When the Harpoon Brewery announced it was releasing a coffee porter with Dunkin’ (the coffee shop formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts), there were the typical jokes you’d expect, such as how you could drink the coffee in the morning and the beer at night, quite a few ISO posts on the Internet, and a few questions as to why this didn’t happen sooner.
Two New England institutions, with loyal followings and similar company ethos—on paper it makes sense. So, why now?
“We [both] had the right people in the right positions,” says Dan Kenary, the cofounder and CEO of Harpoon. Through mutual acquaintances and connections in both companies, the idea was hatched earlier this year and led to the release of Harpoon Dunkin’ Coffee Porter, which will be available in bottles and draft through the rest of this year.
Kenary says that a long-running craft brewery needs to “work to keep relevant and keep revenue flowing” in an age of so many small breweries garnering so much of the buzz. So far this, has been a win for the brewery.
By working with Dunkin’, Harpoon will be able to reach a whole new segment of drinkers who still might not be committed to craft but will find a gateway through the familiar doughnut-shop brand.
“I even think this would be a hit with Casey Affleck’s character on SNL,” says Kenary.
The recipe is straightforward. Knowing the beer would be released in autumn and run through early winter, the brewers didn’t want to get too experimental with flavors. They knew it would be either a stout or a porter early on, says Kenary. Then, they did some experiments with some of the flavored coffees for which Dunkin’ is known but realized that they just weren’t a right fit. But, the espresso blend married beautifully with the beer.
“The sweetness and roast of the porter goes wonderfully with the acidity and roast of the espresso,” Kenary says. At 6 percent ABV, it’s hearty enough for the colder months.
This collaboration is the latest in a number of partnerships that have brought breweries and well-known non-beer companies together. In the past New Belgium Brewing Co. has partnered with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Salted Caramel Brownie Ale, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale), Dogfish Head has done countless collaborations, and even Sierra Nevada Brewing has partnered with the band Phish.
Harpoon, for it’s part, has done a collaboration with Polar, a seltzer company, with it’s UFO line (UFO Blueberry Lemonade) and released an L.L. Bean–inspired beer (Camp Wannamango) a while back.
“We’re saying no to plenty [of collaborations], but when we find a great partner who shares our values and attitude on life, we’re excited to do it,” says Kenary.
Tony Weisman, Dunkin’ U.S. chief marketing officer, said in a statement that the company was “thrilled to now finally bring the two together, partnering with one of the most respected craft breweries in the country to offer coffee lovers and beer enthusiasts alike a classic new taste to celebrate the season.”
The brewery didn’t do anything crazy with the coffee during the brewing process. They steeped it on the cold side and made sure it had the right kick without too much bitterness. But, Kenary says, there is always room for experimentation, both with beer styles and coffee flavors down the line. The two companies plan to partner again next year.