Welcome back to Sip Northwest’s Beer Hall of Fame: a twice-monthly induction into a list of essential Northwest beers that have made their mark on the field and region.
While it seems like Fremont Brewing has been around selling pints for decades, the family-owned company popped up in just 2009. It didn’t take long for the brewery to rise to prominence, eventually selling boatloads of their Summer and Bonfire ales, among others. But the business truly began with one beer, and it’s this brew we’ve chosen to induct into our Beer Hall of Fame: Fremont’s Universal pale ale.
Fremont’s signature pale, born of a homebrew recipe from Fremont founder, Matt Lincecum, before the brewery opened, is light and fluffy. Made with 2-Row grains and a touch of white wheat, the soft and supremely palatable ale is brightened and sharpened by Citra and Simcoe hops. In an era when so many craft beer drinkers sit down at their local joint and look for an IPA, the Universal pale is a gentler choice and, if ordered, can afford a thirsty quaffer an extra glass before cashing out (it only clock in at 5.6 percent ABV).
“The recipe was around even before I started,” recalls Matt Lincoln, Fremont’s first head brewer and director of brewing operations. “The first test batch was in the spring or early summer of 2009. And it was the only beer we had for probably three or four months.”
Fremont, which opened its doors with only two brew tanks and the pale ale for sale, has grown its footprint to include a beautiful taproom and beer garden in the brewery’s namesake Seattle neighborhood, and recently expanded brewing operation into a gleaming, giant location in Ballard a few miles from where it originated. And while the Universal pale, which once made up all the sales and now makes up about 10 percent of them, maintains its signature balance despite going through some tinkering over the last eight years.
“The aroma of Universal is really nice,” Lincoln says. “It has a nice malt character to it, but it’s not overwhelming. There’s a little bit of toast in the nose, too. Light, citrus orange with a little bit of pineyness to it. And all that transfers to the flavor of the beer. Really, it’s kind of a lighter pale ale. It’s very balanced and it doesn’t sit too heavy on the palate.”
Cheers to you, Fremont Brewing, and to the Universal pale ale.
For the full details on how a beer is inducted into Sip Northwest’s BHOF, click here.