Grateful Harvest: A New England Beer Tradition

By Robin Coxe

Had I gotten my act together earlier, I would have written this post prior to Thanksgiving, but better late than never…


Since its inception in 2010, Grateful Harvest, a cranberry amber ale, has overtaken UFO Hefeweizen as my favorite beer from Boston’s own Harpoon Brewery. The fact that my family plays a small part in the Grateful Harvest story reinforces this opinion. Local cranberry grower A.D. Makepeace Company of Wareham, MA donates the cranberries for each batch.


As it happens, I was adopted by WASPs at the tender age of 4 months, which explains why my name is Robin Coxe and not Young-Mee Park. My family has been in Massachusetts since the dawn of time (well, 1630 or so). My paternal grandmother’s maiden name is Makepeace, a name subsequently bestowed on my father and brother as a middle name. My great uncle Russell was the CEO of A.D. Makepeace Company, the family cranberry business, from 1946-1983. A.D. Makepeace is the largest landowner in Eastern Massachusetts and is still the world’s largest cranberry grower in spite of fierce competition in recent years from cranberry concerns in Canada and Wisconsin. My brother currently serves on the Board of Directors. In addition to funny ads featuring cranberry farmers, the Ocean Spray cranberry cooperative has a conference room named in honor of Abel Makepeace, Russell’s grandfather, in its corporate headquarters in Lakeville, MA. I drank countless gallons of cranberry juice growing up and actively disliked orange juice until I was well into my 20s.


In the current age of wacky diet fads, cranberries get a bad rap for not being edible by humans without added sugar. Nevertheless, they happen to be rich in antioxidants and are thought to stave off heart disease. The cranberry was the key component of pemmican, referred to in a recent National Geographic piece as “the original energy bar, 400 years before anyone knew what a superfood was.” A staple of the Native Americans that populated New England prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims in the early 17th century, the cranberry has retained a prominent place on the Thanksgiving table, primarily in the form of a gelatinous sauce. To quote Martha Stewart: “Thanksgiving dinner would not be complete without the customary cranberry.” Harpoon Brewery agrees: “We brew Grateful Harvest because we love Thanksgiving here in New England and thought a cranberry ale would be a perfect beer for the occasion.”

This seasonal beer is available from mid-October through December. For every six-pack of Grateful Harvest sold, Harpoon donates $1 to the local food bank in the area in which the beer was purchased through the Harpoon Helps program, which has a most excellent motto: To Brew and To Serve. Unlike its overwrought watermelon and pumpkin-flavored cousins that rear their ugly heads earlier in the year, Grateful Harvest is a smooth, malty concoction with hints of fruitiness balanced nicely by the signature cranberry tartness and bitter notes from the hops. At 5.9% ABV and 30 IBUs, Grateful Harvest has garnered accolades for its drinkability and refreshing character. Many people to whom I’ve served Grateful Harvest comment that they were struck by the subtlety of the flavor profile; if they hadn’t seen the label or been told the backstory, they wouldn’t necessarily have guessed that it contained the essence of puréed cranberries.

So, if you live in New England, hurry down to your local packie and pick up a six-pack of Harpoon Grateful Harvest before it disappears from the shelves until next Thanksgiving.

Be Santa’s Little Beer Helper

By Amy Tindell

You’ve been so good this year: you got a raise at work, you supported your family and friends, and you started your holiday shopping early. Indeed, the only remaining entry on your shopping list is that crazy beer friend, and a six-pack just isn’t going cut it. Fear not, for you can finish off that year of “good” with a bang.

*** She needs her beer right now. ***
Does your beer aficionado always want things right away? Might she be a tad bit impatient? Then try the Corkcicle Chillsner Beer Chiller, so she never has to wait for a cold beer.

*** He’s a slow drinker. ***
Are you sometimes three drinks in, while your buddy continues to nurse his first beer? Do you also secretly believe that a beard would add some dignity to his look? The Beerd Can Beer Cozy is sure to make both of you happy.

*** She combines her hobbies. ***
Does your friend balance her beer consumption with trips to the gym? Does she already own one of these? Make sure she is prepared for her next “booze cruise” with a beer cycling jersey!

*** He likes the science-y part of beer. ***
Does your beer sipping friend regale you with endless tales of his laboratory prowess? In his free time, does he muse about microorganisms and optimal fermentation temperatures? Reward his scientific curiosity with the Brooklyn Brew Beer Making Kit.

