Narragansett Dreams Up Lovecraft-inspired Beer Series

We got Narragansett president Mark Hellendrung on the phone to talk about the newest honey ale, which is based on Lovecraft’s “The Festival.”

Narragansett Beer is launching the first chapter in its new series of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired beers on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. We got Narragansett president Mark Hellendrung on the phone to talk about the newest honey ale, which is based on Lovecraft’s “The Festival.” Lovecraft was born in 1890, the same year Narragansett Beer was founded in Rhode Island, and this year the beer company is also celebrating its 125th anniversary.

Why did you decide to come up with a lineup of Lovecraft themed beers? It was coming off the success we had with Del’s and Autocrat and partnering with Rhode Island icons. One of our Gansett girls is actually a librarian in Providence and she brought us the idea last summer. After we spent some time with Sean Larkin [of Revival Brewing Company], who is the brewmaster, and thought about H.P Lovecraft and his work, it was a great opportunity to give Sean a canvas to experiment with some great craft styles. I’ve also been reading a lot of H.P.’s stuff. He has a really strong cult following and was certainly an inspiration for Stephen King and metal bands like Metallica. Once we kept digging, it seemed like a ton of fun.

And in Providence there was a big conference organized around the Lovecraft theme, too. Yes, Necronomicon. It happens every other year, and we’ll be partnering with those guys this August when they come back to Rhode Island.

How will you release the series? We’re going to release a series of what we’re calling chapters, and each one will explore different characters or tales from H.P.’s work. What’s great about American craft beers is breaking style guidelines and exploring the different flavors and ingredients you have to create some awesome and unique beers, and Sean is certainly a master at it.

Why did you choose honey ale as the first in the series? In one of H.P.’s stories, “The Festival,” which was one of the first stories in the Cthulhu Mythos, there’s a character, Byakhee, who consumes a space mead. So why honey ale? This is Sean’s interpretation of honey mead, which would have been popular back in that day, but we transferred that into a honey ale with five malts, El Dorado and Summit hops. It’s sweet maltiness with a very robust hop profile, so I think fans of IPAs will really dig this beer. It’s a robust ale for a dark winter day.

So is there actually honey in it? There’s a honey malt, and a trace of honey concentrate as well. It’s an interesting complex balance between the hops that Sean chose, and the sweetness that’s certainly coming from the honey malt.

Where and when will we be able to try it? It will be available on draft in a limited release in some of the great craft beer bars around the state, and all the package stores, and we’ll start shipping on Monday, [Jan. 19], which is also Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday [Lovecraft was inspired by Poe]. It’ll be available [in Rhode Island], New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut to start, then Northern New England will fall a month behind. There are certain regulatory hurdles we have to get through in those states.

What will the next beer in the series be? The next one will be an English old ale. H.P. was an anglophile – he loved all things British – so Sean’s creating something in that spirit, which will be a seven percent, hearty, English-style ale. We’re going to do things quarterly, so this should land sometime in April.

Lovecraft was born in 1890, the same year Narragansett was founded. Any coincidence? That was another piece of the story that I really love. It’s our 125th year, and the coincidence that he was also born in 1890 in our home state, is kind of a cool connection that just ties it all together.

It’s almost written in the stars for you guys. It’s funny you say that. One of the famous lines throughout some of H.P.’s work is “the stars are right,” so it’s kind of interesting.

Sometimes the story behind a craft beer is just as important as the taste. Why do you think that is? I think a big part of that is there are so many choices out there with the explosion of craft beer. The craft segment was up another twenty percent in 2014, and with that growth comes a ton of variety, so it’s really to stand out and break through the clutter; the story is equally important as the quality of the beer. narragansettbeer.com

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