By: Aaron Moberger, Harpoon Purchasing Manager & Chairman of the ESOP Committee Published:
Happy National Employee Ownership Month! As you may know, in August Harpoon became employee-owned. It’s very exciting, but it can be a bit complicated to understand, so we put together the Harpoon ESOP Communications Committee to help us as we embark on this new adventure at the brewery. As Chair of the Committee, I was asked by our digital marketing team to write a piece about our first few exciting months of employee ownership at Harpoon.
The first question folks generally ask is, “What does ESOP stand for?” ESOP stands for Employee Stock Ownership Program. It is a mechanism by which a company contributes to its employees’ retirement by allocating shares to them which it repurchases at fair market value upon cessation of employment. What a mouthful. I promise that is as dry as this post will get. However, I would encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about employee ownership to visit the ESOP Association and the National Center for Employee Ownership for further reading. Ownership culture has been a provocative topic recently and in light of its pertinence I have found much of this information to be compelling.
In general craft brewing and employee ownership naturally go well together because employees in the industry are passionate about their jobs, products, coworkers, and customers. Indeed, one of the great rewards of working at Harpoon is that everyone goes the extra mile for one another and for the satisfaction afforded by a job well done. Employee ownership completes this virtuous cycle by giving back again down the road. Still, it’s not just about the dollars and cents (it takes years to access one-hundred percent of one’s allocations through a process called vesting) and there are reasons for everyone to be excited right now. Employee ownership reinforces our commitment to one another and to our customers. Our friends at Hypertherm (an employee owned company in Hanover, NH) like to say, "Work like an owner; think like a customer." For us this means that for every beer brewed, the brewer asks if it’s a beer she or he would like to drink; for every label designed, the designer asks if she or he would be proud to see it on the table of a friend. In selling company shares to the ESOP, our founders and senior managers ensured that this culture of commitment continues to thrive in the ever-changing craft beer market.
So what did we do to celebrate our first ownership month as employee owners? Brewed a beer, of course! We put our heads together to come up with an idea that depicts this exciting new chapter in our story while recalling fun times past. This had to be a beer we all wanted to drink; it had to be balanced and faithful to our house character; and it had to reflect our positions as employee owners. We started with our classic Golden Lager recipe. 2-row pale malt and carapils impart a brilliant straw color, crisp malt flavor, and medium body, and Cascade hops in the kettle supply most of the 22 IBU target bitterness. This balanced combination sets up an ideal background on which to showcase the earthy nuances of six different varieties of finishing hops--Cascade, Willamette, Fuggles, Chinook, Centennial, and Newport--all grown in our own employee owners' backyards, from Vermont to Pennsylvania! The final product is an extremely quaffable brew which displays another side of our homegrown talent – and is called Harpoon EHOP.
I hope that this post has helped to explain some of the reasons we are so excited about employee ownership. Cheers!
By: Adam McQueen, Digital Marketing Director Published:
Adam has been the Digital Marketing Director at Harpoon’s Boston brewery for the past 2 ½ years. In early October, he decided to fulfill a dream of living in the Pacific Northwest and moved to Seattle. He will continue to work remotely for the brewery this fall, just with a raincoat on at all times. Read about his beer-centric cross-country journey below.
I don’t usually take advice from Toby Keith. I’m from Boston after all – the most un-country city in our union. Yet, there’s truth in his Should’ve Been a Cowboy lyrics, isn’t there? “Go west young man, haven’t you been told?”
The American West has a certain allure. For settlers in the 1800’s, it meant gold, adventure, and a new, more prosperous life. But is that spirit still alive today? As someone searching for his next move this past summer, I was ready to find out. The west was calling and I listened.
I packed up my car, sold off a good chunk of belongings, and made an epic playlist. It’s 3,100 miles from Boston to Seattle – that’s a lot of open road! Now the modern day westward journey doesn’t involve a Conestoga wagon or fording rivers or your family battling dysentery, thank God! But there’s still a TON of vastly diverse landscape along the way and what seems like an endless amount of time to let your mind wander.
Hailing from a brewery, my thoughts naturally migrated to the junction of beer and wagon travel (I mean, why wouldn’t it?). But going down this path unearthed a startling realization…. my predecessors went too long without fresh, local beer! I vowed to correct an obvious wrong and drink their share along the way. So, in addition to plotting out the “must see” places like the Tetons and Yellowstone, I added as many breweries, watering holes, and craft beer stores I could to my trip. It was only logical and someone had to do it.
On the shores of Lake Michigan, I traded (with my brother, it’s not 1850!) Harpoon for state favorites Bell’s and Short’s. With a name like Huma Lupa Licious, how could you not? In Wisconsin, after a 12-hour drive, I took the advice of a local grocer and unwound with a New Glarus Moon Man. A trek around the Black Hills of South Dakota would not be complete without a stop at Miner Brewing Co. Enjoying a can of Pile O’ Dirt Porter from Crow Peak will work too! You get the picture…
And so it continued, each stop had it’s own unique offering and a proud local brewer to tell their story. Yet, it wasn’t just the brewers singing the praises. It was the local people too. There is a great connection between beer and place. It tells the story of local culture, geography, and history. It’s offered to family, friends, and newcomers when they visit. And it’s often what you long for when you travel far away.
I can finally attest to that. I was always fascinated by Boston transplants who consistently post on our Facebook page about missing Harpoon and waiting for our beer to be available in their area. While three weeks away from the Hub hardly counts as dire, I am starting to see what they mean. Harpoon will forever remind me of my home. It’s part of my roots. It’s part of my Boston pride.
When I finally arrived in Seattle, I savored my last Harpoon IPA on the banks of Lake Union and wondered when I’d enjoy this beer next. I’ll be longing for one from the wet coast (pun-intended) all winter. Now who’s jumping in a wagon and hauling some more out for me?!
Parting note: Best name of the trip is a tie between Quilter’s Irish Death from the Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, WA and basically the entire lineup from the Kettle House Brewing Co in Missoula, MT. Nailed it!