Reposted from my blog: Malted Musings.
The Narragansett Brewing Company is one of those breweries that many of us have fairly fond memories of. These memories (probably) revolve around tall boy cans full of "decent" beer being served at summer BBQs and on the beach. In other words: its the type of beer you watch the game with, not sample at a gallery opening. However when I talked with CT Regional Sales Manager Sean McQuade at Eli Cannon's Tap Room the other week, he made it very clear that Narragansett is aiming to be more than just a casual beer. In fact, Narragansett would like nothing better than to have the casual market cornered, while being able to party with the intense craft beer boys. And, from the sounds of it, this may very well be an attainable aspiration.
It's no secret (especially if you're reading this blog) that craft beer is big business these days. As the economy goes down, people would rather spend their hard-earned money on GOOD beer to enjoy a night in with, than wasting money on swill (even though swill beer does have its time and place). Narragansett, according to McQuade, is very much aware of this trend and wants to throw its hat in the ring as well- that is break out of the "causal" mold in which they find themselves. They started the last couple of years with their seasonal Summer Ale and Octoberfest styles (which, admittedly are fairly tame). Despite this mellow entry, McQuade says that Narragansett is spreading fairly quickly into craft beer bars, and slowly segueing to bigger beer styles as well. Part of the reason for this is that cans have started to gain traction among brewers (which I think is awesome). Narragansett, being the grandfather of canned beer, is (by that logic) around a good 100 or so years ahead of the trend!
The next beer styles that McQuade is excited about includes an Imperial Bohemian Pilsner (clocked at roughly 8.5% abv), more summer styles (a great idea, I think, for the brand), and a bock. The general brewing philosophy behind all of this is to have good beer at a good price. By having beer for all tastes, Narragansett can focus on their strong standing in the market and slowly spread out with more creative recipes. Narragansett has won awards for basically their whole flagship line up, so their brewing method and market placement are strong. Going along with this, Narragansett is one of the oldest beers in America, having been founded in 1890, which further cements them as mainstays of New England beer.
Because they're so old, Narragansett has a great mythos and history to the brand. Back in prohibition days Narragansett got by because they got their porter (still brewed and available today) labeled for "medicinal use"! From the early days of the brand, McQuade says, Narragansett has been focused on everyone who likes beer. As their motto says, "Made on Honor, Sold on Merit." In other words, they love beer and won't bother brewing it unless it's good. In my opinion this mentality is reflected in the way that after 120 years Narragansett is still a craft brewery and hasn't gone the macro- route. This shows an adherence to their brewing pride and a passion for remaining in complete control of their product.
So the next time you're about to slag Narragansett as a joke beer hold your tongue- they've been around for a long time and are currently brewing cans of the heavy stuff that may just be able to hold their own with the young craft whippersnappers of today! Be sure to follow me on on Blogger, Twitter, and Facebook and stay tuned for tasting notes from the Narragansett night, info on upcoming Eli Cannon's events, and much more!