Plea to Pyramid

Pyramid Fling: not a bad beer

I really want to love Pyramid Brewing. Since the company was bought out by Magic Hat during the summer of ’08 they’ve really been trying to move ahead into the 21st Century. Playing around with new recipes like the MacTarnahan’s brews such as Summer Grifter IPA, Lipstinger Saison, and Hum Bug’r Porter shows some concerted effort to revamp a moribund entity. On their own side of things, the Pyramid line-up has made strides with the likes of Goosebump Imperial Coffee Stout, Juggernaut Red Ale, Super Snow Cap, and a variety of taproom exclusive Brewers Handle series beers. Some of these efforts have undoubtedly succeeded, such as Grifter and Lipstinger, despite some god awful and gaudy energy drink-esque label design and corny, impotent, and seemingly non-existent promotional maneuvers. Even the company’s Magic Hat line-up of Vermont has at least been able to disguise the majority of their mostly drab line-up with smoke, mirrors and whimsical names/comely packaging. Thing is, Pyramid of Portland has excellent brewers like Tom Bleigh and Vasilios Gletsos who know how to construct the kind of beer Portlanders would line up for. But for some reason, someone in Seattle or Vermont must be raining on that parade. The beers seems to be aimed for the crossover to craft Nevada-based Bud drinkers or folks who haven’t much evolved their palates since the late 1980s. Have you seem the lines for Pyramid at beer festivals around here? Are there any? Have you had an Audacious Apricot lately, or a Haywire Hefe? Great beers with much national recognition (GABF medals), but who’s drinking them in Portland? When will they learn that the use of alliteration coupled with tacky, busy labels and a dearth of striking promotion will never  generate buzz for a beer here. Not the real beer geeks or those who know what’s good for ’em. Pyramid, your labels suck (the latest Mac’s Amber labels look like Mountain Dew). On top of that, your marketing strategies are tired, your website stinks, and as a testament to all of this, your taproom is a ghost town. What ever happened to the lively spirit of Portland Brewing? It seems to have lost its way some years back and neither Pyramid or Magic Hat-infused Pyramid have been able to fix it.

Mac's AmberThe newest Pyramid season beer, Spring Fling is very refreshing but not at all interesting or inspiring. The use of the experimental XP-04188 hop is a welcomed move two years after Widmer jumped on that sort of thing, but, alas, another golden ale in the same vein as Slingshot and Curveball (all good beers, but no envelopes pushed)  Fling features the same laughable cheesed-out labeling as the others. It really pains me to diss on Pyramid because I have many friends who work there.  I hate to see Pyramid, a once daring and inventive brewery from Kalama, continue to play catch up with the other area breweries that they paved the way for.  The many employees I know there are good people who love beer, but something is amiss. All of these problems can’t simply be that Mac’s Taproom is so far out in the Industrial part of NW Portland. I mean, Pyramid has other locations in Berkeley and a pilot system which almost died in Seattle. There’s been a buzz about a line-up of sour beers being made in Seattle, but I’ll believe that when I see it. Pyramid, please, please do something more innovative. You’ve got the skill sets. You’ve got the brewers. Be bold. Walk tall. And please, please ditch those heinous labels. I wouldn’t be so brutally honest if I didn’t care…

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After pouring all of this out about Pyramid I felt a bit bad that I was being rather critical of them. For some time I had been promoting and praising the brewery to all my friends. Most of my beer geek associates would just say things to the contrary. After a while I had to admit, the brewery needs a major facelift and fast. Late last summer I attended an outdoor event at Pyramid to celebrate the release of their Juggernaut Red Ale. The event featured great live music and delicious beer, but the promotion that went into the event must have been next to nothing. The event was held in the parking lot and was next to empty. It appeared that no planning went into this release. There are many breweries out there with lesser quality beers but afford themselves a considerably better following than Pyramid. I hope that Pyramid is just in a developmental stage and will blossom to its full potential sooner than later.

Further, on a positive note, I wanted to mention that Pyramid announced this week (see our “press release” page) that they are beginning a new series of beers called “Ignition” that is tap only. This series kicks off with an Imperial Hefe then moves to other more interesting styles like and Imperial IPA and Dark IPA (Do they know what a Cascadian Dark Ale is?). I don’t want to shoot them down before they make their move toward a prosperous horizon. I really really really want them to do well.  I guess time will be the judge…

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