REVIEW: India Pale Lager from Pyramid Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Pyramid Brewing Co.
Location: Seattle, WA
Style: India Pale Lager
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 60
Hops: Chinook, Nugget, Centennial, Amarillo, Sterling
Malts: 2-Row Pale Barley, CaraRed, Crystal 80, Crystal 120
Appearance: Red-Gold resembling an Amber Ale in disguise
Aroma: Floral & Fruity with hints of malt
Flavor: Noticeable hops, little malt character
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Grilled Meats, Spicy Cuisine (Thai & Mexican)

Pyramid is an interesting brew company. It has the distinguished honor of being one of the “old guard” of the craft breweries.

Established in 1984 as Hart Brewing Inc. by Beth Hartwell, Pyramid could be called one of the founders of the American microbrew movement. However, Pyramid was also bought in 2008 by Independent Brewers United, which was then bought by North American Breweries in 2010, which was then bought by Cerveceria Costa Rica in 2012.

This puts me in a bit of a quandary. I’ve always been rather skeptical of brewing companies that sell and become part of a larger conglomerate. What does this mean for the beer? The small scale enthusiasms? The intimacy of “the craft”? When people way up the chain are making the decisions, are they looking at craft, or are their eyes completely focused on revenue and the bottom line?

These are just questions. I’m not accusing anybody of the implications of certain answers. I can’t speak to these answers having never tried Pyramid’s beer before it was bought, but the questions nag, and I’ve heard stories from people with a lot more intimate knowledge than I, talk of what happened when other breweries went this route.

Even though I like the few of their beers I’ve tried… are they the same beers brewed by the company before they were bought? Is their Pale Ale (the first beer brewed by the company) the same today as it was back when they were independent? Maybe. Maybe not.

“A hybrid did come, the depths of hop character to plumb.”

Pyramid has a long history and maybe that history saved them. Perhaps that history has played some small part in keeping the company at least somewhat grounded through these larger and larger by-outs. This is to say their beer is still worthy of a try. Their Apricot Ale is one of the few fruit beers I enjoy, but as I write this, again that whisper pervades “was it different back in 1994 when it was first brewed?” Maybe they are the enigma among the buy-outs. I’d like to believe this and maybe I do… it remains an untestable belief.

The Pour and Aroma

Pyramid India Pale Lager

Pyramids IPL pours a red-gold and, depending on the light, seems to flirt unabashedly with the idea that it might be an Amber in disguise. Two fingers of soapy foam form a brief head, which drops quickly to a skeletal film of bubbles.

Aroma is floral and fruity with only hints of malt noticeable. The fruity notes are mostly citrus, but I also catch subtle flashes of sweet pear here.

Mouthfeel and Taste

The body is medium and is able to carry the differing hop qualities surprisingly well. Mouthfeel is slightly astringent, with the crispness expected of a good lager.

The hops are at the forefront here with very little malt character noticeable. Floral and fruity (citrus and hints at pear, maybe) notes travel the length of the palate nicely showcasing the five hop combo this beer is built around. I find a slight woodsy quality skips right before swallowing, a possible addition from the nugget hops (along with a high percentage of the bittering). The drop to swallow brings the bitterness out, not overwhelming, it’s enjoyable and, along with cheek-sucking crispness gives this beer a highly drinkable quality.

Finishing The Impression

This is a nice beer. A hybrid of two styles (IPA and lager) that is becoming more and more popular. Using lager yeast instead of ale lends crispness to this beer and cuts down on the ester profile lent by many ale yeasts. This gives straight forward beer which really showcases the depth of the hop profile set to it. At 6.0% ABV it isn’t quite the sessionable beer that many lagers are, but does provide a crossroads for the IPAer and the Lager Lover to meet and discuss a beer with quality attributes of they can both agree on.

And, who knows, each may walk away from that crossroads with a slightly different idea of the other, and just maybe, a beer added to the favorites.

More Beer Reviews:

Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and is currently enrolled in the American Brewers Guild (CBA). When he’s not studying or working, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places.

Comments

  1. Tom Pattison says

    Nicoli, love the detail in which you characterize beer! I have purposely bought beers based on your reviews. My skepticism also remains for the successful brewer who is gobbled up by another brewer. Not judging intent however will quality and unique character hold up? Some will, some won’t.
    Thx again! Tom

  2. Nicoli says

    Thanks for the kind comment Tom. Glad these works do you some good in the beer selected arena. If you have any beer you really like let me know, always looking for new beer to try.

    Cheers

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