I blog primarily over at "geosciblog" (http://geosciblog.blogspot.com), I am doing this one for fun. It is inspired by 30+ years of beer can collecting and having tried more than 3,000 different American beers during that time. “. . . And beer was drunk with reverence, as it ought to be.” — G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hi Neighbor...Have a 'Gansett!

For those not familiar with the above slogan, it was for Narragansett Beer, brewed in Cranston, RI from 1888 to 1981. Yes, I am a Southerner, but I managed to visit Narragansett territory in 1977, 1978, and 1981. I got to try Narragansett Lager, Cream Ale, Porter, and Haffenreffer Malt Liquor, as well as Ballantine Ale, Ballantine IPA, Ballantine Lager, Krueger Lager, and Falstaff, all of which were brewed at this brewery during that time period.

From its founding as a lager brewery in 1888, Narragansett gradually grew until it became the largest brewery in New England in 1909. After Prohibition ended in 1933, Narragansett resumed its place as New England's largest brewery.

By the 1960s, national brewers were making inroads into traditional Narragansett markets. In 1965, Falstaff Brewing Co. purchased Narragansett. The bulk of the advertising dollars were spent unsuccessfully promoting Falstaff in an attempt to introduce it to the New England market. The lack of advertising also contributed to a continual sales slide for the Narragansett and Haffenreffer brands.

In 1972, after Falstaff purchased the Ballantine and Feigenspan brands from the closing Ballantine brewery in Newark, NJ, these brands were transferred to the Cranston brewery. The purchase of the venerable Ballantine brands was intended to help Falstaff enter the NYC market, which did not go well.

From the late 1930s, Falstaff had grown by buying local breweries on the verge of closing. By 1960, it was the third largest brewing company in the nation. But the old breweries owned by Falstaff needed refurbishing and upgrading by the 1970s. This included the Narragansett brewery. The older equipment resulted in higher production costs making competition with national brewers more difficult. An anti-trust lawsuit, by the state of Rhode Island, against Falstaff went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the court found in favor of Falstaff, but the legal costs hurt the company greatly.

The use of fuel oil to operate the brewery also contributed to its financial difficulties. Attempts were made to bring natural gas service to the brewery, but the local gas utility was unable to reach an agreement with the brewery to guarantee the quantities needed. Falstaff by this time also had a rather eccentric President, Paul Kalmanovitz, this may have affected the utility's decision not to construct the natural gas line. This finally led to the closure of this brewery in 1981.

The production of Narragansett beer and the other Falstaff and Ballantine brands was shifted to the Falstaff brewery in Fort Wayne, but customers complained of a change in taste. It may have also been produced by the Pearl brewery in San Antonio (which was part of the strange Falstaff conglomerate, which may be explained in a future post).

Eventually, the Falstaff brands wound up with Pabst, then brewing shifted to a contract basis with Miller for numerous smaller brands, including Pabst, Strohs, Schlitz, Hamms, and others. In 2003, Narragansett was dropped from the Pabst portfolio.

For more info on Narragansett, please visit this BeerHistory.com page and this Falstaff History website.

[8/3 Update: From the Falstaff History website, comes this news that the Narragansett label has been sold by Pabst to a Rhode Island entrepreneur and the brand should be returning to the state soon. Here is one story and a second story on the subject.]
[8/6 Update: Here is another good article about the history of the Narragansett Brewing Co., from the American Breweriana Journal. From an article on RealBeer.com, comes this summary of the present and future status of the Narragansett brand: "The beer is currently brewed in La Crosse, Wis. (formerly the G. Heileman brewery), and is available in 16-ounce cans. The investor group plans to move production to the High Falls Brewery (formerly the Genesee brewery) in Rochester, N.Y. Hellendrung said the company also plans to have a small brewery operation in Providence."]
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?