When Mark Hellendrung bought the Narragansett beer company in 2005, close to nobody drank the 125-year-old New England lager.Hudepohl-Schoenling hasn't been able to crack the top 50 yet, even though I've tried like crazy to get them up there. At least we have a nice regional beer comeback to emulate.
Gone were the glory days of the 1960s, when the beer was the official sponsor of the Red Sox, produced up to two million barrels a year, and ran its brewery at close to capacity to meet demand. Narragansett so symbolized New England that eccentric shark hunter Quint in Jaws literally crushed it in a now iconic scene.
"Narragansett was New England, and New England was Narragansett," Hellendrung says of the beer's boom years. "It had a 65 percent market share, and it was a part of the very fabric of New England." The brand brewed fewer than 600 barrels in 2004 and the next year, Hellendrung, a former president of Nantucket Nectars, bought it from Pabst Brewing Co. for an undisclosed amount.
Now the native Rhode Islander can be proud of his regional beer again. Narragansett produced 78,034 barrels in 2014, according to the company, and pulled in $12 million in revenue, up from just $100,000 in 2005. In 2013, it cracked the Brewers Association's top 50 breweries in the U.S., based on beer sales by volume, for the first time ever. It jumped another 12 spots last year, to No. 37.