pale ales are known for being extremely hop-flavored (which isn’t
surprising because IPAs were brewed with extra hops in order to survive
the trip from England to India back in the day). I have no problems with
a flat-out strong hop flavor (i.e. Sam Adams Boston Lager), but there’s
definitely a difference between hoppiness and saltiness. I don’t know
what the brewers at Harpoon were trying to accomplish with their take on
the IPA, but the result is disappointing.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
This beer pours smoothly and forms an averaged-sized bright white head.
The head never dissipates completely and leaves a lot of lacing on the
glass (which I’ve heard is a sign of freshness, but I’m not sure if this
is completely true or not). It’s an absolutely brilliant copper color,
much like Magic Hat’s #9, one of my all-time favorite beers.
The aroma is fairly typical of the IPA style of beer with a strong note
of hops, but without the floral scent of the great beers of the type.
The scent actually hints of salt.
TASTE AND FINISH
I’ve heard of saltwater taffy, but I’ve never heard of saltwater beer.
Perhaps that’s what Harpoon was attempting to do with this particular
IPA. The taste is extremely salty as if this beer were made from water
from the ocean, rather than freshwater. I know this is not true, and the
flavor is due to the hops. However, the brewers of Harpoon are using an
unusual formula, apparently. This beer definitely has the makings of a
traditional IPA, but the taste is just too unusual to appreciate. I like
a beer with a strong flavor, but it should most definitely not taste so
If you’ve ever been to the ocean and accidentally
swallowed a mouthful of saltwater, you can appreciate just how bitter
this beer is. Actually, it might not be that harsh, because I’d much
rather drink this beer than seawater, but the initial shock was about
the same as accidentally swallowing saltwater. It’s drinkable, but the
finish isn’t smooth enough to make up for the harsh taste.
At least the beer is not too filling. I was able to drink three within
an hour or so without feeling remotely full or bloated. It does have a
high amount of carbonation to make it seem a bit heavier in body than it
actually is. Still, the light body does nothing to make up for the odd
taste. It’s just a nice feature that make Harpoon IPA simply average
rather than out-and-out bad.
India pale ales are my single favorite style of beer, so I was a bit
disappointed that a micro brewery like Harpoon wouldn’t get this style
right. It’s just too unusual to appreciate, too harsh to enjoy, but
light enough to drink quickly.