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Harpoon History for 1986 - 1990

1986: The Beginning...
1987: Harpoon Ale
1988: Harpoon Winter Warmer
1990: Harpoon Octoberfest

1986: The Beginning

It all started with three friends who shared a love of beer. College classmates Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary were passionate about beer, but weren't able find what they were looking for at their local pubs. While traveling in Europe after college, they drank many diverse, fresh, local beers and experienced firsthand the wonderful beer culture that existed just across the pond.

When they returned to Boston they decided that if they couldn't buy the beer they wanted then they would have to brew it themselves - or start a brewery and hire someone who could brew it. So that's what they did. Rich and Dan teamed up with George Ligetti, hired a brewer, and in 1986 the Harpoon Brewery was incorporated.

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.

And that, friends, was the beginning of Harpoon...

     Brewing Permit #001
Brewing Permit #001


1987: Harpoon Ale is introduced

Rich, Dan, and Russ Heissner (our very first brewer) started formulating the recipe for Harpoon Ale in the summer of 1986. Friends and family were the lucky (and, at times, unlucky) quality control team through many months of test batches. Finally, in June of 1987 the “original” Harpoon Ale was brewed and delivered to Harpoon's first accounts, the Sevens Ale House on Charles Street and Doyle's Café in Jamaica Plain.


Original Harpoon Ale label






1988: Harpoon Winter Warmer is introduced
first seasonal ever in New England

Harpoon Winter Warmer was the first craft beer seasonal brewed in New England. Though at first people thought it was a little strange that we brewed a beer with spices in it - namely cinnamon and nutmeg - it quickly became a New England favorite and is our most anticipated seasonal.

Harpoon Winter Warmer


1990: First Harpoon Octoberfest Festival at the Brewery

When we decided to throw the first Harpoon Octoberfest at the brewery, it was considered a bit of a Hail Mary pass; times were tough and it wasn't clear that Harpoon would be in business another year. They had always wanted to host a festival at the brewery as an ode to the great Munich fall festival, so they thought this might be one last hurrah. In 1990, the first Harpoon Octoberfest took place at Harpoon in Boston. When the gates to the brewery opened for the festival, much to everyone’s surprise and delight, the crowds rolled in. In fact, there were so many people (around 2,000), Harpooners had to call family members to come help pour beer!

These days, tens of thousands of people now join us to celebrate Harpoon Octoberfest in Boston and Windsor each year. We celebrate with oompah bands, Bavarian fare, and barrels upon barrels of fresh Harpoon beer! Prosit!
Harpoon Octoberfest