Matt Lincecum poured for Fremont Brewing

Anniversary Post: When Fremont Brewing Was a Cardboard Box

This is another in our series of anniversary posts celebrating five years of the Washington Beer Blog. These posts are intended to take you for a spin in the Beer Blog Time Machine. Today, Fremont Brewing is one of the city’s most popular breweries, as evidenced by the recent contest we ran, but it was just a few short years ago that Fremont Brewing was nothing but an empty space and a cardboard box (as pictured below).

When I first visited the place that would become Fremont Brewing, in February of 2009, I met Matt Lincecum. To be honest, he seemed an unlikely candidate to become a brewery owner, especially back in those days. Read that to mean, he had no beard. Matt is a very smart fella and often speaks in clever analogies and thick sarcasm that is sometime two or three layers deep. Read that to mean, I immediately liked Matt.   

Like pretty much every brewery, there were delays that pushed schedules beyond promised opening dates, but eventually the world was gifted with Fremont Brewing. Consider this a sneak preview of something that will soon appear in print. Let’s just say that it will soon appear in a national publication that is a well-known advocate for beer. I wrote this recently about Fremont Brewing: “The sometimes quirky, slightly eccentric neighborhood of Fremont refers to itself as the center of the Universe. If true, take comfort in knowing that all celestial existence revolves around an outstanding brewery.”

Here’s the story I originally published in February 2009.

A Visit to Fremont Brewing
February 23, 2009

Seattle is about to get a new brewery. Fremont Brewing Company is currently under construction. The plan is to start delivering product in April.

The location is primo. For now, we will just say that it is very close to some notable landmarks, like Gasworks Park and the Pacific Inn Pub. The tasting room will have a view of Lake Union and Mount Rainier. We will certainly share all the details when they are ready to open. For now, let’s leave them alone so they can finish building the brewery. Visit them online at

Fremont Brewing seems to get it. They will produce a flagship beer—a pale ale. They will also produce an IPA because they recognize that everyone has to have an IPA these days. Other styles will follow in time. The neighborhood of Fremont is often referred to as “the center of the Universe.” Thus, the name of the flagship beer will be Universale Pale Ale. Upon opening, their beers will only be available in kegs and growlers. You will be able to pick up growlers easily at the brewery’s tasting room.

This is what the brewery/tasting room will look like from the street (its a cardboard mock up)
This is what the brewery/tasting room will look like from the street (it’s a cardboard mock up)

The other day I stopped by the soon-to-be brewery and spent some time with Matt Lincecum, the owner of Fremont Brewing.

He has an impressive resume. In short, he is an environmental activist turned attorney. While this might not seem like a typical portfolio for a person about to open a brewery, the details of his resume offer insight into this seemly strange career move. For example, Matt takes great pride in the fact that he was instrumental in creating laws prohibiting commercial logging in King County’s watershed. Water, after all, is a key ingredient in beer. As an attorney, Matt worked with beer, wine, and liquor companies, representing his clients in a number of different ways.

Not too long ago, Matt decided that he had to make a choice. Either he would continue his increasingly busy career as an attorney or he would change directions and pursue a career as a husband and father. It was not a tough choice.

Matt had long been a home brewer with a hobby threatening to turn into a profession, so he decided to make the leap. “Working as an attorney with clients in the brewing industry, it suddenly occurred to me that I was on the wrong side of the desk,” Matt says. “I wanted my kids to know their dad and I wanted to keep my wife, so something had to change.”

Fremont Brewing is planning to pursue certification as an organic brewery. “We will be environmentally friendly, and we will always work towards sustainability,” Matt says, “but we won’t promote ourselves as being organic. We won’t be organic just so we can say we’re organic.”

“What’s most important is to make great beer,” Matt says. “If I can make the best beer using organic grain from British Columbia instead of the Midwest, that’s what I’ll do. In fact, that is what we intend to do; however, it doesn’t make sense to use organic hops if they have to be shipped here from New Zealand. We’ve been talking with an organic farmer near Yakima about growing organic hops. We’ll see where that leads. If he can do it successfully, we’ll buy everything he grows.”

Clearly, the subject of sustainability is something to which he has dedicated a great deal of thought. His opinions are intelligent, refreshing and practical. He is right. You are not going to save the world by shipping hops from New Zealand to Washington. We grow hops here, thank you.

The space they have in Fremont is large. So large, in fact, that they will be leasing out space to another tenant—an alternative energy company that will use Fremont Brewing’s spent grain to create methane, which in turn will be used to create energy. This is just one example of the ways in which Matt intends to use Fremont Brewing as a model business when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability. He envisions the electrical meter spinning backwards as he pumps out great beer.

Cheers to that.

One last thing for all of you baseball fans out there – no, Matt Lincecum is not related to Tim Lincecum.

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