Employee Benefits

Brewery and Country of Origin: Harpoon Brewery of 306 Northern Avenue, Seaport District, Boston, MA 02210, USA

Date Reviewed: 7-29-14

Earlier this month, Harpoon Brewery announced that its business would be restructured to become an employee owned company. Essentially, this means that when the new reorganization takes effect on August 1st, 48% of the company will be owned by its Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which is confined to the brewery's employees. Rich Doyle, one of the co founders of the craft brewery will also step down as CEO of the company, while remaining involved on a part time basis. According to a statement released by the new CEO, co-founder Dan Kenary, these big organizational changes will basically result in a Harpoon will "stay independent and dedicated to its mission" of staying a bonafide craft brewery involved with the community. Of course this is in stark contrast to cross town rival Sam Adams, which as we know is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (SAM). But more importantly, this speaks about the working culture of Harpoon, whose pilot brewery and 100 Barrel Series are inspired by the creations of their employees. A benefit of being directly involved with the brewery's production schedule is that employees get to dictate what they want to be produced based on taste, not margins. Harpoon's Dark Ale is one such beer whose lackluster sales figures would have meant the demise of the dunkel, had it not been for its employees, who have kept the fermentation brewing for their own interests. This beer, which has been produced using the same recipe since 1998 is a favorite among many of the Boston area brewery's employees, and though it isn't a flagship brew, its modest popularity has kept it alive in the form of 22 oz bombers and a couple taps. Of course, this limited offering can only be found if you visit Harpoon's relatively new beer hall. This happens to be a great beer, and its employee driven perpetuation is much deserved. But the fact that you have to be in Boston's Seaport to enjoy this brew tells you a few things: its rarity adds to its novelty; even though this beer has been brewed for more than a decade and a half, Harpoon has no intention of upping its production; and employees have a lot of say as to how the business is run.
Date Sampled: 4-15-14 At: Harpoon Beer Hall, Harpoon Brewery, 306 Northern Avenue, Seaport District, Boston, MA 02210, USA
Beer Style: Munich Dunkel Lager
Alcohol by Volume: 5.50%
Serving Type: Brewery Keg, 16 oz Pilsner Glass
Rating: 4.07


Harpoon's Dark Ale pours smoothly with a below average amount of carbonation action, producing a thick, three quarters inch tall foam head with an off white, tan color, a somewhat creamy texture, a medium high density, and a fairly good retention rate. This beer has a clear, filtered appearance with a rich, dark reddish brown glow and a low amount of shine in light. There is a below average amount of effervescent effect and no visible sediment or settling. This beer displays a full amount of lacing on the glass.


Expectedly, this dunkel lager has a dark roasted sweet malty primary aroma accompanied with a fairly nutty undertone and an ample amount of sweet biscuity/cookie like notes. There are also some moderately present toffee and caramel like notes. This brew's aroma also includes some subtle, but detectable piney hops which round out a fairly restrained aroma overall in terms of strength. this beer contains no alcohol or metallic tinge.


This is a medium bodied brew with a fairly high viscosity, an above average amount of weight, and an average amount of carbonation for the style. This beer finishes with a good amount of dryness at a lingering close, supplemented with a slight alcohol warming effect. Despite a fairly substantial presence, this is a somewhat crisp and fairly refreshing beer which also has a smooth overall feel. This beer is better suited for the colder months, but is mostly season agnostic overall.


As a dark malt oriented beer, this beer immediately comes out of the gate with a burnt, bittersweet roasted malty primary, full of dark chocolate and a bouquet of espresso coffee notes. This is accompanied by a good amount of sweet toffee and biscuity cookie like notes with a nutty undertone. This malt orientation is kept in check by a moderate presence of piney hops which help close out a well balanced flavor with a bitter and dry aftertaste. There is a hint of alcohol taste toward the close, but this doesn't distract from the overall flavor profile.

Our Take

This beer is only available in 22 oz Bombers and as far as we know, only available on tap at Harpoon's Beer Hall and Brewery location in Boston, MA's seaport district. In fact, if you try searching for it on tap in the rest of Boston, Harpoon's website leaves you hanging out to dry. Overall this is, as you'd expect, a very malt heavy beer. With an IBU measuring at 35, this beer is well balanced and somewhat mellow on the hops front. As with all dark lagers, this is heavy on the malty side, offering robust sweet roasted dark chocolate and coffee flavors and aromas, mixed in a fairly substantial, yet easy to drink format. This beer is better for colder months than the beach, but its average body makes it fairly versatile all year. Its sweet inflection make it a great pair for hearty meat and white wine sauce pasta dishes as well as sharp cheeses. Anyone looking for a great tasting malty dark lager should look no further. Well, only if you're in the Boston area.