Narragansett Beer CEO Mark Hellendrung, the man who resurrected the iconic 125-year old lager brand in 2005, is making good on his pledge to bring production of the beer back to Rhode Island.
In an open letter to drinkers posted on his company’s website, Hellendrung wrote that ‘Gansett was “coming home” to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, about 20 minutes from where the company was founded in 1890.
“There were a handful of people that thought we would never build this thing,” he told Brewbound. “We had made a promise that if everyone drank enough beer, it would make financial sense to build a brewery. Now we’re going to pay off on that promise.”
In partnership with Isle Brewers Guild, a “craft cooperative” that aims to attract “mid to large-scale craft breweries” in need of contract production services, Narragansett will help to build a new brewery capable of producing about 60,000 barrels when it opens later this year.
Narragansett is an investor and minority partner in the Isle Brewers Guild, which was founded by beverage industry veterans Devin Kelly and Jeremy Duffy, Hellendrung told Brewbound.
The brewery itself will occupy “about half” of a 130,000 sq. ft. mixed-use campus that will also include space for “entrepreneurs, incubators, business people and different things of culture,” Hellendrung said. The entire project will cost an estimated $15 million, about $1.25 million of which was spent to acquire the property last November, he added.
A 100-barrel brewhouse is currently being fabricated in Oregon, Hellendrung said, and the group expects the facility to open in August.
Dubbed “The Guild,” the space will feature an outdoor area for festivals and community gatherings as well as a dedicated Narragansett taproom and “1890 Room” that will house collectible ‘Gansett memorabilia.
Hellendrung expects Narragansett to take up at least 25 percent of the brewery’s production capacity, and the company will once again be able to permanently brew seasonal offerings like Bohemian Pilsner, Cream Ale, Fest lager, Porter and Bock in smaller batches and on a more predictable rotating schedule.
‘Gansett beers are currently made under an alternating proprietorship arrangement with North American Breweries in Rochester, New York, where typical production orders range between 500 and 1,000 barrels, Hellendrung said. The company’s flagship Lager and Light brands will continue to be made out of state, he added.
“It would be awesome to move all of the Lager production there long-term, but that beer is a lot more complicated to make and we don’t want to interrupt production in the short-term,” he said.
Narragansett produced 86,000 barrels of beer in 2015, 80 percent of which came from the company’s core Lager and Light brands. Hellendrung said he expects to “cruise past 100,000 barrels” in 2016.
Isle Brewers Guild was originally looking to build a brewery in Providence, Rhode Island, but a four-alarm fire destroyed the 93,000 sq. ft. facility the company was planning to purchase.
“Rugs have been pulled, plans have fallen through, and our future home literally went up in flames days away from closing a year ago,” Hellendrung wrote in his blog post.
Once operational, it will be the first time since 1983 that a significant portion of Narragansett’s beer production will occur in Rhode Island.