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Sunday, November 27th 2011

An Iconic Brand is Reborn
Q & A with CEO Mark Hellendrung
(Narragansett Beer Company)

The original Narragansett brewery, located in Cranston, Rhode Island, shut its doors for good in 1981 after almost 100 years of brewing ales and lagers for hearty New Englanders. For close to 25 years the brand name lay dormant. Then, in 2005, and in a very different beer-drinking world, it was reborn. 

Narragansett Beer Company (or simply 'gansett) currently brews it's flagship Narragansett Lager and Narragansett Light out of the old Genessee plant in Rochester, NY, all the while socking away funds to build a brewery to call their own in Rhode Island. Along with their more mainstream brands, the brewery also brews and cans four seasonal beers and has plans to release a new year-round beer (either a Rye Ale or a Cream Ale) in the near future. With this investment in a fifth canned craft offering, and a new brewery on the horizon, we decided to reach out to Narragansett's CEO Mark Hellendrung to get his take on the brand's resurgence and it's dip into the craft market. Cheers Mark!

(CC) With the recent announcement that Narragansett is planning on adding another canned craft beer to their lineup (either a Cream Ale or a Rye Ale) is it fair to say that craft offerings are a big part of the brewery's future?

(MH) The crafts are a big part of the brewery’s future, but our award-winning flagship lager is still our primary focus. Narragansett has been making a variety of beers since 1890 including some of our current craft styles, but the lager has always been the anchor. It’s the cornerstone of our success.


one of these will be the next year-round offering 


(CC) Speaking of the brewery's future, how are things coming along with the building of a Narragansett Brewery in Rhode Island?

(MH) We’re currently costing out the equipment and beginning the process of site selection. Our goal is to have the brewery open no later than the end of 2012.


(CC) Narragansett sells its craft beers in 6-packs of 16 oz. cans at prices that are lower than most 4-packs. How do you guys do it without an impact on the quality of the beer. 

(MH) With the success we’ve had, we’re able to produce large batch runs that keep the cost down.


Narragansett's four seasonal offerings

(CC) What has been the best selling seasonal canned release for Narragansett?

(MH) They’ve all been equally successful within their given seasons. The Summer Ale really exploded for us this past summer.


(CC) Narragansett has done a great job bridging the gap between nostalgic branding and the current craft beer market. Where do you see Narragansett's future with canned craft beers?

(MH) We look to continue building the portfolio specifically with the release of our next year-round style, the Cream or Rye, and we expect to keep building that stable true to our heritage, but also embracing new and evolving style.


(CC) We've heard that Narragansett is working with Trinity Brewhouse in Providence. What is the connection?

(MH) The connection is brewmaster Sean Larkin who has created award-winning beers for Trinity, and is now doing the same for us. About four years ago, we partnered with him for our craft beers.


(CC) When the day comes and Narragansett is once again a working brewery in Rhode Island, what beer do you think you'll sit back and celebrate with?

(MH) We are going to celebrate the new brewery with a new style – an anniversary beer of sorts – and I look forward to that momentous occasion.

Posted by Russ