Welcome back to Pints of Interest, a column from Jake Uitti that features bartenders and brewers pouring some of the best beer in Seattle.
[Photos: Renata Steiner]
Fremont Brewing's bright orange tap handle, which indicates their floral, slightly-hoppy-but-still-light-in-body beer, is one of the city's most recognizable—especially when the sun is shining. Eater asked Fremont's Director of Beer Education Matthew Brady a few questions about their citrusy brew.
Given your insider perspective, what can you tell me about the Summer Ale?
When it's out, it's what everybody drinks. Not just the people coming in here—it's by far our most popular beer—it's also what the people who work here drink. We drink it until it's gone. It's the perfect combination – the right amount of flavor, just enough hops, it's just bitter enough, but it's not an IPA, not too much alcohol. It's a clean drinking beer. It's 5.2% alcohol – I think the percentage is good for the amount of body in the beer, too.
How long have you been brewing it?
As far as I know, it's been around since the beginning. We did a pale ale first, then next was Interurban IPA, then our summer ale came third, about a year after we opened in 2008.
What tweaks have you done to the summer this year?
The thing about the summer ale is that it's really only one ingredient: Amarillo hops, that's where the flavor comes from. We use two-row pale malt as the base grain, which is just a degree or two darker than pilsen. So the summer ale is only two-row and Amarillo hops, grown in the Yakima Valley. All the flavor in this bear is the Amarillo hops. The yeast is very clean, so you're not going to taste it. And every year the Amarillo is going to be a touch different. Last year, we were using a different farm and the nuances of the flavor were different. Instead of it tasting a nice citrus orange, even tangerine, it tasted a little peachy. So every year we're dialing it in from a new crop.
Why limit it to just the summer?
The main reason is that people drink beer seasonally. It will get rainy outside and then every beer will be dark, more flavor, higher intensity, higher alcohol. So because people drink seasonally, we think it's important to keep that cycle. And on some level the beer is more special because it's around for a certain amount of time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It comes out on April 1.
What's coming up next for Fremont Brewing?
Well, we're always working on something interesting. We just put in a new brew house in place of our old system. In the beginning of May we were a brewery without a brewery! We ripped out our old system, sold that to a brewery in Arizona, and we got a new system in. It was a 15-barrel system, now we have a 30-barrel system, so we can brew twice as much beer. It took some time to dial in and that set us back a bit, and we had to try and keep up.
But we're always doing fun things—last week we had gin barrel-aged rye caisson, which was one of our fun experiments. This week we have a bourbon barrel-aged winter ale, just for fun. We also just produced a sour beer and lately we've been focusing on our Imperial IPA, which just came out in cans.
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