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Posts Tagged ‘Pyramid Brewing’

Pyramid Brewing Aims To Reconnect, Rebrand and Restart Brewing in Seattle

July 13th, 2011 No comments

Focus on simplicity - I always liked this logo.

 

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.

Then came 2008′s GABF and Pyramid – 3 gold medals and mid-size brewery of the year. Bam. 2009?  2 more gold medals. So why the disdain for one of Seattle’s brewpubs?

 

Seattle’s Brewpub?

 

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.

 

Stale Styles

 

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.

 

 

A Quick GABF Review: Washington Shows Up, Pizza Port Destroys.

September 20th, 2010 No comments

The results are in. Washington takes 7 medals.

Well, the results are in. GABF 2010 is officially over and the results have been tabulated. Thanks, Pizza Port, for not taking all of the medals.

While Washington put up a reasonable fight, the show was stolen by several Southern California brewers, who swallowed up all of the best brewpub awards this year at the GABF.

Here is what we see.

 

Washington shows up.

 

Washington appears to have turned in a respectable finish, earning a total of 7 medals (well, if you count Pyramid). Out of the total 237 Medals, Washington will take 1/34th of the medals. But, in a year where the event seems to have been dominated by San Diego brewers, its an ok finish.

Washington award winners include the following:

 

Hales Ales – Kolsch Ale  – Gold Medal

 

Chuckanut Brewing – Vienna Lager – Gold Medal

 

RAM Tacoma – Total Disorder Porter – Gold Medal

 

Elysian Brewing – Dark O The Moon – Silver Medal

 

Pyramid Brewing – Apricot Ale – Silver Medal

 

Boundary Bay Imperial Oatmeal Stout – Bronze Medal

 

Chuckanut Brewing – Pilsner – Bronze Medal

 

San Diego is on fire.

 

This was the year for So. Cal. San Diego brewers, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey/Pizza Port, Ballast Point, Karl Strauss and Stone Brewing, took home a total of 14 medals. Los Angeles brewpub, TAPS, took home three medals, as well.

Pizza Port Carlsbad is the big winner with a total of 6 medals (almost matching Washington state). The brewpub is one of several brewpub locations for the retail line of Port Brewing/Lost Abbey. The Carlsbad location is headed by brewer Jeff Bagby, who took home the Best Large Brewpub of the Year, for the second straight year.

Pizza Port’s San Clemente pub took home the Small Brewpub of the Year, while also collecting the Gold Medals in the two most hotly-contested categories – American-Style IPA and Imperial IPA. We cannot wait to get a taste of these ales during San Diego Beer Week.

One other note: Fathead’s Brewery took home the Silver Medal in the American-Style IPA category. This is the same IPA that floored us during a recent trip to the Cleveland brewer’s pub. Try to get this if you ever visit.

Check out the complete list of winners by following this link. Start planning your trip for next year’s September event!

 

A Brisk Bar Tour of Wenatchee, Washington

June 8th, 2010 3 comments

A tall tasty pint of Deschutes Hop Henge at Applewood Grill

I am going to be honest: Do not expect to go to Wenatchee and have an earth shattering tour through beer. It will not happen. In most instances, you probably won’t even be happy. But, I want to make sure that I stress that before diving into this article. You should have zero expectations for Wenatchee – zero. If you start with that point of view, this article will be a bit uplifting.

Wenatchee, WA is a town of roughly 28,000 people situated on the absolutely beautiful confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers. In fact, Wenatchee is actually situated on the west bank of the Columbia River with several nice park access points in the city.

Wenatchee is the apple capitol of earth. Seriously. Every single place you look – apples. Apple farm, apple stand, apple cider mill, apple candy store, apple toppings for everything on the menu. You cannot avoid the apple influence on Wenatchee.

Wenatchee is absolutely and undoubtedly gorgeous. One of the most shockingly diverse topographies that I have ever witnessed. The landscape at times looks Amazonian; rolling hills covered in green and shaded by low-flying clouds of moisture. We were most amazed by the contrast of snow-capped mountains with lush jungle-like hills in the foreground. Very amazing.

But the beer – its about the beer on this site. Well if you go to Ratebeer and Beer Advocate you will not find much. Luckily, one chap put up an interesting link to a place called McGlinn’s Public House on Ratebeer. After a brief background check on the place, we noticed an impressive food menu and chatter that they have several house beers. We put them on the list.

Other than that – we just went. We had no other places on the docket. Recent economic woes led to the closing of the only brewery in the vicinity – Cashmere Brewing. Another, Leavenworth Beers, was purchased by Fish Brewing many years ago. Though a new brewery is in the cards for Leavenworth – currently nothing is in the area.

So, we headed to Wenatchee. Weaving along curvy road, through heavily wooded areas and still snowy mountaintops, we found our way to the town in about 3 hours from downtown Seattle.

We first sought out a place to eat lunch. We had to go to the Wenatchee Conference Center for an event later that afternoon, so we had parked the car in the lot and noticed that a wondrous woody scent filled the air. We gazed about the area and located the source: Applewood Grill.

The Applewood Grill kind of looks like your run of the mill family friendly establishment in any small town. Except the fact that an intoxicating aroma emanates from within large stone walls that lay some 100 meters from the banks of the Columbia River. We had to go.

Upon entering we found that the decor was inviting and that they had a sizable bar. Behind that bar lay the glory – roughly 20 taps of micro-brewed ales. Much to our surprise, the bar had an impressive collection of Deschutes Ales, including roughly all year-round releases, plus premium drafts Jubel 2010 and Hop Henge Imperial IPA. Also on the tap were Kona  FireRock Pale Ale, Leavenworth Dunkelweiss, Big Al Pale, Big Al Amber and several other enticing beers.

We strolled outside to the patio as the sun was blazing at a scorching 75 degrees. After ordering some Hop Henge we settled on their fish taco and chipotle grilled chicken panini. No lies – really good food. To our surprise, the “fish taco” was actually just one taco. But, the tortilla was massive and it was stuffed with about 1/3 lb of well seasoned fish. The chicken panini was incredible. The applewood grilled chicken was moist, seasoned and delicious.

We returned to the Applewood Grill later that night after finding little else to do. During our return trip, we found that the staff at the place was great. We enjoyed some more Hop Henge, some Jubel 2010 and some of Leavenworth’s delicious dunkelweiss. The owner explained to us that their taps were so heavily saturated with Deschutes beer due to an affiliation with Columbia Distributing. Nice work.

We stayed after the place closed down and enjoyed another round with the bar staff. We really enjoyed this place a lot.

The only other place we visited was McGlinn’s Public House. McGlinn’s had been cited on several reviews as having a bevy of microbrews on tap at all times. Additionally, they boast wood fired over perfect fro crafting amazing pizza.

We headed to McGlinn‘s for dinner at around 6 PM. The place was packed. Luckily, the people waiting all wanted to sit at a table. Ha! who sits at a table when the bar seats right in front of the taps are open!? We nestled up to the bar and took a gander at the list. Its pretty good, offering three house selections brewed by Washington breweries.

The house beers are impressive. First, was a pale ale created by Boundary Bay Brewing – I ordered this one. The other two are a Lager created by lager pros Roslyn Brewing and an amber ale made by Pyramid Brewing.

The beer list at McGlinn's Public House

The rest of the list (which is seen in an image to the right) included three beers from Elysian Brewing, Bear  Republic’s Racer 5, and Boundary Bay’s IPA, along with another 10 or so.

The menu is comprised of several wood fired items. Its extremely difficult to choose where to begin. For the first 20 minutes, I was convinced I was getting the ribs, then I wanted the whole chicken, then I wanted the pizza. We settled on the right thing to do – pizza.

But, first we started out with an order of their famous beer bread. Wow. They use a hefeweizen to make the dough and add just a bit of additional sugar to make this the best bread and butter I have ever had. Do not miss out on this item – its like $1.

Next, we grabbed some wood fired nachos! Smothered in lots of great greenery, these nachos were also the best I had had in a long time. Usually we steer clear of nachos – not this time. We weren’t disappointed.

Our pizza was magical. The pepperoni is essentially a fatty smoked canadian bacon. It was absolutely mouth-watering. The crust is wheat, which I typically do not enjoy. Fortunately, the wood fired over seemed to maximize its taste and it served the pizza right.

We ended up remaining here for about 3 hours. The staff, food, beer and atmosphere make this an absolute must if you are in Wenatchee. Today they rolled out a new beer menu too! The new menu features beers from Twisp, WA brewer Methow Brewing. This brewer has always alluded us, but we hear that their beer is quite tasty. Stop in and give it a try.

All in all, we successfully made a beer drinkers trip out of Wenatchee. I hope you will try as well. If you get out there and discover any hidden gems – give us a shout and post a comment!