Magic Hat Brewing to Buy Pyramid Breweries

Magic HatFor the last several months I’ve been saying that Pyramid was ripe to be bought.  However, I anticipated a very large player (like Miller) to swoop in and make the purchase.  On that point, I was quite mistaken.  Magic Hat Brewing Company and Pyramid Breweries announced that they will merge, pursuant to a letter of intent.  The plan is for Magic Hat to aquire Pyramid for $2.75 per share – the stock closed at $1.76 a day before the announcement.  Once the assumption of Pyramid’s ten million dollars in dept is taken into account, the deal will be valued at nearly 35 million dollars. 

According to Pyramid CEO Scott Barnum, “the combination of these two well established, high profile craft breweries will be very complementary given our respective brand portfolios and the geographies in which we predominantly operate. Additionally, there will be a number of important benefits for Pyramid to be part of a private company versus continuing to operate as a stand alone public entity.”

The CEO of Magic Hat, Martin Kelly stated that “we have a great deal of respect for Pyramid’s brand heritage, award-winning beers and its dedicated employees…”  Martin Kelly should know a little something about Pyramid given that he is an ex-employee.  He joined Pyramid in 1999 as President and Chief Operating Officer, and then became the CEO in December of that year.  In the years that followed, Pyramid expanded its operations significantly, bringing on two new Alehouses (Walnut Creek and Sacramento) and acquiring the Portland Brewing Company.  At the time of acquiring the Portland brewing company in January of 2004, Kelly delivered a message that seems consistent with this current move, “The craft brewing business is very competitive and changes daily. To stay ahead, breweries must keep moving forward. Some breweries have chosen to go the route of aligning themselves with large, multinational, industrial brewers. We believe that approach can stifle creativity and lead to less choice for consumers. Our approach aligns two independent Northwest breweries and retains the creativity and integrity craft brewers are known for.” 

It seems that as CEO of Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing, Kelly’s style has not changed.  Prior to making this move to grow through the acquisition of Pyramid, Magic Hat was in the midst of an expansion project that will double the capacity of its South Burlington Brewery. 

In my opinion, aggressive growth can be a good thing.  However, it can also be a risk in the beer industry because slight changes in the landscape (ingredient availability, cost of sales, cost of metal for kegs, consumer preferences, etc) can have a severe impact on the bottom line.  Could Pyramid have weathered the current industry climate had it not been so aggressive in the Martin Kelly years?  That’s hard to say.  Even Redhook brewery, (who has strong distribution ties with Anheuser-Busch and were once stock market investor favorites) have had to resort to merging with Widmer in order to stay in the game.

This move could also give Pyramid a chance to start over.  With the Magic Hat buy out, Pyramid can escape the scrutiny of being a public company and return their focus to the core: brewing great beer.  That said, it will be interesting to see how or if the two breweries merge their cultures and brands.  Magic Hat is known for being fun and somewhat unpredictable.  To the contrary, Pyramid is a well thought out and dependable brand.  Magic Hat’s Website looks like the worst elements of pop culture slammed into into it at full speed, while the Pyramid website feels conservative and stuffy.  Most likely, the two will consolidate some of their business operations and perhaps some of their beer line (aka, some folks will be laid off), but both will continue to maintain their current brands and marketing philosophies.  On the upside, both breweries may also get a foot in the door to distributors on the opposite coast.  As a result, Seattle folks may start to see more Magic Hat beer in the stores and the East Coast might start to see more Pyramid on the store shelves. 

Whatever happens next, I hope it only strengthens Pyramid’s footing in the market and makes it an even more valuable asset to the Pacific Northwest.  Still, I’m always skeptical about out of town ownership and I’m curious to see if Pyramid continues to feel like a resident of the Pacific Northwest given the new arrangement.  At any rate, I guess there’s little more to do now than sit back, drink down a Thunderhead IPA, and watch as the acquisition proceeds.

Social Load Balancing

StressLet’s Face it, there are far too many ways to keep in touch these days.  Blogging hit the scene, but it appealed more to publisher types, not folks that just wanted to have a simple online presence.  Then came LinkedIn, which is a cool portal for managing your contacts network (though I think if Plaxo had built out their feature set a little faster, they could have owned the LinkedIn crowd).  That said, LinkedIn is a glorified address book with a little 6 degrees of separation cool factor and it didn’t pack the social aspect that Facebook and Myspace brought.  Myspace went after a younger crowd that prefer websites to be completely annoying, auto-play music, and look like the 1996 Internet threw up all over it.  Facebook brings a bit more sophistication…  Folks who want to create a professional network but still want to let their hair down and slay some vampires every now and then.  Eventually, someone realized that the world really needed a way to IM people in mass, and presto, Twitter was born.  I’m not sure what will be next, but I suspect it will be shorter and easier than Twitter.  Seven character Twitter perhaps (we can call it LicensePlater – CoolHuh? IthnkSo).  But wait, all that is just the Web 2.0 stuff.  Don’t forget you also need to stay sociable in the Zune Social and keep the points coming in on Xbox live.

On the surface, this evolution seems like a great thing.  However, in this era of hyper innovation (and hyper distraction), the predecessors are not going away as new sites, services and technologies emerge.  This means that folks like me are left trying to keep up the blog, build on the LinkedIn network, keep Myspace and Facebook reasonably up to date (and not let my vampire army get too beat down), and Twitter with whatever time there is left in the day.  Whew – factor in eating, sleeping, working, and commuting and this starts to get pretty tough.

