I should preface this by saying that I assume everyone knows that Pyramid Breweries has not brewed beer at the location on First Avenue in Seattle since 2008. Right? That beautiful brewhouse behind glass is just for show. And now, on with it.
One of the very few things that annoys me about my fellow beer lovers is the level of snobbery that sometimes threatens to make us sound as pretentious and irrelevant as wine lovers. Example: Most beer lovers do not go there, but occasionally I run into someone who thinks they are better, smarter, or more civilized than other people because they love Smallville Brewing Company but cannot stand Largetown Brewing Company. Feet set in stone, they refuse to admit that a large craft brewery can actually make good beer. My opinion is that good beer is good beer. Period.
Is the product pumped out by Pyramid Breweries good beer? That’s a debate for a different day. My point is, Pyramid is not bad beer just because it is big.
Good Business is NOT Bad Beer
Part of this “bigger is not better” attitude stems from the inability for many beer lovers to appreciate the fact that their beloved breweries actually want to be successful businesses. It reminds me of the hardcore Metallica fans who immediately hated the band as soon as the eponymous “black album” went platinum in 1991. What? You didn’t think they were good enough for other people to like? As soon as the rest of the world discovers Pliny the Elder, Beer Advocate readers will no longer think it is “the best beer in the world.” You can bank on it.
Today, we have some news from Pyramid Breweries. No doubt, they are larger than most of the breweries we talk about on this blog. That said, for some time now I have been saddened by the fact that Pyramid no longer brews beer in Seattle and that they seem to have forgotten their roots. A string of business realities (mergers, acquisitions and such) drove the company’s production away from Washington, where it all began so many years ago. While some of my fellow beer lovers felt the need to bad mouth Pyramid through all of this, I was simply sad that one of the craft breweries that played such a big role in the whole craft beer revolution had slipped away.
I know the history of Pyramid inside and out. I understand the business realities of the deal. The Pyramid Brewing Company that exists today has nothing to do with the Hart Brewing Company of Kalama, WA. Haywire Hefe is equally distant from the Pyramid Wheaten Ale that was introduced in 1986. And I don’t want to bring the whole “Thomas Kemper Affair” into the conversation. That part of the story gives me a headache in my eye. It’s all yesterday’s sad news.
It’s been a long and bumpy road, but Pyramid is coming home.
A Sort of Homecoming
I know that many of today’s craft beer enthusiasts don’t know or care about the history. The only Pyramid they’ve ever know is the very large craft brewery that exists today. All you youngins out there need to know that… well, it hasn’t always been that way. In the beginning, Pyramid was just one of a small handful of microbreweries trying to get a toehold in the beer market. Hart Brewing Company’s Pyramid Wheaten Ale was the very first craft beer that many people my age ever drank. It was damn good. Like it or not, you young whippersnappers need to recognize that Pyramid’s roots go deep, deep into the soil of Washington’s craft beer history.
In addition to the news in the press release below, Seattle Beer News and Beer Blotter both report that Pyramid has plans to start brewing again (on some level at least) at the Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle.
I expect to get a lot of grief for saying this: Welcome home, Pyramid, welcome home.
Here’s the press release from Pyramid:
We Hefe’d Up!
SEATTLE, WA—In response to customer feedback—Pyramid Hefeweizen will return to its roots and original name—officially dropping the name “Haywire” from its packaging.
“Moving away from the tradition that made us great was a mistake,” said Ryan Daley, brand manager for Pyramid. “Our consumers connected with our Pacific Northwest heritage and craft beer brewing tradition. When we changed our Pyramid Hefeweizen packaging and name, they felt disconnected. Our beer no longer reflected our rich history.”
Pyramid Hefeweizen was first introduced in 1993 as an authentic, unfiltered American-style hefeweizen. Brewed with pale barley, wheat and caramel malts and nugget and liberty hops, Pyramid Hefeweizen has a 5.2 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and rates 18 on the international bittering units (IBU) scale. In 2004 and 2009, Pyramid Hefeweizen won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and numerous international honors at the World Beer Cup.
In 2008, Pyramid Breweries added the name “Haywire” and changed its packaging to differentiate from other Hefeweizen brands and attract new beer drinkers. The beer remained the same.
“By moving away from our roots, people viewed us differently. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we needed to change,” added Daley. “Our consumers are at the heart of everything we do and we intend on listening moving forward.”
Pyramid Hefeweizen packaging also will get a facelift.
“We’ve made some minor packaging changes right away but we will be talking with beer drinkers and unveiling a new design later this year that is more reminiscent of the tradition and heritage of the Pyramid brand and the Pacific Northwest,” said Daley.
Pyramid Hefeweizen is available in six, 12 and 24-pack bottles, and 12-pack cans at grocery, convenience and drug stores throughout the country. In addition, it is also available in 22 ounce bottles, on draft and 12 ounce cans that hit store shelves this summer.
“Beer lovers have enjoyed the smooth flavor of Pyramid Hefeweizen since we first began brewing it in the early 90s,” said Ryan Pappe, lead brewer, Pyramid Breweries, Seattle. “The guys at the brewery are lifting their glasses as we return to our roots and honor the heritage of Hefe.”