Branding for Fun and Profit

Seattle-based Pyramid Brewing's (happy 21st birthday) pitch is that they're all about wheat-based ales. Waaaay back in the 1980s, Pyramid introduced its craft-brewed wheat beer, Wheaten Ale, which was among the first of its kind in the Northwest. Portland's Widmer Brewing was also making a name for itself with a wheat beer back then. Widmer Hefeweizen—German for "yeast wheat," an unfiltered wheat beer with yeast in suspension—caught on with craft-brew drinkers looking for a relatively light, refreshing drink, and it became Widmer's flagship brew. Wheat beers have proved to be durably popular in craft brewing, particularly as summertime quenchers.

Now Pyramid is marketing and branding its wheat-beer line—Pyramid Hefeweizen, Pyramid Apricot Weizen, and Pyramid Amber Weizen—as flagship products. As Pyramid gets smaller (through production shifts to Oregon and California) and strives to prosper as a regional brewer, this kind of focused branding will be increasingly important. Pyramid brews a decent, hoppy IPA, but I doubt we'll be seeing a similar branding push behind Pyramid's more aggressively flavorful beers any time soon—the Hefeweizen line has broader potential appeal. A recent visit to Pyramid's Seattle brewpub also revealed ongoing product-line consolidation, with a simplified, scaled-back beer range, including of a couple of MacTarnahan brews.

Beer fans will get to try at least one of these Pyramid wheat beers and many more from the region's craft brewers at the Fremont Oktoberfest, Seattle's beery end-of-summer hurrah in the Center of the Universe, running Friday, Sept. 23–Sunday, Sept. 25. If you just gotta get a brewfest in before then, there's Septoberfest at St. Martin's Pavilion in Lacey this weekend, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to responsibly enjoy a few at St. Martin's, and make it back in time for the Collins Pub's Boundary Bay Brewer's Dinner on Saturday evening. Yep, that makes two beer weekends ahead. Go on, you can handle it.

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