Jun 2011

In The News: Potential Brewery Site In EastBayRI

Narragansett Beer eyes Tourister plant
Site is one of several possible brewery locations
By Ted Hayes for EastBayRI.com

The Narragansett Brewing Company could one day call Warren home.

WARREN — If you see Mark Hellendrung walking around Warren, be sure to give him a friendly “Hi Neighbor!” It might be shades of things to come.

The CEO of Narragansett Beer, who in 2006 bought the rights to Rhode Island’s favorite local brew, is eyeing the American Tourister plant in north Warren as one of several possible locations for his long-awaited brewery in Rhode Island.

Since he revived the favorite brand five years ago, Mr. Hellendrung, a Rhode Island native, has had the company’s flagship lager brewed and bottled in upstate New York (other, seasonal and specialty brews are brewed in cooperation with the Trinity brewing company in Providence). Establishing a local brewery to do the work has always been the plan, he said, and he’s known of the Warren site for some time. He’s also looking at several other possible locations, including a spot in Providence and another in Cranston.

The Tourister plant, he said, is a spectacular spot.

“Just dynamite. It’s just a beautiful location,” he said. “I know the owner through a mutual friend. We’ve exchanged e-mails and want to set up a meeting. I’ve said I won’t make any decisions (about the brewery) until we talk.”

Talk of a local brewery has been going on for years, but Mr. Hellendrung said moving his brewing operation to Rhode Island won’t happen for at least another year. With the busy summer season in nearly full swing, he won’t spend a lot of time in the next few months working on the move.

“We’re hoping to get this thing up and running by this time next year,” he said. “But we’re in the peak of the summer season right now; we’ll do more with it in the fall when things slow down.”

In the end, he said, the Warren site is intriguing, though there’s a big difference between it and the other sites, including the former CJ Fox building near downtown Providence.

“The challenge in the process will be to balance the beautiful spot (in Warren) and the high impact of a place like Providence.”

An old postcard view of the former Narragansett brewery in Cranston.