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Harpoon!

by John Semivan

John Semivan Harpoon! A wonderful beer? Of course. An old whaling lance like those from the hunt for Moby Dick, the eponymous leviathan of America’s epic? Perhaps.

Harpooning on a Nantucket whaler was how Ishmael began his great adventure, once quitting “old Manhatto.”* But today, while passing through the Bleecker Street bohemiannightclub district, Ishmael might sidestep the dug-up sidewalk subway construction and peer atrusted iron beams, like ribs of a Leviathan-like beast.

Harpoon, Bass, Brooklyn Brewery aglow: signs and symbols that light up the large dark windows of the Bleecker Street Bar. They invite a second glance into the Bleecker Street haunt. Beyond the bouncer-opened door come waves of loud voices and animate conversation that greet as friendly bars often do. Drinking, bar-stool sitting, talking, standing around center tables are couples, buddies, parties. Full tables are finishing rounds. Sports coverage – a touchdown, the replay, splashy commercials! – flashes from five soundless, wall TVs. Burdened waitresses and harried bartenders scurry about working and having fun.

Harpoon in hand, dart teammates challenge or encourage serious competition from the line: 1, then 2, last 3 darts cluster round a bulls eye. A player waves arms in a victory dance. Beyond the darts niche are pool tables in the soft light of the backroom. The crack of a break, the chalking of a cue tip, the careful aim of a serious game: Bleecker Street’s tables are hot.

Harpoon’s IPA (Indian Pale Ale) invitesaflashback. Not, however, of a “trip from England to India via unrefrigerated sailing vessels when English brewers took advantage of two natural preservatives: alcohol and hops” and came up with a great beer.** Instead, it’s my flash back to my first Harpoon Brewery annual BBQ Festival. “Nestled among the Green Mountains, the tents, flags, and brewery [is] the first smell of smoke … from more than 40 BBQ teams.” Reviewed by my wife, a Kansas City Barbecue Society master judge, is festival chicken: “a gorgeous, dark, glistening thigh … with chunks of exquisitely tender breast meat … [and] ribs with such fragrance, such richness, such complexity [that they make a] bacchanalian moment.” And when she receives complimentary Harpoon beer tickets, “she places [them] into the hands of her awaiting husband.”*** Me!!!!!!

Harpoon’s IPA? A French or Vermont (locavore) red? Before and after ribs, brisket, and more ribs, my wife and I stayed at the lovely and historic Juniper Hill Inn.**** Sitting on a terraced hill that overlooks forest, thinned and then wild, we relaxed in bed-and-breakfast intimacy and country home luxury.

Harpoon Brewery’s web site introduces Rich and Dan. They started the brewery in 1986 after traveling in Europe after college, drinking “wonderfully diverse, fresh, local beers,” and recognizing “firsthand how important local breweries were to their communities.” Rich and Dan are first to say that their “success … is due entirely to the wonderful employees who brew, package, warehouse, sell, deliver, and market” Harpoon, and to the “people who drink” it. They invite all to visit their Boston and Windsor breweries, featuring a state-of-the-art brewhouse from Germany, and their festivals. A beer connoisseur? Taste Harpoon’s Leviathan Series, a limited edition line of specialty beers, featuring Leviathan Triticus, a wheat beer(www. Harpoon Brewery.com).

Harpoon anyone? There is the magic of the sea and the magic of a night with old and new friends talking, drinking, playing darts, shooting pool. Over great beer, there’s recalling wonderful adventures and planning new ones.

* Herman Melville, Moby Dick … , Gutenberg on-line edition.
** www.Harpoon Brewery.com
*** April Schanoes, BBQ News, July, 2009.
**** Innkeeper@JuniperHillnn.com

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