Ten years ago, Narragansett was on its last sips. Brewing just 600 barrels a year, the company struggled to maintain its stride from the 1960s. But where most hopheads saw a stale brew, current owner—Mark Hellendrung—saw an opportunity.
“Narragansett was New England, and New England was Narragansett,” he says. “[In its heyday,] it had a 65 percent market share, and it was a part of the very fabric of New England.”
So he bought it. And the rest is history.
Today, the brewery produces over 78,000 barrels annually, pulling in 12 million dollars in revenue (up from $100,000 in 2005). They’re in ballparks, gastro pubs, frat houses and bars.
How did they do it?
After buying Narragansett from Pabst Brewing Company in 2005, Hellendrung first turned to the company’s veteran brew master, Bill Anderson (who served from 1967 until 1975). Anderson tweaked the recipe, adding more hops to create a maltier flavor.
This, in turn, darkened the brew.
With taste and looks improved, Hellendrung turned to his brand’s legendary history—in an attempt to capture some of the luster from the past 125 years. “Everything we try to do is bringing Narragansett back to life through a historical lens, in a contemporary context,” Hellendrung says.
This quest has resulted in 9 unique brews, sold seasonally (plus a few one-offs for special events), and dozens of unique partnerships. The company has teamed up with fellow Rhode-Island brand, Del’s, for 2 delicious shandys—lemonade & black cherry—and stalwart coffee maker, Autocrat Coffee, for a unique milk stout.
Few companies tell the American story quite as well as Narragansett. The high points. The low points. And the endless pursuit of success.
Check out Narragansett at all four American Field events this year.