings for years. Literally giving away gallons of beer all the time. I cant say I'd really complain about their prices. $5.75 is actually a decent price for a beer in that area.
    fineout and Auror like this.
  30. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (662) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Pints of beer at their Harpoon fests were still $5 as of last year. I wonder if those will go up to $5.75 as well?

    For what it's worth, I don't find $5.75 to be that outrageous.
  31. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Zealot (534) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Come again? Price for an average beer has gone up to $6.50 & $7 at the "premier" beer bars. Reason for the. .50 to $1 increase? Because they can.
  32. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (662) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Many people throw numbers around here, including myself, but I honestly don't have a hard number to back any of this up. I've been meaning to (means I probably won't do it) take pictures of each major beer bars' draft list in and around Boston and see how they compare.
  33. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,553) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Subscriber

    Did I say "premier" beer bars? No. Hence the ~ (approximately, not exactly) $6.
  34. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,553) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Subscriber

    Just got word that Harpoon has been granted a temp license to open the Beer Hall today at 5pm.
    Auror likes this.
  35. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    The price is definitely not outrageous for Boston, but I do find their rationale for charging that much rather tenuous. They're not exactly located in a hotspot that would regularly compete with many other bars. Pavillion events aside, if you're going to visit Harpoon, you're making a conscious effort to go out of your way to do so. I could understand if the brewery was in the Back Bay, but it's a little out of the way and there are still plenty of bars in the area that are more accessible than Harpoon where you can get a pint for less than $5.75.
  36. jamvt

    jamvt Disciple (389) Aug 5, 2005 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Clearly you haven't been to the seaport recently.
  37. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    Where would you go in that area? Legit question.
  38. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    I work in the area and I'm there all the time, so I have no idea why you would say that. I'm fully aware of the renaissance that the area has gone through in the last few years, but it's still not at all a heavily trafficked area compared to just about anywhere else in Boston/Cambridge. People aren't going to just mozy on down Congress St and randomly decide to pop into Harpoon. Aside from events, people will need to make a conscious effort to get out there and visit Harpoon. Or to put it another way, nobody would ever go all the way out to Harpoon because they sell UFO for 50 cents less per pint than the bar right around the corner from them.

    It's a destination spot, not a competitive one.
  39. JohnB311

    JohnB311 Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2008 Massachusetts

    There is definitely not as much foot traffic as other parts of town but between the cruise terminals, pavilion concerts, and all the new restaurants there is still a lot of opportunities for people to "pop in" for a couple of beers.
  40. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    I'm not saying people won't go there, I'm just saying I think it's a stretch that it's going to take huge business away from other bars in the city, even if they priced at say, $5/pint. The only bars that would potentially have a pricing gripe are those in the immediate area, and even then, most of the places in the area have a different vibe, different crowd, and will probably even benefit with extra late night traffic when Harpoon empties at 11.
    Bierman9, jamvt and halfshell like this.
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