When the sun starts shining and the misty gray feeling we’ve had for the past six months starts to dissipate, sophisticated Seattle beer drinkers know to look for one thing: the bright-orange tap handle. Here’s how it will go down: You’ll walk in, hear the buzz of people talking all around you, a favorite song playing overhead, and then you’ll see it like a beacon in a storm: Fremont Summer Ale!
The seasonal favorite is back, in cans, bottles, and kegs. The summer ale, which clocks in at 5.2 percent ABV and tastes like a tangerine had a three-way with a ray of light and a babbling brook, is a simple beer, says Fremont Brewing founder Matt Lincecum, but it’s also complex and complicated.
The beer, available in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, comprises just four ingredients: water, grain, yeast, and Amarillo hops. And it is this nakedness, if you will, that creates its crisp, clean taste. It also presents a challenge as brewers attempt to maintain perfection. “When you have beers where you’re blending three or four hops, you can blend for more consistent flavors, but when you’re just working with one hop, you have to be really precise,” Lincecum says. “If it’s not harvested right or the weather conditions were too hot or too dry, it will affect the beer. So every year, it’s honestly a little bit different—which is why, as brewers, we think it’s such a fun beer.”
Lincecum adds that he and the Fremont brewers have established close relationships with the growers of their Amarillo hops, and it’s that trust that aids the high quality as well as the popularity of the golden-colored ale. “It sells really crazy well,” Lincecum chuckles. But why? “For me as a beer drinker, I think it hits that really sweet spot: It’s refreshing and engaging.”
The summer ale has been a staple at the brewery since 2010. It was one of the first seasonals, along with their Abominable Winter Ale, that Fremont Brewing attempted after selling its first keg in 2009. And it only seems to be growing in popularity, with orange cans and bottles popping up all over. The beer will be available throughout the summer—until about August 31, Fremont says. Then production will stop and months will have to pass until you can seek out the bright-orange tap handle again.