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Review: Harpoon Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale

Posted by Gary Dzen, Staff  November 15, 2012 12:18 PM

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner. While cooking, cleaning, and avoiding your high school reunion are likely your biggest concerns, we here at 99 Bottles have a little motto to keep in mind: Don't forget about the beer.

In addition to being an accompaniment to football, don't overlook beer for Thanksgiving dinner itself. It pairs with food just as well as wine does, and the wider variety of beer makes it such that you can pair a different beer with each course. Or, if you're like me at Thanksgiving, you can pair your beer with a giant, mushed-together mountain of potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and green bean casserole. Whatever works for you.

gratefulharvest.jpg What's great about beer is that pairing a crisp, clean brew with a meal as heavy as the one you're likely to eat Thursday cuts the richness of the food. A beer that fits this description nicely is Harpoon's Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale. Brewed with freshly harvested cranberries donated by local farm A.D. Makepeace, the beer also serves a charitable function. Harpoon donates a dollar from every six-pack sold to local food banks. The brewery anticipates that approximately $35,000 will be donated from sales of the beer this year.

Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale is a medium-bodied amber ale brewed with Munich and Vienna malts. An addition of CaraMunich malt adds a touch of sweetness. I'm not much for most fruit beers, but as you'll see below, neither the fruit or the malt is too overpowering in this beer. Worries about the beer being too sweet were unfounded.

Let's crack one open. Poured into a tulip glass, the beer pours a dark amber. It keeps a nice white head throughout, and tiny bobbles bob to the top like cranberries in a bog. Sticking my nose into the glass, I get cranberries, bready malt, and, thankfully, plenty of pungent hops.

The beer is malt-forward, but the toasted caramel flavors don't overpower. Cranberries add a nice bite, and the tartness of the fruit combined with the beer's carbonation make for a lighter-than-expected mouthfeel. There aren't distinguishing hop notes, per se, but their presence is felt with a pleasant bitterness. This is a very drinkable beer. At 5.9 percent ABV and 25 IBUs, it shouldn't overpower your turkey dinner or make you too groggy to do the dishes.

The obvious comparison here is Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat, a beer that I also like a lot (OK maybe I like fruit beers a little). The Sam is a bit lighter in malt content, with brighter cherry notes. I find the Harpoon to be a bit more subtle and a bit more crisp. For a fruity beer, the Harpoon Grateful Harvest really is terrific.

I'll end with a note that so far in 2012 alone, the Harpoon Helps program has raised more than $445,000 for local charities. Food banks are always in need of donations, but the need is especially dire this time of year. You can support your local food banks tonight at any of the 15 British Beer company locations from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Please consider making a donation.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, including the chance to take over 99 Bottles and write about something I'm passionate about, however trivial it may be. As always, I appreciate you reading.

Gary Dzen

About 99 Bottles

Gary Dzen writes about craft beer here and in the Globe when he's not covering the Celtics for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.

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