As a child digging on the shores of a vacation river spot you would come across some weird stuff. Old medicine bottles, weird looking 70s shoes, or crazy patterned china wasn't a rarity. But what seemed more like an acheological dig was the assortment of beer bottle and cans you would find. It was always a blast to find goofy looking Bud labels or the obsessive quantity of High Life people drank. I remember clearly the day I unearthed the aluminum can of Narragansett Beer. I think I literally said, "What the hell is this? This must be a bazilliondy years old." I never knew or heard anyone who drank this label.
Fast forward about 15 years. Holy nuts! There it is on the shelf! There is something simple and classy that instantly catches your eye with that maroon and white label. I was flabergasted so much, that it even brought back to memory the cold river smell when I lifted that old can out of the sand. So.... I had to try, and friends? It's shuckydangdarn good!
Upon researching the company, another classic name came up. Haffenreffer. I grew up hearing this name, but never seeing any of the brew. The family did alot for anthropological studies in southern New England and I can remember thinking... beer helping out the better good was pretty rad. So let me tell you a bit of history and why and how Narragansett is making a big come back.
Six men came together in 1888, with previous success in the industrial world, to form the Narragansett Brewing Company. Buying a brick brewing house, an ice plant, forty-five wagons, and seventy-five horses, they were ready in 1891 to produce over 28,000 barrels of the liquid gold. By 1914, they now owned the largest beer brewery in New England. Unfortunately, prohibition hit, and hit hard. While they were allowed to brew through those times for medicinal purposes (I need that prescription), the company fell into hard times financially. This is where the Haffenreffers helped Narragansett stand on its own two feet once again. The Haffenreffers had built one of Boston's first brewery complexes so was an old pro... at marketing too! The team both hired young illustrator Theodore Geisel (Dr. Suess commonly) to design the Narraganett indian icon. While Chief Gansett was a favorite amoung the true lovers, the catchy phrase, "Hi Neighbor. Have a Gansett" ads appeared all over the country, and a happy relationship with Major League Baseball made Narragansett the number one choice of comsumers by 1955.
By the early 1980s, aging facilities, outdated equipment, increased cost of operation, company buyouts and mergers, striking union workers, and years of neglect for the Narragansett label's marketing were taking their toll. Finally, other national brewing companies forced Narragansett to near cease production in thier Cranston Rhode Island brewery, shifting the production of the brand to Fort Wayne, Indiana. By 1995, almost all the buildings had been demolished. But don't openly weep yet!
Mark Hellendrung (a life long Rhodey) and a group of New England investors (the tough old badgers that we are) purchased back the Narragansett Beer Company and have been on a marketing assault, redesigning the cans, cases, labels, caps... and all the way to a website! In October 2005, Narragansett bottles were back and you can find it on tap once again. Fricking A.... brought back from near dead! So my archeological find was almost near truth. It was almost an antique.
So friends... whether you are a native New Englander, a salty Rhodey, or some dude in California, support local pride! Buy a Narragansett and remember the company for its tenacity and dedication throughout good and bad times, much like most weekend nights. So, hey neighbor. Have a Gansett!