Welcome back to Sip Northwest’s Beer Hall of Fame: a twice-monthly induction into a list of essential Northwest beers that have made their mark on the field and region.
With some craft beer, quaffers can enjoy new and unique and experimental flavors. Tangerine session IPA with Citra hops? Sure! Chocolate coffee porter with ghost peppers and cumin? Yes, indeed! But other beers are the O.G. options we all can enjoy – those concoctions that introduce the very idea of craft beer to drinkers young and old, experienced or novice — like Pyramid Brewing Co.’s hefeweizen.
A Pacific Northwest pioneer in the first wave of craft beer, Pyramid Brewing has been making craft beer since 1984. In terms of the craft industry, that’s ancient. But here at Sip Northwest, we respect our elders — those folks who blazed the very trail that those tangerine session IPAs tread on happily now. The now-Seattle-based brewery introduced their flagship Hefeweizen in the mid-80s and it has been selling like hotcakes, both in Seattle and up and down the West Coast ever since.
“It was the first bottled beer in the U.S. that used wheat,” says Ryan Pappe, Pyramid head brewer, who notes the brew uses 60 percent wheat and 40 percent two-row malts.
Hefeweizens, of course, are German inventions. And most German versions offer a clove or banana-like flavor and aroma from the yeast used. Pyramid’s, on the other hand, uses American yeast and doesn’t have those pungent flavors. The beer is lighter in body, easier to drink — and it had to be in those early days when American beer drinkers had no idea about what beer could look like, taste like and be.
“It’s one of those beers I take a lot of pride in as a brewer,” Pappe says. “Most people have had that beer. It’s been around a long time. It’s formative for a lot of beer drinkers. That’s really great.”
While Pyramid’s hefeweizen has long been their best-seller, the brewery’s Outburst imperial IPA has recently taken the top spot. But the hefeweizen, light and bright like a summer morning, remains an important option for the historic brewery (and is still its No. 2 in sales). “Pyramid is the house that wheat built,” Pappe says. “Most people start their craft beer drinking experience with a hefeweizen and move on to other things. I think it’s cool to have played a formative part in people’s growth as beer drinkers.”