***She wants to learn more about agri-brewing. ***
Have you ever heard your friend talk lovingly about the garden on her fire escape? Does she also brew her own beer? Give her a head start on her next brew day, with the Grow It Beer Hops Kit.

*** He documents his drink. ***
Have you ever caught your friend furiously writing notes about his beer on a napkin? Might he need some guidance in properly recording his deep thoughts on mouthfeel and aroma? Gift him with the Moleskine Beer Journal, and he’ll never forget a beer again.

*** She prefers her soap to be naturally beery. ***
Does your fellow malt imbiber constantly scan product labels for natural ingredients? Does she like to support craft breweries? Support her in achieving both lofty goals with this beer soap.

*** He plays games. ***
Is your hophead part of your Monday night trivia team? Does he obsess about beer minutiae? Feed his nerdgasm with the Beer Nerd Trivia Game, and your team will thank you for it.

*** He likes to have all the proper accoutrements. ***
Have you ever noticed that your friend has the right tool for everything? Does he always use the correct fork at fancy dinners? Make sure he’s drinking his beer “properly” with these beer glasses.

*** Her dog likes beer too. ***
Would your friend prefer to drink in the company of her trusted canine companion? Do you get jealous when she chooses to stay home with her dog instead of drinking beer with you? Next time, invite Fido along, but make sure you are prepared with Brew Bones.

There you have it. Don’t be a Mad Elf – instead be Santa’s Little Helper. Who knows what rewards will come your way just for being good?

Beer’s oldest new darling: Brett the British Fungus

By Amy Tindell

Watch out hops: yeast is about to become beer’s new darling. More commercial breweries, and home brewers, are experimenting with this living part of beer. Yeast wranglers are making a name for their trade, and inspiring scientific creativity in producing signature flavors in beers.

One yeast that seems to be drawing renewed attention is Brettanomyces. Brettanomyces, nicknamed Brett by those who work alongside it, is a non-spore forming genus of yeast in the family Saccharomycetaceae. In the wild, Brett lives on the skins of fruit, and when grown in the lab with large amounts of glucose, can produce acetic acid. Some know it as “wild yeast;” I know it as the “Belgiany” part of Belgian beers.

Brett was discovered in 1904 at the Carlsberg brewery. An employee identified the yeast as a potential cause of spoilage in English ales, forever relegating it to be known by the Greek term for “British fungus.” Indeed, brewers traditionally avoid Brettanomyces as a contaminant and source of unwelcome flavors. In particular, Brettanomyces produces three compounds with high sensory profiles – 4-ethyl phenol, 4-ethyl guaiacol and isovaleric acid– as it eats the sugars in the brew. 4-ethyl phenol is the culprit behind those “band-aid” and barnyard aromas that some beers feature, and 4-ethyl guaiacol gets credit for the bacon, smoky, spicy, and burnt wood smells. Isovaleric acid and its esters produce a fruity quality in a beer at best, but in certain quantities can lend sweaty, barnyard, smoky, or cheesy/rancid qualities to the brew.

Brettanomyces may be used alone or in combination with other microorganisms in the fermentation process. Lambics and Flanders red ales, for example, are fermented with a traditional brewer’s yeast like Saccharomyces along with Brett. Saccharomyces performs most of the heavy lifting, eating most of the sugar, and finishes its work early. In contrast, the wild yeast Brett evolved to eat wood sugars, and thus can process more complex sugars, working slowly. Thus, Brett does not require great quantities of sugar, and in a controlled environment where it will not dry out the beer over time, can produce some unique and desirable flavors.

100% Brett fermentation continues to be an experimental practice with less predictable results than fermenting with traditional brewing yeasts. Because Brett will consume almost all the sugars in a beer, surviving for months or years in the fermenter or in a bottle, the brew has the potential to become very dry. Brewers also use Brett, a capable CO2 producer, to bottle condition beers. However, brewers must use caution because that continued activity of Brett can increase carbonation over time, risking the creation of “bottle bombs.”

In addition to the more traditional styles of Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus, Liefmans Brown Ale, and Duchesse de Bourgogne, all brewed in Belgian breweries, American breweries including Port Brewing Company, Russian River Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and New Belgium Brewing Company have all fermented beers with Brettanomyces bruxellensis. Those who appreciate Brett’s work describe these beers as slightly sour and earthy in smell and taste; others may highlight the “barnyard” or “wet horse blanket” characteristics. To find out where you fit in, try one of these beers: you, too, may embrace the “British fungus.”