Just back from four exciting days in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
A close family member was married off, the kids saw the Rock, and we all went into Boston.
Sadly, it was not a fully successful trip for me: There’s a holy grail in New England I couldn’t quite get my hands on.
Those of you who know New England know the storied past of Narragansett Beer. Brewed in Rhode Island, it was the dominant beer of southern New England between the end of Prohibition and the early ’80s or so.
The company sponsored Boston Braves and Red Sox broadcasts for many years, making its name and slogan (“Hi, neighbor, have a ‘Gansett!”) familiar to millions.
The beer is also visible in the movie “Jaws,” in a scene where Robert Shaw’s crusty Captain Quint crushes an empty can of ‘Gansett in his fist.
In the ’80s, the brand changed hands, the old brewery closed, sales declined and the beer disappeared. Then, maybe 10 years ago, new owners relaunched the brand.
Unlike other historic beers that have changed hands — Ballantine Ale comes to mind — the new ‘Gansett might actually be better than its predecessor. I’ve never seen a kind word said about the old ‘Gansett, but I’ve heard the new version is pretty good for what it is.
(The new ‘Gansett, strictly speaking, is not New England-authentic; it’s contract-brewed in Rochester, N.Y. But since that’s my hometown, I’m OK with it.)
Anyway: In some sort of cross-promotion with “Jaws,” the brewery recently announced that it’s bringing back its distinctive 1975-style yellow, orange and red cans this summer.
They could not have devised a better promotion to draw me in. I’m a sucker for southern New England, for nostalgia, for history as lived by the average Joe, and for beer.
“Jaws” also happens to be one of my favorite movies.
So, as the kids on the Internet say: WANT.
I eagerly looked forward to some beer-hunting as part of this trip. But visits to five beer-and-liquor stores in the Plymouth area failed to turn up the old-school cans.
I think one of the stores might have had a 30-pack. It was hard to be sure from trying to peek inside the sealed package. At any rate, 30 cans were more than I wanted — especially considering the stuff was gonna spend six hours in a warm car on the way back to Pennsylvania.
All the ‘Gansett lager I could find was canned and bottled in the current packaging. While I wanted to try it, I was too stuck on getting it in the ’75 cans to want it any other way.
(On a secondary level, I was also disappointed not to find any of Narragansett’s porter, which is supposed to be good. I see now it is apparently a winter seasonal. Gonna have to go back when the snow flies, I guess.)
All is not lost for the beer hunter. I am going back to New England next month, and will renew my search then.
I’ll be in western Connecticut — the very edge of New England, and an area more aligned with New York City than Boston. So I’m not sure what the odds are that I will find my great white.
But I will take up the search with single-minded devotion. Quint would expect no less.
And until then, I will fill my glass with something else when I talk of home: