In The News: The Springfield Republican, July 16 2009

Raise a pint of Narragansett & help raise a Brewery By. The Republican Entertainment Desk, George Lenker "Hey neighbor, have a 'Gansett! Those of us...

Raise a pint of Narragansett & help raise a Brewery

By. The Republican Entertainment Desk, George Lenker

"Hey neighbor, have a 'Gansett!

Those of us who are "of a certain age" will recall those above words as the catch phrase for Narragansett Lager Beer during the 1960s and early 1970s. Advertised heavily on Red Sox games, Narragansett became New England's best selling beer during that period, reaching a 65.5 percent market share in 1963.

But like many regional breweries during that time, Narragansett was bought out in the 1970s by a larger concern, in this case Falstaff Brewing Co. But less than a decade later, the brewery in Cranston, R.I. was closed and 'Gansett basically fell off the map.

Fortunately, a Narragansett aficionado, Mark Hellendrung, came along some 20 years later and re-launched the brand in 2005, which I wrote about at the time. While growth has been steady, Hellendrung and company have to contract their brewing out to several other regional breweries, and while this is not a huge problem, they want a place to call their own. After all, their lager won a bronze medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup competition.

This has led to a new campaign by Narragansett to rebuild the local brewery. Aptly called "Drink Your Part!" the campaign asks beer drinkers not only to sign a petition, but also to vote with their lips and help Narragansett sell 7.5 million cases to fund the effort.

I'm behind this idea for several reasons: First, I'm a big "drink local beer" guy. Second, although I prefer craft brews, I do not shy away from bigger brands and Narragansett Lager is a really great "lawn mower" brew. (By the way, the company also makes a porter and a bock beer, for those who don't know.)

I also love the fact that Hellendrung and his people reached out to that last surviving brewmaster from the old Cranston facility to ensure they recreated the beer exactly like it was in the old days.

Finally, I think that since brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon have garnered some sort of hipster cachet, why can't 'Gansett do the same? In fact, my idea (which actually came from Paradise City Tavern's Lisa Smith) is to suggest that New England bars currently carrying PBR switch to Narragansett. Pabst won't suffer that much, and such an effort would aid 'Gansett in its quest to build a regional brewery that would create new local jobs and help bolster the area's economy. Right now, some of the venues that carry the lager are The Moan and Dove and Rafter's in Amherst, and The Toasted Owl in Northampton. As of a month ago, you can also now get 'Gansett at Fenway Park, where hawkers will even bring you can in your seat (although they have to pour it into a plastic cup--a good idea, as we don't want any can-throwing incidents during Yankees games.)

So as I close this week's column, let me end as I began, with the exhoratation that may now have a little more meaning for you:

'Hey neighbor, have a 'Gansett!'"

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