Tuesday Tastings: A Pyramid Brewing trio

Time for another Tuesday Tastings! Tonight I’m reviewing three beers from Pyramid Brewing that were sent to me this year (though I must confess, I am late in posting notes about).

First, let’s get some things out of the way about Pyramid. Founded in 1984, in the early years they were one of the powerhouses of the Pacific Northwest craft (micro) brewing scene. I still think their Apricot Ale is one of the best apricot-infused beers I’ve ever had, and their Snow Cap winter ale is legit, and this latest batch of beers I’m posting are all rock solid (in fact, the H7 is a terrific beer and is the best of these three). But let’s face it—as growth led to overextension led to hot-potato acquisitions, the brand lost relevance and became sidelined. It has become an afterthought, struggling in a marketplace dominated by younger brands, or older brands that remained independent, or the flavor of the month brewery favored by whatever extreme-seeking short-attention-span drinkers are showing up at the beer bars.

There’s not a lot of perceptual difference between Pyramid, Portland Brewing (for good reason, as they are owned by the same entity), and Redhook Brewing, at least in my mind; and while Pyramid is releasing these specialty beers, I don’t know that I’ve rarely ever seen anything but their year-round marketing here in Central Oregon. And what marketing I see with these specialties isn’t terribly cohesive as it is (though to be fair, I see that with more successful breweries as well).

Head brewer Ryan Pappe is a good brewer, based on the beers I’ve tasted. These three beers, as I said, are worth your time. Unfortunately, if you never heard of them, or don’t see these on the shelves, then that talent is going to waste. Is Pyramid recoverable? Or more accurately, can they regain relevance and market share? I don’t know.

Okay, enough of that, let’s talk about the beers.

Pyramid Brewing Triangulate Citrus Pale Ale

Triangulate Citrus Pale Ale

Introduced at the beginning of the year as a spring ale, Triangulate was 5.5% alcohol by volume and fit into the recent citrus/fruit (India) pale ale craze by being brewed with lemon peel. I don’t know that the beer hit the website, but the original press release from when they sent me a bottle said:

Triangulate Citrus Pale Ale’s three hops sharpen the citrusy flavor and aroma, while a trio of malts and grains create a smooth, full body. With a huge helping of Lemondrop™ hops and real lemon peel, the accompanying Apollo and Cascade hops produce an additional layer of complexity to the seasonal pale ale. Wheat and oats take the malt body in a unique direction for a satisfying mouth-feel.

Appearance: Extremely clear, bright orange with golden highlights. A fine white head piled up then broke to a skiff of foam.

Smell: Candied lemon peel; a lemony citrus character with a green herbal hoppiness. Powdery lupulin note with a mellow lemongrass aroma behind it.

Taste: Crisp, clean, with a citrus peel bitter character that’s light and dry. That bittery-hop-citrus note becomes more prominent as it warms. Like a twist of lemon peel with a bit of pith and citrus-leaning hops. Malt is super clean and it’s a well-attenuated beer, so much so that you almost don’t even notice the malt at all. Mellow, herbal, hoppy, and clean.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-light body, crisply well attenuated leading to a dry finish.

Overall: This is a nice beer, citrus is mellow and leads to a super drinkable beer.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer

Pyramid Brewing H7 Imperial IPA

H7 Unfiltered Imperial IPA (Brewer’s Reserve)

The latest beer, out now, in their specialty Brewer’s Reserve series, H7 is seven-times hopped, 80 IBUs, and 9.5% abv. It’s a big beer but you wouldn’t know it when drinking it. Here’s what they say:

We hopped this limited edition Unfiltered Imperial IPA every which way we could think of. From citrus to pine to tropical fruit and back again, we used several different varieties. We hopped it 7 times; thrice in the boil, once in the whirlpool and three dry-hop additions during fermentation. It’s a hop journey meant to showcase the dynamic range of flavors and aromas the mighty hop bestows upon us.

Appearance: Slightly darker amber color, almost brown bottle glass when pouring, but reasonably clear (unfiltered?). Fluffy off-white head with terrific lacing.

Smell: Resiny hops with a big punch of sugary dried pineapple. Then fresh pineapple follows up, with a nicely sweet and fruit-juicy that’s appetizing. Light citrus peel (candied) and a touch of alcohol warmth.

Taste: Big, malty-sweet-piney-fruity flavors coming through in a way that could come across muddled, but is really well-balanced in execution. An old-school sensibility in the malty body (which you don’t find as much these days) and sticky hops, then it goes fruit punch with new-variety hops. There is definitely an alcohol note at the back but it’s restrained.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body, some alcohol warmth, nice sticky hop resin-sweet finish.

Overall: I’m impressed. This has a lot going on and it balances it all well and just works. Really dig the old school/new hops blend going on.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer

Pyramid Brewing Railroad Avenue Imperial Porter

Railroad Avenue Imperial Porter (Brewer’s Reserve)

Released in January, and sent to me with the Triangulate, Railroad Avenue is a big 8.2% imperial porter brewed with spices. According to the release:

This Imperial Porter uses deep roasted malts and roasted barley with dashes of vanilla, cinnamon and dark brown sugar. Railroad Avenue is a big, malty brew that conducts the palate to a nicely spiced, mildly sweet finish.

Appearance: Dark brown color, nearly black in the glass. Opaque with a tan head, but clear at the edges when held to the light.

Smell: Vanilla, cocoa powder, some dark roasted malts with a tease of cinnamon, but nothing particularly spicy. Mocha coffee, dark candi syrup, some warming alcohol that reminds me of Kahlua liqueur.

Taste: Dessert beer, creamy roastiness with a vanilla syrup finish, though not at all cloying. Hints of molasses notes from the brown sugar, and any cinnamon takes a back seat to the coffee-like roast. Some dryness in the malts come out as it warms, and the alcohol is well-hidden.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body, creamy dessert-like finish.

Overall: This is tasty and rich without being heavy. A really nice beer and a great dessert option.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer