Monday, October 15, 2007

Imperial Day at Pyramid Brewing

by Mike Sober, Pacific Brew News

After a hard day of NFL football watching my wife Terri and I decided, after a bike ride of course, that we really need to heed the advice of Mike. Mike is, of course, Michael Mathot General Manager of Pyramid Breweries in Sacramento Ca. On our previous Friday night trip to Vino’s in Roseville to help drain the remaining glasses of Lagunitas Hop Stupid we were fortunate enough to run into Mike for the first time in over a month.

Mike informed us that, not only did they still have the Imperial Hefeweizen on tap, but they also currently offered Pyramids first attempt at a Double, or as they preferred to call it, an Imperial IPA. It was decided right then and there… we had to go, simple as that.

After finally getting parked near Pyramid’s downtown Sacramento location, Terri went straight for the “Thunderhead IPA” while I chose to go directly to the grail and ordered a tall glass of the Imperial Hefeweizen. I really liked the fact that they didn’t automatically deliver their wheat beers with a wedge of lemon, but first served it and then inquired as to whether I preferred fruit in my beer. Naturally I did not. The Imperial Hefeweizen is, to me, a very interesting idea that I have to admit is an even better reality. Surely a much better reality than I anticipated when Mike first told me that his brewers in Seattle had brewed a batch of ‘Imperial’ Wheat. Mike’s contagious enthusiasm, and the fact that Pyramid Breweries specialize so thoroughly in wheat based brews, convinced me that if anyone could pull off an Imperial Hefeweizen, it would be the wheat masters at Pyramid. And indeed they did.

The beer is a golden orange color with an unfiltered cloudy hue and a white crown that dissipates rather quickly. It possesses a nice balance that I half expected to suffer in such a ramped up version of what is essentially a traditionally light beer style. Still light and drinkable while at the same time possessing a much larger, bolder body that you would expect in any beer labeled an Imperial. Naturally I ordered another….just to be sure.

Terri finished off her IPA and was eager to move up to the Imperial and I have to admit I was right behind her in curiosity. The Imperial IPA surprised me with its almost copper color that reminded me more of a Red, or more precisely an Amber, than an IPA. I soon found out it had other features of a red with its delicate roasted malt flavor that lingered in the aftertaste. After a few sips I realized, “Man, I really like this beer”. The body was a bit thinner in body than most Imp IPA’s, but the bittering hop was right there in your face with every swallow.

Tasting the Imperial and the Thunderhead side by side I came to the conclusion that the same basic bittering hop is present in both beers, the Imperial just has three times the bitterness. I didn’t really detect a lot going on in the aroma, but the pleasing lingering hop taste more than made up for it.

To no one’s surprise I purchased a growler of the IPA and took it home and I think I heard that there were 22oz bottles of the Imperial Hefeweizen available in select local stores as well. The Imperial IPA won’t be around long so I suggest a trip to Pyramid… soon.