The Narragansett Brewing Company was established in Cranston, Rhode Island by a group of German American descendants. They opened the brewery in 1890 with an initial investment of $150,000. The company was incorporated on April 8, 1891.
Click here to view a Narragansett Brewery restaurant menu from the 1930s on our products page.
The brewery originally produced lager and porter as well as artificial ice. By the 20th century, 25 tons of ice were being delivered to over 1,500 customers.
Below is an early postcard from the Narragansett Brewing Company.
According to the Arcadia Publishing book; "Narragansett Brewing Company," written by Hazel Turley - this is one of the earliest known ads for the Narragansett Brewing Company. The ad dates from 1895 and is from the Ed and Greg Theberge collection.
The brewery experienced consistent growth throughout the early 20th century. A 1915 newspaper account reported that the Narragansett Brewing Company covered 42 acres, included 30 buildings, 50 wagons and motor trucks, an ice pond & ice house and 3 refrigerator cars. The brewery produced 28,000 barrels of beer in their first year of operation. By 1915 the company was brewing 225,000 barrels.
The brewery survived prohibition and the "Great Depression" by manufacturing and distributing ice, small amounts of beer prescribed by doctors, soda and a malt based product called "near beer."
Shortly before the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Rudolph F. Haffenreffer family from Fall River, Massachusetts, purchased Narragansett Brewing Company and quickly revived the brewery. The Haffenreffer family was involved in the brewing industry for generations both in Boston and in Germany. They established the Boylston Lager Beer Company, which later became Haffenreffer and Company and the Old Colony Brewing Company in Fall River, Massachusetts. Rudolph Haffenreffer Jr. acquired Narragansett Brewing Company in 1931 and served as president until 1954. Many of the brewery's former workers, let go during Prohibition were re-hired. Narragansett was reportedly the first brewery in the nation to produce and deliver beer after the repeal of Prohibition.
According to NarragansettBeer.com, Narragansett Brewery was the first brewery in New England to offer beer in cans. The Providence Journal photographed a section of the plant's modern canning equipment in 1958.
1950s billboard in Scollay Square, Boston, MA - from the MIT libraries.
In 1959, Narragansett celebrated brewing one million barrels of beer. By 1965 when the brewery was purchased by Falstaff Brewing, the company employed 850 workers.
Narragansett's demise began in the 1960s. The brewing plant was by then outdated and in 1970 another "Giant," Anheuser-Busch opened a state-of-the-art plant in Merrimack, NH. In the early 1970s the State of Rhode Island offered to help finance a new plant. News reports at the time reported that "company officials did not respond in a positive way." Modernizing the old plant was it's only hope for survival. The company explored multiple avenues to update the plant but struggled to remain profitable in a market increasingly dominated by large, national brewing companies. From an estimated 65.5% of the region's beer sales in 1963, Narragansett fell to about 17% by 1980.
Narragansett's beer production shifted to the Falstaff plant at Fort Wayne, Indiana, in February 1982. The original Narragansett brewing facility in Cranston remained abandoned for over a decade and finally demolished in 1998. The brewery's Trolley Barn, located across the street was spared for redevelopment but eventually succumbed to the wrecking ball in 2005.
Below are a couple of photos of the abandoned Narragansett Plant before it was demolished.
After changing hands several times, the Narragansett brand was purchased in 2005 by a group of local Rhode Island investors led by former juice executive Mark D. Hellendrung, who announced plans to expand its market share and reinvigorate the Narragansett brand identity. The revived Narragansett Beer is now contract brewed by Genesse Brewing Company and has been distributed throughout Southern New England since 2006. Reportedly, the new owners are looking into establishing a brewery in Rhode Island. We wish them luck and look forward to Narragansett Beer being one again produced in the Ocean State.
Condition: Good condition with some wear and discoloration. Some of the menu prices are smudged. (see pics)
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