It caught my attention recently after watching musical performer Franz Ferdinand on Saturday Night Live that an advertisement I never really noticed too well popped up. It announced that the musical performance on Saturday Night Live was sponsored by Budweiser, still proclaiming itself to be the ‘King of Beers’. I of course have long disagreed with this title however the monarchy apparently continues, no doubt in part because of low prices and widespread advertising. I would like to suggest that if it is available to you, you entertain Pyramid Ales & Lagers as an alternative.
Having moved to Seattle, it was only a matter of time before I realized that my kitchen cupboards and refrigerator needed food in order not to be so lonely, so I ventured out with the help of Elizabeth to Albertson’s supermarket, located on Mercer Island. A great thing about Mercer Island, for me, is that it has a sufficiently large Jewish community that it has a large kosher section in their main supermarket. Like all supermarkets in Washington, it also has beer and wine.
For most of my life I lived in New Jersey, where you could only buy alcohol in a liquor store. Then I moved to Manhattan, where you could buy beer in a supermarket and just about everything else in a liquor store. I wasn’t at all prepared for what was to come when I moved to Washington state. To me, the concept of shopping involves a bit of competition. Why should I buy a box of cereal from this supermarket when there’s another one five blocks away that sells that same box of cereal for two dollars less? It’s not a lower quality cereal, it’s the exact same cereal – for less money.
This is how it was with alcohol as well. My father and I used to frequent one particular liquor store in New Jersey because it had great deals on beer and liquor. The shock came when I moved. One day while touring the neighborhood I passed by a liquor store. It was called “Washington State Liquor Store”, or something like that. I soon found out that all liquor stores in the state of Washington are run by the government. This brought several questions to mind. Does this mean that all of the liquor costs the same across the state? Fortunately from what I saw there was reasonably fair pricing inside. Nevertheless, a lack of competition means one is most likely not going to see the kinds of sales one sees when there are multiple companied vying for your attention. Fortunately, this is not the case for beer, so there’s a chance of getting a great deal for good beer.
Perusing the various beers, I came across a beer I had never seen before – Pyramid. One of the things I noticed here in Washington is that there are a lot of local breweries, and beers coming from nearby states Oregon (people really do pronounce it like ‘or-gan’ here, unlike my east coast upbringing of pronouncing the e) and California make for a good nice non-Budweiser selection. Mind you, they also have local bad beer, but I shan’t name names because I don’t like to hurt small companies like that. Big monsters like A-B, on the other hand, I have no problem speaking poorly of. What really set me off when watching the Budweiser advertisement after the initial plug for supporting the Musical Guest was the fact that the ad was proclaiming a Premium made beer by the same company that produces more beer than all of the United Kingdom – all of it swill, of course. I don’t care if you do carefully select your hops, if you use the same mass production process it’s all going to come out horribly in the end.
Having taken home a couple of six packs of Pyramid hefeweizen, I was quite pleased with the way that the Pacific Northwest was treating me in terms of beer production. I remembered offhand reading online about the quality of beer in this area and now I was experiencing it firsthand. Over the next few months I would occasionally pick up a different sort of beer from Pyramid, and some others from local brewing companies. I enjoyed all of the beers I found and was delighted to find out that many pubs we went to served Pyramid Ale from the tap. One of my most pleasant experiences with draft style beer came when I was in London for five days. Of course, in England it is spelled draught. You also have to put five pence in your shopping trolly in order to make it function – I assume this reduces trolly theft.
I discovered that Pyramid put out seasonal beers that fit the time of the year. For example, precisely at the beginning of the baseball season, a beer called Curveball was out in supermarkets. The Pyramid alehouse in Seattle is located across the way from Safeco Field, which is where the Seattle Mariners play. One of these days I’m going to have to write up my experiences watching them play. Perhaps next season. Curveball was a treat, a light beverage which suited some of the hearty pasta meals I found myself having in the spring and early summer. Recently Pyramid released their Snowcap Ale, probably somewhat of a tribute to the various beautiful mountains that one can find across the state. When I was walking across the supermarket past the deli area to pay for this fine beer, the gentleman at the deli counter saw me and remarked to the person he was tending to, “Make sure to get some Snowcap Ale!” I found out why when I discovered how fantastic it was.
The next logical step in enjoying Pyramid beer was to go to their very own alehouse, which is also a brewery – I have been promised a tour of the brewery for my birthday this last year and am looking forward to it. I found out that on Tuesdays, you can get a free pint glass when you order one of their hefeweizen beers. I was delighted to no end when I found this out, particularly when I realized that their Oktoberfest beer, besides being available only there, was a hefeweizen. Although I was unable to partake in any of their culinary treats as their restaurant is not kosher, I enjoyed two pints of the Oktoberfest hefeweizen. It is one of the best hefeweizens I have ever had the opportunity. I still consider Weihenstephaner to be the best hefeweizen available, but I have not had the chance to have any since I left New York.
Why waste money on special edition filth when good quality beer can be yours for a reasonable price? It’s similar to buying five hundred tea bags of supermarket quality for the same price of buying fifty cups of tea worth of leaves from the Republic of Tea. The price may be the same but you’re going to enjoy those fifty cups of tea considerably more than the five hundred supermarket cups. (Look for a special tea article next year.) Treat yourself to a good beer – you may be fortunate to have a brewpub in your neighborhood, too! It’s worth investigating.