Sometimes I wonder if Seattle really needs more breweries. It’s not as if we lack for great beer options. From the longstanding stalwarts at Hale’s, Pike, Georgetown, and Maritime Pacific (among others) to more recent standouts like Two Beers, Epic Ales, and Hilliard’s (again, among others), the scene is crowded. Yet Seattleites seem to have a nearly unslakable thirst for suds, and Fremont Brewing is doing all the right things to hook them.
The draw starts with their storefront, pitched as an urban beer garden that functions as a hybrid bar/filling station/picnic locale. Extending outside in more clement weather, it offers a chance to hang out with fellow beer lovers, sample some of Fremont’s more exotic offerings, and bask in the sunshine. In this colder weather, the space feels a bit airy, but the abundance of taps, cans, and growlers at the ready means you can easily find a way to warm up.
Of course, to stand out in an incredibly crowded market, you’ve got to have a few unique offerings. To my taste buds, the best and most interesting beer Fremont offers is their barrel-aged Abominable Ale. After aging beers for a year or two in used bourbon casks, they blend them to create a rich, flavorful ale that hints at sweetness without being overly cloying. That’s a winning flavor for me this time of year: I appreciate a rich winter warmer, but too much chocolate or caramel tends to ruin the experience for me. Fremont hits that sweet spot just right.
Similarly, their other seasonal offering, Bonfire Ale, seems to hew closely to the idea that a winter beer can be flavorful without being overly saccharine. Falling somewhere between an amber and a more classic winter ale, it reminds me of the chestnut soup my aunt makes (the recipe of which she’ll never reveal to me).
That isn’t to say that all Fremont Brewing can handle are holiday beers. The beers they have available year-round are more than just your standard pilsner/amber/IPA/porter lineup. (Though naturally they have an IPA; this is Seattle.) But they also produce an oatmeal stout and an unfiltered wheat beer.
Still, the stars of the show are the small-scale seasonal beers and the special projects. Whether that barrel-aged Abominable Ale or a batch so small that it only gets poured at the storefront, Fremont is helping push the frontiers for beer. That dynamic, inventive spirit is very Seattle—and something we should expect from the local brewing, distilling, and winemaking community. We spent decades drinking mass-produced, imagination-free booze, and I never want to go back to those days.