Pyramid Brewing Aims To Reconnect, Rebrand and Restart Brewing in Seattle
A few weeks back, I got an invite to come meet up with the Pyramid Brewing team and discuss the future of the brewery. I remember thinking – Pyramid, I haven’t consumed any of their beer in 3 years. So why they hell would I want to go see what’s in store? Well, I haven’t consumed their beer in 3 years, of course.
Pyramid brewed the first bottle of beer that I ever purchased in Seattle. It was November 2006 and I was on the road to discovery. I traveled out to Seattle to spend a weekend in a shitty hotel in Lower Queen Anne. My beer knowledge was limited to Abita Brewing (New Orleans) and Great Lakes Brewing (Cleveland), the seminal breweries of my prior domiciles. I stumbled into Collins Pub on day 1 and had no idea what to do. I had never seen any of those beers. Consume beer #1, #2 and #3. Forgot all the names. Whatever, right?
I went home that evening and stopped at the local QFC. I had to get more of this NW flavor. I grabbed a 12 pack of Snowcap, Pyramid’s winter ale (arguably their best ale). It nearly killed me, but I immediately respected NW Ale and beer in general. It was a pretty big moment.
Flash forward less than 5 years and I’m a god damned beer snob. Pyramid? Drinking fruit wheat ales? Not my thing.
Well, lets start with the phrase “Seattle’s brewpub,” because it hasn’t been true for a number of years. Pyramid stopped brewing in Seattle back in 2008, when rumblings in ownership threw everything up in the air. I remember wondering whether Pyramid would actually remain in Seattle. A departure would have been sad for the former Hart Brewing, a Seattle fixture since the 1980s.
When the Seattle pub turned off the kettle, many lost interest. How could we continue to call Pyramid one of our own when it brewed all of its ale in Portland, OR and Berkeley, CA?
Pyramid has an answer for this problem – open her back up. In recent months, the brewery decided to fire the kettle back up and hire a Seattle brewer to man it. The 15 bbl brewery should be up and running in the next few months, once the brewery has hired the right guy or gal.
I, for one, cannot wait. According to Pyramid’s Portland brewer, Ryan Pappe, the Seattle system would become a hotbed for experimentation. Being less than 20% the size of the production breweries in CA and OR, Seattle will start to crank out some interesting recipes that might lead to extending the current lineup. Seattleites will be among the first to try the new concoctions. I can raise a glass to that notion.
One of my questions for Ryan Pappe pertained to the color spectrum of their lineup. 15 beers on tap, from gold to amber. Thats it.
Pyramid misses with a large contingent of beer drinkers who indulge in the dark ales, porter and stout, as well as those fans of the Belgian styles. Nothing in their current lineup can satisfy those taste buds.
So, who would like to see a coffee stout or an imperial porter? How about a barleywine or strong ale? Even a saison, dubbel or trippel? Yeah, me too. Spreading across the vast spectrum of styles has helped production brewers like Hales Ales and Pike Brewing find success. You don’t have to make every style, but you cannot rest within the pale and wheat regions if you plan to sell in Seattle.
Lucky for us, Ryan Pappe reports that there has been some adventure down that road. Last year, Pyramid introduced Outburst Imperial IPA and floored many beer fans. The brewery sold out of the beer faster than they could make it, and it appears to have left an everlasting imprint in the brewery’s think-tank. Adventure and exploration have their fruits.
So, the success of Outburst is fueling some additional exploration. The Seattle brewpub will be the source of those new projects, while Pyramid’s Ignition Series will be the likely landing spot. The Ignition Series is very enticing. Currently, it includes an Imperial Hef, Imperial Red, Dark IPA, and a 9% jacked up version of Snowcap. Hopefully, this series continues to grow. Yesterday, I grabbed a growler of Belgian Trippel and I heard that Portland was pouring a Saison. Rad, keep them coming.
Branding From The Pages of 1994 Pepsi
Who remembers Crystal Pepsi? If you do not, then you should not be reading this material because you are too young. I remember something about Sammy Hagar and Silver Surfer cruising into infinity and beyond in those commercials – i think? Well, Pyramid’s 2000s era branding made them look like the house brew for Chuckie Cheese and Costco combined. None of us like it. Don’t pretend that you do, guy/gal who designed it.
Pyramid is committed to changing their face in the latter part of 2011. Their marketing team has been dabbling with some old designs to try and find out what worked best. Does this mean Pyramid is going retro, a la Red Hook? Not exactly, but it does mean that they are trying to combine historical success and modern flavor for their new branding.
The first step for Pyramid’s abandonment of the mid-2000s re-branding was to shed the names “Audacious” and “Haywire” from its Apricot Ale and Hefeweizen brews, respectively. Great idea. Not only did the name change confuse prior consumers of their most popular styles, the names were extremely kitschy. The brewery will continue on with the names of newer seasonal and Ignition Series beers that have come out in recent years. So expect to keep seeing Curve Ball, Thunderhead, Outburst, Dischord and others.
But, I am most excited to see the new logos, designs and branding. I have been a big fan of the newer, simple pyramid-centric logo above. Simplicity is a brewer’s best friend (as Red Hook recently discovered). What about that cool pyramid with the eye thing?! Throw it on a label, please.
The Future of Pyramid
Will we see them at Cask Festival? Hell yes. That single step is a commitment to trying to lure back NW craft drinkers. Pyramid made a huge step by investing in Outburst and I see great things ahead for this brewery.
With new branding, bigger beers, diverse styles and a working brewery back in Seattle – you have got to love the future of Pyramid.