For years, Narragansett Brewing, the company synonymous with former Red Sox broadcaster Curt Gowdy (”Hi, neighbor!”) and the movie “Jaws,” has leaned into its nostalgic association with New England.
’Gansett has made beers named for the America’s Cup regatta and local horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and with ingredients like Autocrat Coffee Syrup, the slurry extract used to make coffee milk, designated the state’s official beverage by the Rhode Island Legislature in 1993.
Rhode Island is also well-represented by another Narragansett collaboration. For the last five years, the brewery has been making a beer with Del’s Lemonade, the ubiquitous roadside summer treat made by a Cranston company since 1948. CEO Mark Hellendrung says the state-centric collaborations started six or so years ago.
“All the rage in craft was guest brewers and joint beers,” says Hellendrung. “And we were like, ‘Well that’s just kind of saturated. How do we do that whole collaboration thing but do it in kind of an iconic, heritage sort of way?’
“We’re really blessed with this great history, and nobody else has that. When you have something that’s unique you really need to lean into it.”
Del’s Lemon Shandy is a combination of Narragansett’s classic lager mixed after the brewing process with two concentrates, natural lemon flavoring, and a little bit of sugar. The final product weighs in at 4.7 percent alcohol by volume, and plays on the British tradition of mixing beer with a lemon-flavored beverage.
New this year is Del’s Watermelon Shandy, made the same basic way but with Del’s watermelon flavored concentrate (Del’s Lemonade makes a bunch of flavors, including grapefruit, lemon-lime, and tangerine-orange.) Del’s Black Cherry Shandy, which was available in Rhode Island last year, is no longer in production.
I recently dodged raindrops and sampled both drinks on my porch. The lemon version is straightforward, tart and quenching with enough bite to know you’re drinking a beer. Watermelon is a different animal; it smells just like a Jolly Rancher, or those Sour Patch watermelon candies, and drinks sweeter than the lemon. Pour it into a glass and there’s also a bit of cognitive dissonance going on (it isn’t pink!). Still it’s refreshing to drink, and less syrupy than the Mike’s Hard Whatevers of the world. ’Gansett recommends pairing the shandies with food like grilled chicken or shellfish, but I’m not sure they’re delicate enough.
“People just love flavors now,” Hellendrung says, pointing to the rising seltzer market. “I think our lager is a great beer to showcase them. It’s just so different than the wheat-based shandies that are out there. The lager gives it a cleaner vehicle.”
Del’s Lemon Shandy is now available year-round. The watermelon flavor dropped recently, and is being distributed throughout the entire Narragansett footprint.