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Could Magic Hat be a local beer on the West Coast?

You don’t have to come here to read that Magic Hat is acquiring Pyramid.

It’s here, there and everywhere. Including the possibility that Pyramid will brew Magic Hat beers for the West Coast and perhaps vice versa.

So some stuff you may not have seen, mostly about the business of beer but bound to affect what ends up happening with the beers themselves.

Magic Hat CEO Martin Kelly previously worked for Pyramid (one of many stops on his resume). He left Pyramid in 2004 and shortly thereafter began at Magic Hat. Vermont Business Magazine provided details in a 2006 profile of Magic Hat founder Alan Newman.

Kelly, a self-described “a corporate gypsy,” served time at Coca Cola, Miller Brewing Co, Borden Foods, and was CEO of Pyramid Brewery, a craft beer company on the West Coast, before he came to Magic Hat to develop a five-year plan.

“I had the explicit intention of not being here more than three months,” Kelly said. “But in working through, I became excited about the potential for Magic Hat: the brand, the company Alan had created, and the opportunity for organic growth and expanding. Alan said, ‘Now, don’t you want to stay on and execute the plan?’ And I said yes.”

According to Kelly, who runs Magic Hat under the whimsical title of Potentate, Pilot & Primary Prestidigitator (P4), he has three major areas of focus: “Build the relevance of our existing brands in existing markets and grow market share; continuously evolve our portfolio of beers to keep it fresh, interesting and relevant to our community of consumers; and maintain our methodical expansion into new markets.”

Shortly before he left Pyramid, Kelly closed a deal to take over Portland Brewing, providing perspective by comparing it to agreements such as Anheuser-Busch taking a stake in Widmer and Redhook.

“The craft brewing business is very competitive and changes daily. To stay ahead, breweries must keep moving forward,” he said. “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.”

But Portland wasn’t particularly independent after Kelly left Pyramid. The Portland brand essentially disappeared, although MacTarnahan’s seems to be thriving.

That’s good enough reason for me to pass on making predictions. Instead I’ve posted a rather long interview with Kelly from 2002. Lots about distribution, but that’s part of the business of beer.

And he also talked the importance of “where.”

“We are local, we are in Seattle. An import can’t be from Seattle, they can’t,” he said.

So if Magic Hat is brewed in Berkeley and sold in Berkeley is it a local beer or a Vermont beer? And which will Californians want?

I don’t know.

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