When Harpoon Brewery opened in 1987 on the South Boston Waterfront, aesthetics were an afterthought. The loading docks of a working brewery matched those of neighboring businesses. Getting folks to come to the neighborhood at all — to a beer factory in particular — was not a goal.
Now, the country’s eighth-largest craft brewer wants you to pull up a stool and stay awhile. Harpoon recently underwent a $3.5 million renovation to better accommodate visitors who have flocked to the brewery.
A new European-style beer hall will cap a revamped visitors center, scheduled to open on Feb. 1. The Harpoon facility is the latest addition to the revitalized waterfront’s growing roster of attractions, just blocks away from the Bank of America Pavilion and a host of new restaurants.
A pour of beer will sell for $5.75 at the Harpoon hall. Patrons will be able to choose from 20 tap offerings, including pilot batches. They can also take beer home in “growlers,” 64-ounce glass jugs filled by a state-of-the-art filling machine from Austria that allows the beer to keep for weeks.
Harpoon’s beer hall will sell hand-rolled pretzels on site, but no other food offerings.
“We’re very careful, because we don’t want people to think we’re opening a competing restaurant,” said Dan Kenary, a Harpoon cofounder.
The new Harpoon visitors center is something cofounder Rich Doyle never thought he’d see on his little slab of Northern Avenue.
“This is so far-fetched from where we were I couldn’t even relate to it [in 1987],” said Doyle. “We had 87,000 people visit the brewery last year. I had no clue about that when we started. You have to grow into that.”
The scope of Harpoon’s growth has been substantial. In 2012, 193,000 barrels were brewed onsite and at the company’s second brewery in Windsor, Vt. Next to those original loading docks, shiny new tanks in the parking lot have more than tripled the brewery’s production from 60,000 barrels just a few years ago.
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