William (Bill) Anderson
William (Bill) Anderson, 86, known to many in Rhode Island as the Master Brewer who helped recreate the iconic Narragansett Beer, passed away on March 9 in Lancaster, California, surrounded by his loving family. He was happily married to classmate Pauline Higgins for 60 years.
William Tuttle Anderson was born in 1930 in Cranston, RI to the late Oscar Anderson and Sarah (Tuttle) Anderson, the youngest of four children. He graduated from Cranston High. Bill began his brewing career soon after serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. Bill’s service during the Korean Conflict led to his being awarded the Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and United Nations Service Medal. He was a long-time member of VFW Post #3000 in Quartz Hill, CA. Accepting a position as Apprentice Master Brewer at the Narragansett Cranston Brewery, he attended school at night to qualify for the Master Brewer School, earning a B.S. degree from Rhode Island School of Design. Offered a job as Assistant Master Brewer by Piel Brothers Brewery, he moved his young family to New York, to work at the Piels Staten Island and Brooklyn facilities. “I passed the Statue of Liberty twice a day on my way to and from work,” he said. He later returned to Narragansett, becoming a Master Brewer, and eventually Head Brewmaster at the Cranston plant. During his time at the Cranston brewery in the 1950s through the 1970s, Narragansett was the official beer of the Boston Red Sox, first during the Ted Williams era, and later the “Impossible Dream”, and Carlton Fisk eras. Across New England, fans heard Red Sox announcer Curt Gowdy’s refrain, “Hi neighbor, have a ‘Gansett,” touting its “straight from the barrel taste,” a clean crispness in which Anderson took great pride. After Narragansett was sold to investors in 1976, Bill moved on to Schlitz in Milwaukee and later Stroh’s in California, where he helped to develop their signature Erlanger beer. Meanwhile, by all accounts, the quality of Narragansett beer declined and the Cranston brewery shut down in the early 1980s.
Bill and his wife Pauline adapted to West Coast life, residing in Palmdale, CA, with his daughter Susan and son Paul settling nearby, and daughter Donna in Downey, CA. After his retirement, Bill’s brewing career was far from over. He became a volunteer executive for the International Executive Service Corps. Bill was dispatched to Parnu, Estonia and Lithuania, where local breweries were rebuilding in the post-Soviet era. Conditions were challenging and the brewers very appreciative of his advice and friendship. When he completed his project at Estonia’s Parma Õlletehaus the brewmaster presented him with hand knitted sweaters for his family, and the brewery dedicated a new beer to him, the name translating as Bill Strong. He also made many similar trips for IESC to breweries in Mexico and Aruba. In 2005, the then-defunct Narragansett brand was acquired by a group of entrepreneurs led by Mark D. Hellendrung. Looking to revive the brand, they located Bill Anderson in California, who knew the original Narragansett Lager recipe and brewing techniques. Bill provided invaluable technical guidance to re-establish Narragansett’s prized quality and taste and located a brewery in Rochester, New York to produce their first beers. On March 10, 2017, finally reaching their original goal of bringing the Narragansett Brewery back to Rhode Island, Hellendrung’s team opened their new brewery in Pawtucket.
Bill was a man of humility and humor, who insisted on dedication in everything he did, to “do it right.” He loved to use his woodworking and welding skills to create everything from chicken coops to bird houses and flower boxes for his family. He had a lifelong love of animals and especially enjoyed horseback riding. For many years he returned with his family to Rhode Island for summer vacations, often staying in Galilee. One of his favorite activities was quahogging in Great Salt Pond with his brother-in-law, Art Poutray, at their “secret spots.” Like many native Rhode Islanders, he liked nothing better than a feast of lobsters, steamers, chowder and clam cakes, alongside a cold ‘Gansett,’ joking and laughing with his family and friends.
This tribute was posted to their website the same day: “Bill Anderson, the legendary brewmaster of ‘Gansett’s glory days who came out of retirement to help us revive the original recipe, died peacefully last night surrounded by loved ones. Without Bill’s help, ‘Gansett wouldn’t be nearly as famous as it was in the ‘60s and is today, and we wouldn’t be able to produce our award-winning lager. It seems as though Bill chose to leave the world last night so that he could be with us at the ribbon cutting ceremony for our brand new RI brewery today. We can’t wait to make him proud by brewing another vintage recipe in his honor, back here in the Ocean State. So raise a ‘Gansett for the man, the myth, the legend … Bill Anderson.”
Besides his wife Pauline, Bill is survived by his three children, Paul Anderson (Clarrisse) of Palmdale, CA, Donna Cressy (Jeffrey) of Newport, Oregon, and Susan Liberto (William) of Leona Valley, CA, his beloved sister Claire Gainor; three granddaughters, four great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister Ruth Anderson and brother Earl.
Interment will be private. Donations may be made to either redwhitebluedc.org or guidedogs.com