Hellendrung envisions a beer garden on Providence's West Side
During its old glory days, Cranston-based Narragansett, with its familiar slogan (“Hi Neighbor — Have a ’Gansett”), was a Red Sox-sponsoring source of local pride, and sales hit an apex of more than one million barrels of beer in the early 1960s.
Because of changes in management, consolidation in the brewery industry, and other factors, the beer’s profile subsequently slipped, and the old Cranston brewery — which had once employed close to 1000 workers — closed in 1981.
Hellendrung, an East Providence native who previously enjoyed success with the two other Brown University graduates behind Nantucket Nectars, pursued Narragansett, ultimately buying the rights to it from Pabst Brewing. Besides the flagship lager, the beer is also available as a bock and a porter.
Backed by a new package design, the beer has benefited from a retro-style marketing campaign, featuring such touches as an annual Father’s Day necktie, and a change in brewing location, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to High Falls, New York.
“We had a great year last year,” Hellendrung says, and so far this year, “January has been huge.” Distribution, once relegated to Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts, has been spread throughout the New England states, and Narragansett will soon be introduced to Florida — in part because of the spring training tie with the Sox and the number there of New England transplants. “That will probably be it,” as far as new territory, Hellendrung says.
The amiable former college athlete says most of his days are spent “just visiting package stores, buying guys’ beers in bars.”
So you’ve got your marching orders, Rhode Islanders. If you want to see Narragansett brewing close to home once again, have a ’Gansett, neighbor.
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