Scott Barnum, CEO Pyramid Brewing; Portland, Oregon, 2006
Clarification of the mergers, in short.
Hart Brewing was acquired by a group of investors in the late 1980’s who renamed the company Pyramid Breweries after one of its brands after Hart Brewing was acquired.
2. In what direction do you think the microbrew industry is going.
We call it the Craft Beer category.We project that the category should continue to grow at high single digits for the next several years. Consumers are trading up to better more fuller flavored food and drink and the craft beer category is a beneficiary of this. Importantly, today’s 21-29 year old beer drinker, the mainstay demographic of the beer market, is much more educated today than ever before. They are more educated about beer and beer styles and have a more educated palette – having been exposed to lots of fuller flavored consumables by their Baby Boomer parents who have been seeking more premium and interesting tasting products. There will be 4+ million 21 year-olds coming of legal drinking age each year for the next several. This should help the craft category by having more craft-beer-ready drinkers in the drinkers pool than ever before.
3. Would you say there is any competition for you in the market and why.
Of course there is competition… the beer market is one of the most competitive consumer products categories there is. But, competition is good. Whether it is from someone local down the street or one of the “Big Three” commercial brewers or a larger brewer from outside of the USA, the more the diversity of high quality fuller flavored beers offered the more beer drinkers the more exposure they will have. Ultimately, they will at least try many new products and many will evolve their palettes and their preferences. This is what has been going on for the last few years and the craft beer category has been a beneficiary of this.
4. What would you reveal as the secret to your success.
That secret is locked away deep in the caverns of one of our breweries! But what I will say is that the consistently high quality of our beers has a big role to play, our alehouses provide us with a great opportunity for branding/brand awareness and trial exposure for our products and we have a top-tier sales organization that is second to none for a company of our size.
5. How do American Microbreweries or Craft breweries compare to traditional breweries in Europe.
There are a lot of similarities and yet there are many differences too. Many of the craft brewers in the United States have taken inspiration and indeed beer making training from the Europeans. English Ales from the Brits, Stouts from the Irish, Fruit Beers from the Belgians, Pilsners from the Czechs and Hefeweizen from the Germans are but a few style examples that American craft brewers have emulated. Still, Americans by their very nature and culture are creative and like to do things their own ways. There are many examples of hybrid styles or American versions of traditional European styles (e.g., Pyramid’s Hefe Weizen)have been developed and have been very successful.
6. What does it take to stay on top.
Make sure there are plenty of folks on the bottom!
No great secrets here… Great beer made consistently each and every day. A smart, passionate and diverse organization. A very solid wholesaler network with whom you have a strong partnership and relationships. A good operations and financial infrastructure. And finally, great sales and marketing capabilities coupled with a strong dose of entrepreneurialism.
7. What is your personal favorite type of beer.
Should a father have a favorite child amongst his children? Truth be told, I highly admire Belgian beers, particularly Belgian Wits… which is probably why I like Pyramid’s Weizen beers so much.
8. What is your opinion on going green and are you involving your company in it.
Pyramid is positively involved in the communities where we do business and we are part of these communities: Portland, Seattle, Northern California and to some extent all of the places where we distribute. On the environmental side, we try to do what we can locally and are more sensitive than ever before about what we should be doing as an organization. As a small local example – last December we gave part of the money raised at our annual Snowcap Ale party at the Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle to the Surfrider Foundation’s Snowrider Project, aimed at protecting local mountain-based watersheds, which affect everything from clean drinking water to the health of ocean fish. We obviously have responsibilities to our shareholders, but to the extent possible, we try to help out locally with worthwhile causes like this one and we fully realize the importance of taking care of our natural resources.
9. Oregons beer production grew at a rate of 16.5 percent in 2006, how did that reflect within your own company in terms of growth.
Our Pyramid brand business, led by our Hefe Weizen, was up more than 27% in 2006. In Oregon our packaged Hefe Weizen (majority of Pyramid’s Hefe sales in Oregon) was up more than 100% and draft Hefe Weizen was up 14% for 2006.
10. What in your opinion is the trend for beers in general in the next decade or so in terms of style.
Certainly over the intermediate term, I think we’ll see more and more consumers embrace unfiltered beers like our Weizens and we’ll see more trade up to “bigger beers”, i.e., higher hopped and spiced beers as consumers palettes become more beer savvy and sophisticated.
11. Do you see any of your beers changing drastically in the future and in what direction.
Not in the near term, but we read consumer behavior and usage patterns. If necessary, we’ll take our cue from what the market is telling us. For right now, the market thinks were in a pretty good place!
12. Is there something that you are hoping, wishing for, dreaming about for this company in the future. A vision that may seem unreachable now.
Well, how about the dream that every Portland Monthly reader will buy a Pyramid HefeWeizen each and every day for the rest of their lives! If that, somehow, doesn’t come to fruition, we do expect to be one of the more vibrant and exciting craft brewers for some time to come… You can be sure that we will be taking advantage of the window of opportunity that is now in front of us… We’d love to see HefeWeizen become a mainstream beer style in the US as it is in Germany. Hopefully, history will be so written…