2007-08-02 / News

Islander brews up some history

By Michaela Kennedy

"Hi Neighbor, Have a Gansett!" was a slogan many Rhode Islanders still remember from the old days of Narragansett Brewing Company. Island resident and author Hazel Turley tells the story of New England's famous beer in a lively picture book, "Images of America: Narragansett Brewing Company," recently published and soon to be available on local retail shelves.

Even for those who are not lager lovers, photographs of advertisements, historic pubs and faces of Rhode Island will spark reader interest. Governors Joseph Garrahy, John Chafee and Frank Licht are a few of a parade of politicians and volunteers shown in pictures of special events organized by the beer company during the last century. From the Suffolk Downs racetrack to the Boston Red Sox, the book relives the heyday of the once-touted number one brew in the region.

The pictorial account of the bygone brew era was ten years in the making. Turley came up with the book idea in 1998 after going to some seminars on preserving old buildings. She became interested in the structures of the brewing company left abandoned in Cranston, its original home. "Someone could stop and throw a stone through the building window," she said, pointing to a photograph of the vandalized boiler house.

Turley had little luck drumming up interest in publishing the story in the late 1990s. But as luck would have it, a young brew master breathed life into the failed Narragansett name after the turn of the new century. Turley then got a call from Arcadia Publishing, the same company that rejected the idea five years earlier, to start production on the book.

Mark Hellendrung, who bought the trademark for the Narragansett Brewing Company, found and collaborated with master brewer William Anderson to resurrect the original beer recipe. Brewing has started again in Finger Lakes, N. Y. Turley noted that the new owner's wish was to bring the brewery back to Rhode Island, but water limitations in the area make that hope a near impossible task.

A lack of water caused the demise of the loved brew in the first place, according to Turley. As Cranston expanded in the 1970s and more beer drinkers bought Narragansett, the company could not keep up with demand. The beer license was sold and production moved out of state. The change in

taste could not match the special flavor marked by water used from the Scituate reservoir.

The slogan, "Hi Neighbor!" came from a regular banter that Jack Haley, the advertising manager, enjoyed with a couple of older ladies that lived next door to him, noted Turley. Every day Haley would see the prim and proper ladies sitting on their porch. He would yell to them, "Hi neighbor, have a Gansett!" The offer of beer flustered the two next door every time. The repeated shocked reaction from the women gave Haley the idea to use the phrase in the now wellknown advertisement.

Turley remembered her

own experience growing up with a brew the state called its own. "If you grew up in Rhode Island, Narragansett was the first beer you drank." She held up a gold-plated bottle touting an award ribbon. "One million barrels were sold in 1961," she added as a testament to the beer's popularity.

Turley's book will soon be available at Baker's Pharmacy, Grapes and Gourmet, and Jamestown Wine and Spirits. Turley plans to do book signings at Borders' Books in September, dates to be announced.

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