Harpoon Brewery founders Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary go back—way back—to their first year of college, when they met in their freshman dorm at Harvard, in the fall of ’78. And after nearly 34 years of friendship and 26 years in business, they still get along swimmingly--they both told me each other was the funniest person they know.
In part to celebrate that friendship, Kenary and Doyle recently released a new year-round offering: Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA, and we’ve got the story behind the beer.
The Rye IPA was first brewed last year as part of their 100 Barrel Series, but its creation started, as many ideas do, on a night drinking and bar hopping around town, when they were trying to brainstorm what style of beer to brew to celebrate 25 years in business. While neither was able to pinpoint exactly where they were along the bar crawl, at some point they had a rye beer and decided on a Rye IPA.
“We came back to the brewery the next day--and we did not feel good, I can tell you that,” said Kenary, in a phone interview. “We talked to several of our brewers, said ‘hey guys, here’s what we’re thinking, let’s start talking about it.’”
The brewers did three or four test batches before they settled on the final Rye IPA recipe, which is 6.9 percent ABV and has 70 IBUs. It uses the proprietary Harpoon yeast strain, a combination of Pale, Maris Otter, Rye, Caramel 60, Flaked Rye, and Vienna malts and Centennial, Willamette, and Chinook hops; it’s also dry hopped with Falconer’s Flight. The rye adds a spiciness in the aroma and taste and a red hue to the beer’s orangish color.
“Every ingredient is different than say, Harpoon IPA.
It’s got different hops, it has the rye malt, it’s unfiltered, it’s higher in alcohol, it’s more bitter. I just think it’s the way all the different components complement each other that works really well,” said Doyle.
The decision to add the IPA to their year-round lineup--the first new year-round beer in more than two years--was internally driven, said Kenary.
“We’ve always been internally driven as far as the beer that we make. When people like a beer that we make, they’re very vocal about it, and we try to find a way to keep making it. It could be consumers, it could be our employees—all of us try to be responsive that way.”
Harpoon’s no stranger to the IPA of course. Their flagship beer, Harpoon IPA, is one of the best-selling IPAs in the country. But how will Harpoon customers respond to a new IPA on the shelf?
“I think there’s a big potential market for it,” said Kenary. “It will be interesting to follow it and see how it develops compared to our regular IPA.
“Rich and I both love the IPA, and it’s been our number one beer, for 15, 16, 17, almost 20 years. We love it still; we talk about how much we love it.”
The brewery is also in the midst of a huge expansion and renovation. They’ve nearly tripled their capacity in four years, from just over 60,000 barrels to approaching 175,000 barrels per year, said Kenary. As part of a $3.5 million expansion, they are also putting in a new bottling and labeling machinery, revamping the visitors center and building a “beer hall.”
Much of this success, from a million dollar expansion to creating the Rye IPA, has come down to trusting their instincts, said Doyle.
“A lot of what we do is instinctive. We go with what we really like and what we think fits, and what we don’t already make, and that’s really what this is,” he said about the Rye IPA.
“It’s something we felt really strongly about, and we’re proud of.”
Find Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA in six-packs and on draft across the city and check out the website for a full list of launch parties. Cheers!