A long, long time ago, in 1888, "The Original Six" comprised of John H. Fehlberg, Augustus F. Borchandt, Herman G. Possner, George M. Gerhard, Constand A. Moeller, and Jacob Wirth created the Narragansett Brewing Company. Believe it or not, their start up funds came from Fehlberg’s Butterine business, a pre-cursor to margarine. Back then, $150,000 was enough to start a brewery, a number that would get laughed at today by up and coming brewers looking to start their facility. By 1891, however, Narragansett released about 28,000 barrels of beer.
By 1914, Narragansett had become the largest lager beer brewing company in the Northeast United States. Prohibition in the 1920â€²s didn’t fare well for Narragansett, however, and by the 1931 repeal of prohibition, the company desperately needed financial help, which they got in the form of Rudolf Haffenreffer Jr, who started the current day slogan of "Hi-Neighbor! Have a ’Gansett..." after World War II.
After some changes of hands in the mid 60â€²s to late 70â€²s, the brewery was again in a state of financial crisis due to over taxation. Now owned by Falstaff Brewing Corporation, Narragansett Brewing Company was slowly dismantled until the very last bit was destroyed in 2005.
In early 2005, however, Mark Hellendrung purchased the rights to Narragansett Beer from Falstaff Brewing Corporation. This is where Narragansett became what it is today- brewing the beer that was originally conceived back in 1888 by "The Original Six".
I was lucky enough to receive some samples from Narragansett Brewing Company. Here is what I thought of three of their beers: the Lager, the Summer Ale, and the Fest Lager.
Narragansett’s Lager is a straight up example of the lager style of beer. Straw colored, with an effervescent but not overwhelmingly fizzy mouthfeel, this is the first straight forward lager that I’ve actually liked. (I’m usually much more of an ale gal, myself.) This beer is refreshing and crisp with a hint of malty sweetness and that classic lager bite. I’d venture to say that this lager almost starts out like a dry cider, but I had it at a super cold temperature.
While the Summer Ale is not available anymore this year (it’s seasonal), I was lucky enough to get a try of it. Packaged in a 16 ounce can, (perfect for summer time activities,) this beer has the same coloring and effervescence of the Lager, but with a much bigger and fluffier head. While the Lager had almost no aroma, the Summer Ale smells light and bready. The taste is clean, almost like the Lager but without the bitter bite. Slightly lemony, this Summer Ale is definitely a great lawnmower beer- I could see myself drinking several at a barbecue.
Lastly, I got to try the Fest Lager beer, the fall seasonal from Narragansett which should be on shelves now. Fest also comes in 16 ounce cans (in fact, all of Narragansett’s beer comes in cans now) which feature Saint Gambrinus, the Patron Saint of Beer, on the front. The story behind that can be read on the back of the can (pictured left). Fest is a darker lager than the one I reviewed above, and it features a fluffy ecru head. It definitely smells like fall- earthy and slightly fruity at the same time. Although it is darker, it is still light on taste, but not in a bad way- the taste is present, but not overwhelming. Fest is a bit creamier than the other two beers, and slightly spice, although no spices were added to the beer.
Something that I liked very much about all three of these beers was that they all were very clean tasting- light, refreshing and no hint of any off flavors. Narragansett Brewing Company prides themselves on providing customers with quality products from quality ingredients, and that definitely shows.
Narragansett beers can be bought in the following states: Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and of course, Rhode Island.