Today's Wall Street Journal has a story on the comeback of
Narragansett Brewing (sub req):
When Mark Hellendrung took the reins at Narragansett Brewing Co. two years ago, the brew -- sold in 16-ounce cans -- had earned the nickname "Nasty 'Gansett."
It was the official beer of the Boston Red Sox for much of the 1950s, '60s and '70s and was once the best-selling beer in New England. Named for a seaside Rhode Island town, Narragansett "was part of the fabric of New England," says the 39-year-old Mr. Hellendrung.
Then the recipe for the brew changed when the brand was bought out and production moved out of the region. And that alienated some fans. The brand "slipped almost into obscurity," over the past two decades, Mr. Hellendrung says, due, in part, to a lack of marketing.
So when Mr. Hellendrung bought the rights to the brand from Pabst Brewing Co. in 2005, he started working to revive the old favorite and differentiate his brew from the big national brands. His approach, like that of many small businesses that embark on brand revivals, has been to play on nostalgia and local allegiances, while simultaneously attracting new consumers who never knew the brand's glory days.
To do that, Hellendrung hit the streets:
In fall of 2005, the company started its marketing. In bar after bar, Mr. Hellendrung introduced himself and said he was bringing back Narragansett. "There was a whole generation of New Englanders who grew up on Narragansett beer," he says. "I felt confident that we would reconnect with older people."
He visited between 60 and 70 bars, restaurants and liquor stores each week, assembling displays, hanging banners and buying people beers. He began putting as many as 700 miles a week on his car. A comptroller and a promotions manager handled the day-to-day business in his absence.
In addition to those with fond memories of the good old days of Narragansett, the beer has also caught on with younger drinkers:
Vincent Hemmeter, who owns Vincent's bar and Ralph's Diner in Worcester, Mass., says the beer appeals to the same 20-something clientele who once drank Pabst Blue Ribbon at his bar. "It's anti-cool, so it's cool," he says.
Mr. Hemmeter says he sells bottles of the lager for $2 each. And he estimates that he sells nearly three times as much Narragansett as Pabst Blue Ribbon.
UPDATE: King heps us to the Narragansett Beer website and adds:
Hey Neighbor, have a Gansett was a famous line that Curt Gowdy would stick into his Red Sox play-by-play.
I had forgotten that Falstaff bought them out; we drank Falstaff as an upgrade from PBR. Such as it was. (Recall my legal drinking age was 18.)
If you visit the web page, you'll see their logo with a great credo, "Made On Honor, Sold On Merit."