Ok class, pull up a chair. Oh, and a glass too. Today
we're discussing India Pale Ales. What? You've never tasted one? Well you're
about too. Grab that bottle of Harpoon IPA over there. Yes that's the one,
with the blue label and orange flowers. Ok now tilt your glass slightly and
pour the beer down the side. There you go. See the bright orange color? The
nice, full head formation? Sniff the top of the glass. Do you get that
perfumey hop aroma? You do? Good! Ok take a sip now. There's a biscuity malt
body, more perfumey hop flavor, a light fruitiness, and a spicy and subtle
bitter finish. Congratulations! You've described Harpoon IPA, passed IPA
Seriously now, Harpoon IPA is definitely a beginner's India Pale Ale. In the bottle it is pretty much as I have described above and is underhopped for the style. I have enjoyed it on draft at times when it was much hoppier, but in the bottle I have always thought this beer on the light side as an IPA. But wait! Is this perhaps intentional? Consider that Harpoon IPA is a very good selling beer for the Brewery, and that Harpoon is perhaps the most successful brewery on the East Coast aside from Boston Beer. Harpoon had to add a second and then a third shift at their small Boston brewery. Still, that wasn't enough to satisfy demand for their beers, the India Pale Ale included. Hey, they must be doing something right.
So what did they do? They bought the financially beleagured Catamount Brewing Company, rescuing their brands from extinction and setting the stage for further expansion of the Harpoon line of beers. Harpoon IPA may be on the light side for the style, but it is a flavorful, accessible beer that just might open the door to further craft beer studies to many beer drinkers who might have otherwise flunked out.
Update October 13, 2006: Or is it? As I type this little addendum to my review, it appears that Harpoon has partnered with Cabot cheese to release a true beer cheese, which Cabot makes with, you guessed it, Harpoon IPA. This is a truly New England concoction since Cabot is made in Vermont, a neighboring state to Harpoon's Massachusetts (and Harpoon has a brewery in Vermont as well).
The cheese is delicious, smooth and creamy cheddar that melts in your mouth. I was surprised at just how much of the beer flavor comes through, especially the hops. This is a real treat for beer enthusiasts, just be sure to allow the cheese to warm before serving. As with beer, serving cheese too cold detracts from the overall flavor. Perfect with a glass of (what else?) Harpoon IPA.
Dare we offer a class on pairing beer and cheese?
Update May 28th, 2015: Tonight I'm enjoying a draft mug of Harpoon IPA at Taco Mac. Now I know that I've had this beer on tap here before, most likely while watching a Patriots game. But this month, Harpoon is featured as a brewery of the month, and for just $5 I got a mug of Harpoon IPA and a beautiful glass to go with it and take home. It's fairly priced at $8.99 a six-pack bottles these days, too. The beer has a bit of caramel malt up front and its not as hoppy as most examples of the style these days. Its still a very delicious beer all the same and one I find myself returning to again and again.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.