It's the topic that's on all of our minds right now at Narragansett Beer. "What's going on with the brewery?" is probably the question I hear every day. We'll I've visited many promising spots in the last month that would make great locations for our brewery. I met with Mayor Don Grebien in Pawtucket about a week ago and toured a half dozen great facilities. He's looking to make Pawtucket a destination for beer enthusiasts. With 'Gansett there it could definitely happen. Just imagine all the visitors coming from the west coast for the Pawtucket Beer Festival. Sean Larkin and I went take a look at the old Capital Records building in Providence. Check out the photos. How awesome would that be as the Famous Narragansett Brewery? We'll paint a huge mural on the side of that and add a giant sign to the top. Of course the CJ Fox building in Providence and the American Tourister building in Warren are rock solid as well. Next week I'll be in Newport checking out some Naval properties as well as historic Ft. Adams at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. Here's my latest interview with WRNI and the Valley Breeze's story on Pawtucket. Lot's of work to be done, but our ultimate goal is to be up and running so we can celebrate our 122 Anniversary on December 29th on the new location. Hi Neighbor, thanks for drinking your part!
Narragansett Beer may brew again in Ocean State By FLO JONIC
PROVIDENCE, RI (WRNI) - Rhode Island's most famous beer is coming home. Narragansett Beer hopes to brew again in the Ocean State by the end of the year.
The president of Narragansett Beer says he's looking for an old mill building in Rhode Island and hopes to return brewing operations to the state for the first time in 30 years. Mark Hellendrung says he's been looking at properties in Cranston, Pawtucket , Narragansett and Providence.
"Well it's very serious. Ever since we got the beer back our main mission was to rebuild the brewery," says Hellendrung. "We had a great year in 2011 and now we're starting to look at sites and put the economics together and work with the state and see if we can make this thing happen."
Narragansett's Cranston plant was closed in 1982 after it was sold to Falstaff. The beer is currently brewed in Rochester, New York. Bottling operations would remain in New York; only draft beer would be produced in Rhode Island.
PAWTUCKET - This is the catch that could serve as a launching pad for transforming Pawtucket into a beer destination, say city officials. If their attempts to lure the Narragansett Brewing Company to Pawtucket are successful, it would be huge for the local economy and put the city on the map as an oasis for beer lovers.
Last week Pawtucket officials took Narragansett Beer President Mark Hellendrung on a tour of about a half-dozen potential sites for the company to consider as part of the planned development of a Rhode Island brewery.
"We're very excited about the possibility," said Mayor Don Grebien. "We're trying to follow up and be more proactive with this whole idea of a beer destination."
Narragansett Beer, which was once the number-one selling brew in New England, has steadily climbed back up the popularity charts since it was taken over and given a re-branded identity by Hellendrung in 2005.
Well known for its slogan, "Hi, Neighbor, have a 'Gansett," as well as its famed "'Gansett Girls," Narragansett was the first American beer to sponsor a sports telecast, with spots playing during Red Sox games starting in 1945. Red Sox broadcaster Curt Gowdy made the jingle famous, "...It gives you that straight-from-the-barrel taste in bottle, can or on tap..."
Narragansett Beer has been back on New England shelves since 2006. Until recently, Hellendrung had been largely focused on the neighboring capital city of Providence as Pawtucket officials say he considers a plan to shift contracted brewing services in Rochester, N.Y., to a facility right here in the Ocean State.
"Had a great afternoon with Herb Weiss touring potential brewery sites in Pawtucket," noted Hellendrung in a Jan. 31 Facebook post. "Bet you haven't seen all the great things going on in the city like I did today."
Weiss responded to Hellendrung with his own feelings on Pawtucket as a possible location for Narragansett.
"We have the best water system in Rhode Island, good location, affordable property, a business-friendly city government, a gritty, edgy, creative artist community, and we're in 'God's Country,'" he wrote. "What more could a company want?"
According to Grebien, city officials showed Hellendrung a variety of different sites during his tour through Pawtucket. Though Grebien did not elaborate on specific locations, he said that at least one site is in the general area of two other planned breweries, High Jinx Brewing Company and The Bucket Brewery.
Whether the sites were in the downtown or on the riverfront, said the mayor, the goal was to give Hellendrung a broad taste of the good things happening in Pawtucket.
Grebien credited former City Council candidate and involved citizen John Sawyer for getting the ball rolling with Narragansett when the latter noticed a YouTube video featuring Hellendrung touring a possible brewery site in Providence.
"I sent it to (Weiss) and the mayor asking them to pursue," said Sawyer.
Hellendrung could not immediately be reached for comment this week.
The Breeze reported last October that plans were in the works for two microbreweries, High Jinx and The Bucket Brewery, expected to open in the near future off Mineral Spring Avenue.
Owners of those companies at the time indicated their excitement at bringing their product to the up-and-coming beer hub they see in Pawtucket.
As part of his campaign platform in 2010, Grebien emphasized breweries as an obvious niche market that could help grow Pawtucket's economy. One of the mayor's motivations behind advocating for such development is the large amount of water available for sale through the city's new state-of-the-art water treatment facility. Beer-making takes lots of water.
James DeCelles, the chief engineer for the Pawtucket Water Supply Board and a noted lover of beer, said this week he would love to see Narragansett and whatever other brewers that wish to link into the local water system come to Pawtucket.
"Hopefully it does happen," said DeCelles, on the idea of a beer capital. "It would be a great way to market our water quality. We certainly have plenty of water."
Narragansett Brewing Company, which got its start back in 1890 in the city of Cranston, closed its doors in 1981 due to aging facilities, outdated equipment, increased costs of operation, and increasing competition from others, according to a company history at www.narragansettbeer.com.
By February of 1982, production of the Narragansett brand had shifted to the Falstaff Brewing Company plant in Fort Wayne, Ind. Falstaff had purchased the company in 1965.
"The water from the Scituate Reservoir had been considered the finest in the country; the water in Fort Wayne, not so much," reads the narrative.
Falstaff reopened the Cranston plant in 1983 to produce keg beer, but three months later it closed again for the last time.
In 1995, much of the brewing equipment was shipped off to China, and by 1998, demolition of the Cranston brewery had begun. The last of it was demolished in 2005.
In early 2005, lifelong Rhode Island resident Hellendrung and a group of fellow New Englanders purchased the rights to Narragansett Beer from Falstaff. Former brewmaster Bill Anderson was brought in "to ensure the authenticity of the brew," states the narrative.
"That October, for the first time in a quarter century, Narragansett Beer was back in bottles and on bar taps," it reads. "And now, history is being written every day by regular folks like you and me."
What could be our new home. Hi Neighbor!