Nostalgia and Narragansett go hand-in-hand. Close your eyes and you can picture cans of the beer in front of generations of New England fishermen. When you think of Rhode Island beer, long summer nights, and Curt Gowdy, you think of Narragansett.
What you don't often think of when thinking of Narragansett is the craft beer movement as it exists today. You picture tallboy cans and lagers, not bombers and double-IPAs. But for the 122d anniversary of the brand, 'Gansett has released a big bottle of a big, hoppy imperial IPA.
It's a new-style beer with classic references to the origins of the company. Founded in 1890, Narragansett Brewing shut down its operations in 1981. Investors revitalized the brand in 2005, and the beers, some brewed in Rochester, N.Y. and some brewed in Providence, have been available in southern New England since 2006.
It's been 122 years since the brand was born, and the imperial IPA brewed for the occasion aims for 122 IBUs (international bitterness units). It clocks in at 8.6 percent alcohol by volume and is adorned with a private stock label used by the company in the late 1890s.
The beer pours ruby red with a fluffy, off-white head. There's a distinct, floral nose, though the smell is not overly citrusy. Summit hops were used for all the kettle hopping, with Northern Brewers, Hallertau, Tettanager, and Sazz hops used for dry hopping.
Bitter grapefruit dominates the first sip. There's a decent balance here, but the finish is more bitter than floral. Despite the clean mouthfeel, the beer is not especially easy to drink. It gets harder to drink as time goes on and the beer warms up.
I like bitter beer, and I like this beer, but fans of the classic 'Gansett brand won't be running to stores to take this home. Narragansett Imperial IPA has flavor -- a lot of flavor -- which is likely to throw the traditional lager drinker. It's a strong double-IPA and a welcome letter to the craft beer community that the company cares about making good beer. But if your dad loves 'Gansett, it would be better to buy him a case of the classic lager.