January 19, 2015
Rhode Island brewery creates a line of H.P. Lovecraft beers
by Nick Davies
This week, a New England brewery is setting out on a mission to produce a line of literary beers. John Brownlee writes for Fast Company Design that Providence-based Narragansett Brewery is launching its first in a series of beers inspired by horror/sci-fi legend H.P. Lovecraft today.
While the choice of Lovecraft is, as Brownlee points out, a little unusual in that he was a teetotaler, it’s also a natural fit for Narragansett: the author was born in Providence and lived there most of his life, and his tombstone reads, “I AM PROVIDENCE.” He was also born in 1890, the same year that the brewery was founded.
Narragansett president Mark Hellendrung tells Fast Company, “We thought what better way to pay tribute to Lovecraft and the great state we both were born in than to release a series of beers inspired by his life and work on our mutual 125th birthday?” Speculating on what Lovecraft would have thought, he says, “I’m not sure I could ever really get into his head, but it’s important for us to do this delicately, and be very respectful to both Lovecraft and his fans… Narragansett wants to…pay tribute to a fellow Rhode Islander, a literary great just as old as ‘Gansett itself. It’s the equivalent of raising your glass across the bar at the guy in the corner who shares your birthday.”
One of Lovecraft’s earlier stories, “The Festival,” provides the inspiration for the first beer in the series, a honey ale. The story describes half-human creatures which, as Brownlee describes it, “travel to interstellar space to worship their deity, Hastur the Unspeakable—a vast, amorphous, and vaguely octopoid-like Elder God of the Chthulhu Mythos.” In order to survive the journey, they drink something called “space mead,” hence the inspiration for a honey ale. Hellendrung says that it’s similar to beers that were popular when Lovecraft was alive, “a robust dark ale with an edge of sweetness, brewed from five malts and two different kinds of hops.”
The can for the honey ale, designed by A.J. Paglia, features Lovecraft’s portrait and evokes the surreal imagery of his fiction. It’s available in limited release as of today (January 19), and will be followed by at least three more Lovecraftian beers this year. In April, Narragansett will release an Innsmouth Stout inspired by the novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth, with a label designed by Jason Eckert of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. The third, Hellendrung says, won’t be based on a specific piece of writing, but on the line from Lovecraft’s tombstone—so it’s sure to have some local influences or flavors.
Here’s hoping this leads to other local breweries starting their own literary beers—a Walt Whitman lager for Brooklyn Brewery, an Emily Dickinson ale for Sam Adams, a James Joyce or Oscar Wilde stout for Guinness, and so forth.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.