In search of a bite and a refreshing pint of brew while sightseeing near San Francisco? Or maybe you're shopping on a soggy day in Seattle, and a hearty stout is in order to stave off the chill. In either scenario, you’re just a few minutes away from a Pyramid Ales brewery and beer satisfaction.
One of the first in a wave of Pacific Northwest microbreweries to outgrow its home state, Washington-born Pyramid, founded in 1984, now has brewery and pub facilities in Oregon and California, too. All of the locations cover the range of beer moods and desires with Pyramid’s ever-growing line of finely crafted ales and lagers. Gourmet-quality pub grub retains the same quality and consistency as the beer from location to location, but each menu offers regional fare and draft-only beers that might be found just at a specific brewery.
A smiling server at Pyramid Ales in Seattle prepares to deliver enjoyment. — Photo courtesy of Pyramid Ales
While they share Pyramid’s brewing history, each of the breweries has its own character. At the sprawling Seattle location, located in a former warehouse across the street from a major league baseball park, for example, you might dine on fresh salmon. Meanwhile, in Berkeley, quesadilla soup and soft tacos are on the menu in another former warehouse, this one with an outdoor movie screen on one of its walls.
Started in tiny Kalama, Washington, as Hart Brewing Company, Pyramid today is one of the largest craft brewing companies, with breweries in Portland, Berkeley, Sacramento, and Walnut Creek, as well as Seattle.
Original brew master Tom Baune and co-owner Beth Hartwell operated a deli and grocery in Seattle before selling it to start the brewery near the banks of the Columbia River in remote Southwest Washington. Begun in the shell of the old general store on Main Street in the logging community of Kalama, Hart’s first product was Pyramid Pale Ale, an in-your-face beer with deep malt character and extra-tangy hop bite that earned the brewery its reputation for robust brews.
With its second offering, Wheaten Ale, Hart became the first brewery since prohibition to offer a year-round wheat beer. It became one of the brewery’s most popular and award-winning beers, and today's version, Pyramid Hefeweizen, has evolved into an unfiltered brew with over 60% malted wheat for a very full-bodied brew.
Large logos dot the landscape outside Pyramid's Seattle brewery. — Photo courtesy of Pyramid Ales
Over the years, Pyramid has become known for its interesting recipes and quirky label designations. One spring seasonal, Tilted Kilt, for example, is a deep red, full-flavored ale brewed with seven kinds of malt. Also malty is the copper-colored Broken Rake Amber for spring. Curve Ball Kolsch is a lighter style for the summer, and Coastline Pilsner is a delicious year-round sipper. Snowcap is the much anticipated seasonal Christmas beer, bold, dark, and spicy ale with a hearty alcoholic punch just for the holiday. Currently Pyramid makes two different India Pale Ales, one dark and one dry-hopped. A longtime favorite is Pyramid Apricot Ale.
The label name of that first ale stuck, so in 1996 the beer company was rebranded as Pyramid Ales and eventually moved to larger quarters in Seattle. Dubbed Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery, and Restaurant, the huge brewing facility and brewpub is located in the city’s stadium district and housed in a vintage brick warehouse that features an expansive patio out front for fair-weather imbibing. Across the street from the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium, Safeco field, the deck area has been christened the Left Out Field Beer Garden. Inside is classic Pacific Northwest interior décor, with concrete floors, dark wood, and exposed beams. Food here ranges from pub fare such as gourmet burgers to regional specialties like wild Alaskan salmon and fish and chips plates, even a beer-braised pot roast. Yum.
The Seattle brew house opened in 1995, and since then Pyramid has continued to grow. In 1997, Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery, and Restaurant opened in Berkeley, just a few miles from the University of California campus. Now a local landmark, Pyramid's Berkeley brewery provides a distribution point for fresh draught and bottled ale throughout the Southwest. As at the other locations (with the exception of Portland), brewery tours are available, providing a wealth of brewing know-how and Pyramid history. Also offered at most Pyramid pubs are growlers of fresh tap beer to go.
The Walnut Creek Pyramid location is popular with downtown shoppers. — Photo courtesy of Pyramid Ales
In 2002 a third Pyramid Alehouse opened, this one in Walnut Creek, California. Located in the quaint downtown area, the alehouse has become a local favorite, known as a great place for beer and food before or after shopping or movies -- and for its live music nights on the back patio.
Yet another Pyramid Alehouse is just to the east in the California's state capital, Sacramento. This pub and brewery is located downtown near the capitol in a historic brick building. Inside, the place has a distinctly modern vibe, with sleek decor and an impressive barrel vaulted ceiling.
Pyramid added the Portland location in 2004. — Photo courtesy of Pyramid Ales
In 2004 Pyramid partnered with Mac Tarnahan’s Brewing Company to open up the Portland Taproom and brewery in Oregon. Gleaming copper brew kettles are an attraction here, as are menu specialties such as Kettle-Brewed Soups, Apple Wood Grilled Plates and Rotisserie Dishes. All, of course, paired with any of a dozen or more fresh beer offerings.