A chat with Harpoon CEO Daniel Kenary

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Kenary, CEO of Harpoon Brewery. In my time here at Pulse Magazine, I have met many people within the craft brewing industry, some local and some from afar. Every one of them, without exception, has been humble, passionate, kind and quite approachable. Kenary is no different.

It’s no secret that I frequently write about local brews I personally enjoy. I discovered that Kenary has some solid local roots. He grew up in the Newton Square area of Worcester and still has family in the area that he visits often, but his connection to Worcester doesn’t stop there. His wife graduated from Holy Cross, as did five of her siblings. We spoke for some time about Worcester and how it has changed. Local beer distributor Atlas Distributing was Harpoon’s first distributor back in the ’80s, and it’s a partnership that’s still going strong today.

Harpoon is planning many events to commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2016. You can sign up for the Friend of Harpoon program at harpoonbrewing.com. This will enable you to see all of Harpoon’s events, as well as to take advantage of discounts on various Citi Performing Arts tickets. Harpoon hosts five festivals a year, and the company’s charitable arm, Harpoon Helps, hosts six events per year. Through these philanthropic efforts, Harpoon donates volunteer hours, fresh beer and thousands upon thousands of dollars to various causes throughout New England.

It seems every week another craft brewery is getting bought up by a macro brewery. Kenary told me Harpoon is employee-owned. Harpoon started an employee stock ownership plan that allows its employees to have an ownership stake in the company. Deschutes Brewing in Oregon has an ESOP plan, as well. Brewers tend to be a tight-knit community and work together in creative ways, including brewing beers together which are usually called collaboration beers. These two breweries with ESOPs got together and brewed a beer called EHOP. They are brewing a slightly different version at each brewery, and the beers will contain employee-grown hops, as well as sage and thyme.

In closing, I asked Kenary how the past 30 years have been and if he ever dreamt he would be where he is now. He replied by telling me about his trip to this year’s Great American Beer Festival. He spoke about how many brewers were there and how much excellent beer is being brewed in the United States right now. There was a time when Europeans would look down upon American beer offerings. Now, they are sending their students here to learn how to get some of this excitement for beer in Europe. He stated that he would frequently stop, look around and just take it all in with a smile. I imagine that’s what many craft beer drinkers do when they visit Harpoon Brewery.

By Kerry Cyganiewicz