This is where one must decide to give up all together and go outside for a walk (yeah right) or become a master of Social Load Balancing

Social Load Balancing (SLB) is a technique to spread content between two or more social networks or technologies in order to get optimal resource utilization, throughput, or response time. Managing multiple social networks and services with social load balancing, instead of managing a single social network or tool,  will increase reliability and coverage in your social representation. Social Load Balancing is handled manually by many, others are beginning to adopt Social Load Balancing tools to simplify or assist in the SLB process.

Tools are emerging to make SLB easier to manage.  For Twitter and Facebook users, you don’t want to be without the Twitter Facebook Application.  This allows your twitters to automatically update your facebook status.  Boom – just like that we are killing two birds with one tweet.  There are also applications that will send your Facebook status updates to Twitter, but that doesn’t seem like the direction most users would want to go.  For you bloggers – maximize your blogging by using a tool like Windows Live Writer.  With Live Writer, you can write your blog posts (offline even) and then sync them to several blog posts at once.  Other software that does this includes Qumana, ScribeFire for Firefox, and Ecto for the Mac.  Still spending too much time bouncing between social sites?  Minggl is a browser toolbar that concentrates Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Myspace into your browser toolbar.  If you want even deeper integration, you might want to try Flock.  Flock uses the Mozilla browser base and adds a ton of social networking capability on top of it (including Flickr and YouTube).   Regardless of how much SLB you do, Twitter is hard to keep up with (especially if you are compelled, like many of us are, to follow as many people as humanly possible).  In this case, you may want to use Twitt(url)y to keep up on what links are being shared in Twitter. 

Above are just a few ways to start to load balance your social life.  Of course, hopefully you also foster an offline social life and you will have to be the judge of how that fits into your SLB strategy.  That said, be careful taking your online social life with you into your offline social life because your romantic evening will tank quickly when your date gazes across the table only to see you Twittering on your iPhone (if only she knew what you were Twittering: “dude, I’m on a date right now”  –  “She just ordered a double Vodka” – “She’s looking really pissed right now” – “Think she’ll go home with me if I ask the waiter to split the bill?”).  Finally, I want to plug one more technology that has the potential to greatly simplify today and tomorrow’s SLB process: OpenID.  It’s bad enough trying to keep up with your online social life, let alone trying to remember your login IDs and passwords on all of these networks.   OpenID aims to drive all of these logins into a single ID system that all of the sites and applications can leverage.  Will they succeed?  Maybe not any time soon, but the goal is admirable.

And with that, I’ve got to wrap this up.  I’ve spent far too long on writing this post and my status on Facebook has become terribly out of date. 

The CrapMonkey Podcast Episode #127

Teach StreetThanks for tuning in to another Crapmonkey Podcast.  There has been a lot going on lately… but enough about me.  Let’s look at what’s coming up in the near future.  In the beer department, there are a few different festivals to look forward to attending.  Right around the corner on May 2nd and 3rd is the Hop Scotch Spring Beer and Scotch Festival.  July 4 through July 6th is the Seattle International Beerfest and from July 18th through July 20th is the Portland International Beerfest.  If you can do only one brewfest in Oregon this year, you’ll want to check out the Oregon Brewfest July 24th through July 27th (warning: hotels book up fast!).  Check out last year’s Oregon Brewfest Video!  Looking for something to do on Memorial Day Weekend?  How about attending the Crypticon Horror Convention in Seattle or the Vancouver International Digital Festival in Canada?  In the Tech arena, Microsoft has launched Live Mesh as a tech preview.  If you need help getting your digital life in sync, Live Mesh might be just the right thing for you.

The song of the day is Souls Come Rising by Lords of the North and the website of the day is  The show closed on What’s Eatin’ You by Airbourne, recorded live (from the crowd) at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard.  Special thanks to the AndyCast Podcast for the intro, go subscribe to Andycast – you’ll laugh till you stop!

Bow Down Before the Lords of the North

Lords of the NorthSome call it stoner rock – perhaps due to how the songs give way to occasional low tuned, psychedelic jams; or maybe because the lyrics depict dark winter landscapes filled with rising souls and flying falcons.  Whatever the case, the label doesn’t do justice to the heavy, blues driven rock that defines the Lords of the North.
Rising from the dark cold regions of the Pacific Northwest, Lords are bound to make their presence known in Seattle.  The Lords of the North bring a heavy and dark sound that is a refreshing throwback to the early Black Sabbath days.  Likewise, though only a three piece band, Pat Kearney, James Roche and Tony Tharp manage to deliver a powerful performance with the raw authenticity of a Bleach era Nirvana. 
I caught their debut show at the Rendezvous last week, which incidentally, was also their CD release party.  Though I could sense they are just beginning to pull together their game face when it comes to playing live together, they still played a great set and the crowd was amped.  Lords of the North are definite up-and-comers, so check them out while you can still see them in a small venue.  They play Wednesday night (April 2nd) at the Comet and will be live on KEXP from the High Dive in May.  Check out their Myspace site or buy their album online from Amazon (DRM free).
While at their show, I captured a recording with a ZOOM micro-recorder I had stashed in my pocket.  If this was their first official show, the clips below must be the first official bootlegs (disclaimer: since these tracks were recorded from my pocket, I highly suggest that you only use these recordings to supplement the Studio album).  Enjoy.

Lords of the North