How Harpoon IPA became the beer of choice in Spotlight

The filmmakers tried to present authentic Boston at the turn of the millennium.

Spot the tip of a Harpoon IPA bottle on the right.
Spot the tip of a Harpoon IPA bottle on the right. –Spotlight

The new film Spotlight follows The Boston Globe journalists as they unearth the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. It’s a months-long, stress-filled process.

Luckily for reporter Michael Rezendes (played by Mark Ruffalo) in the movie, he has one way of taking off the edge: a refreshing Harpoon IPA.

In several Spotlight scenes, Rezendes relaxes by drinking a Harpoon beer directly from a visible, brightly-logo’ed bottle. It’s a plum product placement for the Boston-based craft brewery, especially with rumblings that Spotlight and Ruffalo will be big players during awards season.

It was the film team’s own idea, too. Harpoon director of communications Liz Melby said the Spotlight production team reached out to Harpoon for permission to use their beers in the movie.

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“The prop masters who create the look and feel of the set wanted to use Harpoon to create an authentic Boston set, with the characters drinking beer they might actually drink at that time in Boston,’’ Melby said.

Harpoon reviewed the script and — unlike the New York Yankees — approved the use of their product in the film, Melby said.

“Ultimately we felt comfortable allowing Harpoon to be used in this film because, at its core, it is a movie about excellence in investigative journalism by fellow Bostonians at a time when it was very much needed,’’ she said.

It’s not the first film or TV show with Harpoon in it. The beer has appeared in This Is The End,The Departed, Mystic River, and Ally McBeal, Melby said.

The gang in This Is The End is left with Harpoon beers after the apocalypse. —This Is The End / YouTube

Spotlight takes place from mid-2001 into early 2002, a time when Harpoon was expanding in New England and had just built a second brewery in Vermont to keep up with rising demand.

The presence of all that Harpoon in Spotlight is just another of the many Boston-specific items and references in the film. Screenwriter Josh Singer, who co-wrote the script with director Tom McCarthy, said the whole team tried to be true to the characters, the time period, and the Boston setting.

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“It was amazing to see the actors, the production designer, wardrobe, props, everyone pick up the mantra of authenticity and make it their own,’’ Singer said. “It was really wonderful to see. As a writer, that’s what you hope for.’’

The real Michael Rezendes said he met many times with the film’s writers and actors but didn’t discuss his beverage of choice. Even so, he gave the Harpoon decision a verbal thumbs-up.

“As a matter of fact, I do like Harpoon,’’ Rezendes said. “They got everything right.’’

Gallery: Who plays who in the Spotlight film

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