After producing 91,000 barrels in 2016, Narragansett Beer is setting its sights on the six-figure mark.
Just three weeks removed from brewing its first batch of beer at the newly opened Rhode Island contract outfit Isle Brewers Guild, which Narragansett owns a partial stake in, sales of the venerable company’s flagship Lager brand are already up 17 percent through the first two months of 2017 and the company is poised for a year of 20 percent growth, CEO Mark Hellendrung told Brewbound.
“We took a few hits last year, repositioning the portfolio, but now we have the brewery open and can look to grow that side of our business,” he said.
Hellendrung had originally expected to produce about 100,000 barrels of beer in 2016, but the company scaled back its seasonal portfolio in response to the influx of craft products hitting the market, a move that cost the company about 4,000 barrels of potential sales.
“We are kidding ourselves if we think our seasonals are more relevant in North Carolina than the local guys,” Hellendrung said.
Despite the missed seasonal sales opportunities, ‘Gansett still finished 2016 up about 7 percent, Hellendrung said, mostly due to the strength of its core Lager brand, which is still brewed in larger quantities under an alternating proprietorship arrangement with North American Breweries in Rochester, New York.
“It’s 80 percent of our volume,” he said. “And we’re out of the gates strong again, and the momentum is across all markets, so I feel good about where we are.”
On-premise sales of Lager were up 21 percent through February, Hellendrung said.
Currently distributed across 17 U.S. states, Narragansett doesn’t plan to enter any new markets in 2017, despite pressure from retail chains that would otherwise include the brand in their sets if the company filled out its footprint, Hellendrung said.
“We have limited time, limited resources and there is still so much opportunity in the markets we are already in – we don’t want to dilute our efforts,” he said. “The independents and on-premise accounts are still the other half of your business. Let’s do that right and, when we get into the chains, we can really perform.”
And with Isle Brewers Guild now in operation, Narragansett can get back to brewing smaller batches of seasonal offerings like Fest and Big Mamie Indestructible Pale Ale that it had previously discontinued. First up at Isle Brewers Guild is “It’s About Time IPA,” a nod to the company’s return to brewing in Rhode Island.