Narragansett president on why contract brewing plays an important industry role

Narragansett 120 years logo(Providence, RI) – Caught an interesting exchange involving Narragansett Brewing president, Mark Hellendrung, in the comments section of Craft Beer Cellar’s latest post regarding bringing back Narragansett to shelves. The company decided to pull beers from breweries recently highlighted by the Brewers Association as not being craft breweries but felt that Narragansett qualified as a worthy exception.

Contract brewing does carry a stigma in the industry. Jimmy Carbone, publican of Jimmy’s No. 43, even said on a recent episode of his podcast, Beer Sessions Radio, that whether a beer is contract-brewed is a factor for him in deciding to carry it. He noted that the proliferation of new breweries and beers has necessitated being more selective.

Below is the exchange in which Hellendrung defends contract brewing.

Comment: Yeah, but how much of Narragansett’s beer is actually being brewed by themselves these days? 90% of their sales are lager and light beer, the majority of it contract brewed by Genesee Brewing Company/North American Breweries, which of course is owned by Cervecería Costa Rica S. A., a subsidiary of Florida Ice & Farm Co., which in turn is 25% owned by Heineken. Genesee/NAB also makes J.W. Dundee, Seagram’s Escapes, Mike’s Hard lemonade. Doesn’t sound very “craft” to me. Just because a brewery really wants to be craft doesn’t mean it is.

Hellendrung: I completely respect your opinion and would like to offer two other thoughts on the topic of “contract brewing.” First, there are some fabulous beers out that “contract brew” either all of there beer or some packages (like cans or bombers) because they don’t have the equipment. But just because you use someone else’s equipment, does that really diminish the quality of your beer or the passion that you put into it? Second, we “contract brewed” our Imperial IPA at Buzzard’s Bay Brewery in Westport, MA, as an example of other breweries we work with. This helps pay their bills, keeps their employees working, and is a hell of a lot of fun. I think those are good things.

To hear more from Hellendrung, check out the Narragansett interview with Bloomberg.


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6 thoughts on “Narragansett president on why contract brewing plays an important industry role

  1. I think he’s missing the point. Contract brewing undermines the authenticity of craft. All you have to do is see the look on someone’s face when you tell them that their favorite beer isn’t brewed by the company that claims to brew it, and that it’s actually made thousands of miles away by someone else. That alienated fan will then regard all craft with suspicion.

    Jacob McKean
    Modern Times Beer

  2. Hey, original commenter here. Contract brewing wasn’t the point I was trying to make, and I support plenty of contract brewers when the beer is good enough. It’s more the fact that they were contract brewing through a non-craft brewery but still calling their beer craft. Doesn’t make sense.

  3. There are people who thrive on having a strong opinion, so much, that they dump their opinions without regard for what really matters to them, inside. In a world of bloggers and sideline imps, many of us are faced with these empty diatribes on a daily basis. Some of us are even influenced by them. Me, I think I’d rather drink a harmless Narragansett sometimes, than a glorious Stone beer, simply because Stone spends far too much time hating and not enough loving. All you need to do is read their packaging. Seriously, if you see Narragansett as the enemy, then your’e just filled with hate, which I sure manifests itself in various directions across a plethora of categories. All of that said, I find it astonishing how adults huff and haw over a word. It’s like the Olivia Tremor Control complaining that the Flaming Lips aren’t indie because they’re on Warner Brothers and don’t record in their bedrooms.

  4. As a former resident of Rhode Island, I take issue with Narragansett’s Mark Hellendrung saying that they fall into the same category as other contracted beers. The company’s marketing makes a big deal about its ‘sense of place’ and its historical roots in New England are certainly a catalyst for strong sales. Contract brewing out of state makes that all ring false for me, especially when their “Drink your part” campaign hasn’t resulted in establishing a production brewery in RI. He leads a company that needs authenticity because of its history and name, consumers will eventually cry foul if Narragansett continues to be contract brewed.

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