by Andrea E. McHugh on April 28, 2010
in LOCAL NEWS
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. - Narragansett Beer, co-owned by Middletown’s Mark Hellendrung, is celebrating two major milestones in the midst of brewing New England’s
oldest beer. First, the resurrected company is marking its 120th anniversary this year, and most recently, produced its one millionth case of brew (since the brand’s return in 2005). "Can you believe it?" asks Hellendrung enthusiastically.
Hellendrung hand-delivered the momentous case, along with ’Gansett mascot Tall Boy the Can, to McKinlay’s Liquors in Holden, Massachusetts on April 22, where the purchaser of the lucky case, a long-time customer and ’Gansett fan was awarded with two Red Sox tickets in the Narragansett "Hi Neighbor" 3rd row seats and a ton of ’Gansett swag. He and a guest are invited to watch the game with Hellendrung and former New England Patriot Troy Brown, who is also a ’Gansett owner. "He was the right guy in the right place," laughs Hellendrung, who adds it is especially enjoyable that the winner has been a supporter and drinker of the beer since its climatic return.
Once the best selling brew in New England, Narragansett Beer debuted in 1890, quickly earning a loyal customer base. The brand survived Prohibition (producing under the guise of beer for "medicinal purposes") and from the 1950s through the ’70s, was an official sponsor of the Boston Red Sox. So when the Falstaff Brewing Corporation bought the rights to Narragansett Beer in 1965, disappointed loyalists grew concerned about the future of their favorite lager. Finally, due to increased competition and production costs, Narragansett became just a blip on the American beer radar, suffering a slow demise until Hellendrung, a nostalgic ’Gansett aficionado, made it his mission to bring the beer back.
In 2005, Hellendrung unveiled the new "old" Narragansett. Now being brewed in Rochester, New York, Hellendrung and his small but determined Narragansett team have embarked on a grassroots mission to bring ’Gansett back home, aiming to sell 7.5 million cases of the beer to finance a new, local brewery, targeted to open in 2011.