In a report last week, the Puget Sound Business Journal casually mentioned that Fremont Brewing Company planned to open a facility in Ballard. WHAT? Hold your horses; this is not what it seems. That story offered few details, so today I share the information that matters to beer drinkers.
Indeed, Fremont Brewing does have plans in Ballard. Those plans are big. Very big. Production volume is hoped to reach as much as 100,000 barrels per year, more than 8 times the amount of beer Fremont Brewing produced in 2013.
Let’s start out by talking about what is NOT changing. The Urban Beer Garden will remain at its current location. If you have been by the UBG lately, you know that a beer garden expansion project is underway. Hopefully the new space will open by the end of summer. Otherwise, the location at the corner of Woodland Park Avenue and North 34th Street will remain unchanged.
Also, the existing brewery remains at its current location. The brewhouse, the fermentation tanks, and all the rest will be used to produce seasonal and other specialty beers. Compared to the forthcoming larger brewery, this will be the “small-batch” brewery.
There are no plans to open a tasting room at the new production-only facility. Fremont Brewing is quite happy with the way things are going at the Urban Beer Garden.
Located at 4700 9th Avenue North, Fremont Brewing’s new facility is just a block north of the original Redhook Brewery. The building is 80,000 square feet, with 20,000 square feet of office space. That equals 60,000 square feet of brewery space.
In this larger space, Fremont Brewing plans to install an 80-barrel brewhouse and ten 240-barrel fermentation tanks. Along with that, bottling and canning lines to keep up with production.
Matt Lincecum, the Owner at Fremont Brewing, hopes to brew something in the neighborhood of 80,000 barrels per year, and possibly as much as 100,000 barrels per year.* Right now, that would make Fremont Brewing the largest craft brewery in the state. Redhook is larger but does not qualify as a craft brewery according to the Brewers Association definition.
Lincecum is realistic about the timeframe. He estimates (hopes) to start brewing at the new facility in the winter of 2015-2016, more than a year away. He is also realistic in pointing out that details could change. Maybe they’ll have more than ten 240-barrel fermentation tanks. Whatever the case, this is exciting news and it is great to see a Washington brewery spreading its wings like this.
Flexing Creative Muscle
We’ve all witnessed the rapid growth of Fremont Brewing over the past five years. Currently, according to Lincecum, Fremont is the 12th best-selling craft beer in cans in the USA, which is amazing considering most of the brewery’s beer is only distributed in King County. Also, Fremont is the top selling craft beer at QFC stores in the Seattle area, and very likely sits atop similar lists at other stores as well.
Although sales are great, and nobody at Fremont Brewing complains about the popularity of Interurban IPA or Universale Pale Ale, meeting that kind of demand impinges the brewery’s ability to flex its creative muscle.
So this increase in production will allow Fremont Brewing to continue to increase distribution and expand into more markets, while also allowing the brewery to be more creative. And that’s the really exciting news for us beer aficionados. The new production brewery will free up the existing brewery to focus on seasonal beers and specialty beers.
For example, Lincecum recently told me about Fremont Brewing’s plans to introduce a new line of beers: a yet-to-be-named series of beers brewed using nothing but Washington-grown, organic ingredients. That is, organic grains and organic hops grown here in the evergreen state.
*Lincecum says that the plan is still too young to make a realistic estimate, but these are the numbers that seem within reach and which he hopes to achieve.