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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tap Handle #550: Harpoon - UFO Pumpkin Ale

Tap size:  13.25"
Rarity:  Unknown
Mounting:  internal 3/8" nut

Despite currently being the 15th largest craft brewery in the country and the 21st largest overall, this is Harpoon's first tap profile on this site. They have never seemed inspired to produce figural taps...the ones that they do produce can be classified as "toy on a stick", which describes the tap that I'm profiling in this post. Had the tap not been included with a group of other taps I purchased, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to seek it out. The base is made of turned wood and has some paint peeling, and the oval pumpkin is made of foam and will eventually degrade. I'm not even sure that it is legitimate version of the tap - I've never seen another with this oval-shaped pumpkin...all of the other UFO Pumpkin taps I've seen have a pumpkin that is more round and made of resin. Those taps are easy to find and inexpensive.

Click through to read more about of Harpoon Brewing, their UFO Pumpkin Ale, and to see more photos of the tap...

Harpoon Brewing Company was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986 by Rich Doyle, Dan Kenary, and George Ligetti. Doyle and Kenary were college friends who were passionate about beer. While traveling in Europe after college, they tried many diverse beers. When they returned to Boston they decided to start a brewery, so they teamed up with Ligetti and hired a brewer. Originally incorporated as Mass Bay Brewing Company, Harpoon was granted Brewing Permit #001 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts because it was the first brewery to commercially brew and bottle beer in Boston in more than 25 years. Friends and family were the quality control team that tested batches for the first several months. Finally, in 1987 Harpoon Ale was brewed and delivered to Harpoon's first accounts.

When they decided to host the first Harpoon Octoberfest at the brewery in 1990, times were tough and it wasn't clear that Harpoon would be in business another year. Doyle and Kenary had always wanted to host a festival at the brewery as an ode to the great Munich fall festival they had experienced in Europe, so they thought their Octoberfest might be their last hurrah. In fact, about 2000 people showed up, and family members were called to help pour beer. The event helped them continue, and in 1993 they introduced their seasonal Harpoon IPA. Inspired by the hoppy west coast IPAs they had tried after a trip to the Northwest, it became their bestselling beer, transforming the company and making them profitable for the first time since they opened their doors.

As they gained popularity, they quickly outgrew their original 20-barrel brewhouse, and their old bottling line could not keep up. In 1994 they installed a 60-barrel brewhouse, and shifted their bottling to FX Matt in Utica, New York. In 1997 they installed a new bottling line that enabled them to fill 225 bottles per minute. By 2000 they were brewing at full capacity and struggled to keep up with the demand. At the same time, the former Catamount brewery building in Windsor, Vermont became available, and Harpoon jumped at the chance to use it to increase capacity. In what seemed to be a recurring theme, even with the added brewing capacity in Vermont, Harpoon could not keep up with demand. In 2001 they installed new brewing equipment in their Boston brewery that doubled their brewing capacity. By 2006 the brewery was producing 100,000 barrels a year. In 2007 they began production of hard cider after locating a local cider mill that could provide them with freshly-pressed apple juice. They put the apple juice in a fermentation tank and added their proprietary yeast to create Harpoon Cider. In 2009 Harpoon ceased production of several non-alcoholic sodas, including root beer, orange and cream, and cream soda.

In 2010, four large conditioning tanks and a huge waste water tank were installed at the Boston location, and with a new infrastructure in place for additional tanks to be installed as needed, significantly increased the capacity of the brewery. By 2013 (and in just 7 years) they had doubled capacity, producing 200,000 barrels a year, making Harpoon the twelfth-largest craft brewery and 19th-largest overall brewery in the U.S. That same year they opened the doors to their new 6000 square foot Beer Hall and visitors center, equipped with long wooden tables, a 125 foot bar, and spectacular views of the city, harbor, and the brewery’s new canning line. It accommodated up to 300 people, including seating for 210. The second-floor space that became the Beer Hall was made possible when an office tenant that was leasing the space departed. Also included in the project were a new sales area for Harpoon apparel, a growler filling station, and a catwalk that offered views of the factory floor for visitor tours.

In 2014, Harpoon's employees became minority owners in the company when the brewery transferred 48 percent of the company’s shares into an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), after purchasing those shares back from six of its eight existing shareholders. Doyle, who had been running Harpoon for 28 years, wanted to move on and sold his entire interest, although he maintained a part-time role in sales and marketing. Kenary replaced Doyle as CEO and retained his entire ownership stake. Five other unnamed shareholders also sold portions of their interest in the company. The brewery financed the ESOP by taking on millions of dollars in bank debt.

The brewery has several core beers and seasonals, and their UFO ("UnFiltered Offerings") lineup features 6 varieties. Another line of beers from Harpoon is the "100 Barrel Series", which consists of a number of one-of-a-kind batches. In addition, there are 2 different varieties of Harpoon Cider. Their beers are currently sold in 26 states, and they also brew several house beers for Boston bars. They are involved in several charitable works - their annual 5-mile run has been ongoing since 2001 and benefits The Angel Fund, and their Harpoon Point to Point benefits the Vermont Food Bank.

In 2015, Harpoon Brewery briefly suspended brewing for the first time in its 28-year history due to a massive snowstorm.

First brewed in 2011, UFO Pumpkin is part of their UnFiltered Offerings series. It has a hazy orange appearance, a malty aroma with hints of pumpkin and spice, and a solid malt backbone highlighting German Vienna and Munich malts with a nice dose of pumpkin and spice, reminiscent of pumpkin pie. Featuring Northwestern hops and a blend of spices, the malt combination provides a smooth body and slightly sweet flavor, which balances perfectly with the earthy notes derived from the pure pumpkin. The finish has a lingering pumpkin aftertaste on the back of the tongue.

Ratebeer weighted average:  3.21 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  82 out of 100 (good)

Harpoon Brewing Company
306 Northern Ave.
Boston, Massachusetts 02210

Source Material
Harpoon Brewing website

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