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Reviews: Whoisbrew On Gansett Lager

Chris from the Whoisbrew.com blog posted a great review of Narragansett lager beer. Here is what he had to say.

#74: Narragansett Lager: Narragansett Brewing Co., Providence, Rhode Island

A little while ago, I had no clue that Narragansett Lager even existed. This is explained by the fact that I haven’t grown up in the New England area, where the beer has become a rite of passage. It’s also explained by the fact that the once-proud brand had been in limbo ever since the early 1980s, but in recent years, Narragansett has re-established itself amid the retro can resurgence and is once again beloved by New Englanders. I started to wonder, is the love for this beer based on nostalgia or quality? Today, we’ll get to the bottom of it. Also, big thanks to my friend Joe for giving me today’s beer.

In 1888, six local businessmen came together to form The Narragansett Brewing Company. They started work on a brick brewing house, and two years later, the company was officially incorporated and its first beer was produced. A year later, the brewery produced nearly 28,000 barrels of beer, and in 1914 Narragansett became the largest brewery in New England. However, its quick success would be inevitably affected by prohibition. The IRS gave the brewery permission to brew and sell beer for medicinal use, but this did little to alleviate the financial hardship the company experienced. By the end of prohibition, the company was forced to look for financial assistance, and it came in the form of Rudolf Haffenreffer Jr. Rudolf Jr decided to help Narragansett, and with the help of excellent marketing campaigns and financial backing, Rudolf became the brewery’s president and chairman, and remained at those positions until his death in 1954.

After World War II, the brewery saw enormous success. It was the subject of many advertisements, and it eventually became the sponsor of the Boston Red Sox. By 1957 it was the last remaining brewery in Rhode Island, employing 850 workers and enjoying great success as the best-selling beer in New England. Then, Falstaff Brewing Corporation purchased the brewery in 1965. The brewery remained a powerhouse in New England until the early 1970s, when brewing giant Anheuser-Busch opened a state-of-the-art facility just 100 miles north. In addition to this stiff competition, the brewery was forced to endure aging facilities and increased expenses. After a union strike led to a lay off of 350 workers, production of the beer moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the quality of the beer suffered immensely. Briefly after, the Cranston location was closed, and in the years that followed, the equipment was shipped abroad and the building was demolished.

In 2005, Rhode Islander Mark Hellendrung purchased the rights to Narragansett from Falstaff, and former brewmaster Bill Anderson was brought on board to revive the quality of the once-proud brand. Since then, Narrgansett has seen a revival in the New England area with the help of revitalized marketing and quality. Today, Narragansett beer is contract brewed by Geneese Brewing Company, and its other styles are brewed in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Whoomp, there’s the beer.

The beer poured with an exceptionally large foamy white head, which receded at a moderate rate and maintained a nice crown atop the beer. The color was a classic adjunct lager shade of pale, transparent stray yellow. Countless streams of highly active carbonation were racing throughout the beer, I was staring for so long it took me a good three minutes before I even dipped my nose in for a smell. The aroma suggests a crisp, pale malt, hints of biscuit and corn sweetness, and an underlying earthiness.

The taste is noticeably more malty than almost any other adjunct lager I’ve encountered. Many beers of this style lean towards an extremely light body, and consequently you can expect little malt flavor most of the time. This isn’t the case with Narragansett, I get a considerable amount of malt sweetness, and it’s noticeable immediately. The beer, however, does retain an “adjuncty” component, as subtle sweetness from the corn joins the range of flavor. But that’s just fine, because what I really enjoy about this beer is that the ricey astringency you can find in many other examples of this style is absent, and the malt sweetness itself is very pleasant. The mouthfeel is thin and generously carbonated, leading to a very clean finish.

Quite simply, I really enjoyed this one, and it’s very understandable why a Rhode Islander wanted to restore this beer to its former stature. The flavors in this beer are quite pronounced, but they remain in proper balance, establishing great balance between flavor and drinkability. This is one of the best adjunct lagers I’ve ever had, but more important, it’s a good beer.

Score: 8.0/10.0

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