Review: Harpoon Brewing | Kettle Cup 2013 Hoppy Belgian Style Blonde Ale

The folks at Harpoon Brewing (Boston, MA & Windsor, VT) have their standard brews–nothing special, they’re your working-class, everyman’s kind of craft beers. They’re the kind of beers you’d encourage your macro-lager-guzzling-chuckle-head friends to pick up at the cornerstore before that Friday night house party back in college. They’re the beers they would have bought with their dubious temporary licenses just so you at least knew there’d be something tolerable to drink that night and a little hope for the world. You know, entry level stuff; reliable, safe, never that challenging.

Like many craft breweries, they have their reserve brews– their “100 Barrel Series,” to be specific. Even more selective, they have their Kettle Cup Series, a new edition to the 100 Barrel, in which employees have recently taken to brewing their own concoctions to go head-to-head in an all-out battle royale bloodbath where one beer emerges victorious and the losers are left for dead in the merciless killing arena forever.

This year’s valiant warrior is the Hoppy Belgian Style Blonde. I saw this slick badass in the corner of my eye at my local market, and I hearkened to its provocation: “come at me.” I accepted the challenge. Hell, it sounded great– hoppy, Belgian, blonde? I knew I was in for the fight of my life.

I was slightly underwhelmed.

It poured a slightly cloudy gold and possessed that kind of ammoniated, endearing cat pee smell that naturally comes from the combination of hop resin and Belgian yeast. Their strain of choice was Bastogne, and the hops Galaxy, Simcoe, Chinook, and Cascade. The head was thin, fizzy, and dissipated quickly. To my bewilderment, there was hardly any hop presence on the nose and the mouthfeel was light, watery, even. At first taste, however, it lived up to its “Belgian” claims. Up front, you get those tangy, bubblegum notes part and parcel with such beers. At the middle of the mouth there was a light, breadlike essence of the most crackeriest persuasion. Noticeably, there was a gradual herbal hop flavor that emerged towards the back of my mouth, leaving a dry and bitter finish. The flavor, I found, developed slightly as it warmed to room temperature, but remained markedly light. Honestly, I feel it could have lived more up to its name.

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable beer that may have done even better as a double. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice a huge difference between this beer and their standard Belgian IPA.

I expect to get my ass kicked next year, Harpoon.

Come on, son.

I give this beer a * 6.5/10 *

-J. Poulin


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