Matt Lincecum opened Fremont Brewing as a modest endeavor in 2009 with strong ideals and the simple goal to make good beer, and to serve that beer to the Seattle community. It has since grown into one of the most awarded and recognized breweries in the Pacific Northwest with a number of its beers becoming extremely sought after worldwide. I had the pleasure of exchanging a couple emails with Matt, and the following is a transcript from those exchanges. Matt’s words are in bold.

 

Tim,

Although I will accept the “You’re late as shit” award…I’ve answered these questions extensively and “mostly” honestly 🙂

Where did you get your start in brewing and what were your early inspirations to make beer?

I STARTED AS A HOMEBREWER WITH CHARLIE PAPAZIAN’S “THE COMPLETE JOY OF HOMEBREWING” IN 1994. MY BROTHER CAME OUT TO SEATTLE TO VISIT ME AND BOUGHT A COMPLETE HOMEBREW SETUP FROM CHARLES AND ROSE ANN FINKEL AT PIKE BREWING WHEN THEY RAN THE LEGENDARY LIBERTY MALT SUPPLY IN THE PIKE PLACE MARKET. I BREWED AT HOME FOR 15 YEARS BEFORE I STARTED FREMONT AND THEN JUMPED IN DEEP TO COMMERCIAL BREWING.

MY EARLY INSPIRATIONS IN BEER WERE 1. SHINER BOCK (I’M A TEXAN AFTER ALL); 2. LIBERTY ALE FROM ANCHOR STEAM; AND PETE’S WICKED ALE’S WINTER ALE BECAUSE HE ALWAYS HAD A HOMEBREW COMPETITION FOR WHO WOULD GET TO BREW THAT YEAR’S BEER. HONORABLE MENTION GOES TO ANCHOR STEAM’S HOLIDAY CLASSIC “OUR SPECIAL ALE”, OF COURSE.

When you started Fremont, what were the initial goals?

PAY THE MORTGAGE, MAKE GREAT BEER.

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Fremont taproom in Seattle, Earth

Did you imagine growing to the size you are today?

LET’S SAY I PLANNED FOR THE POSSIBILITY BUT I WAS TOO BUSY BUILDING AND BREWING TO SPEND TOO MUCH TIME THINKING ABOUT WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO BE HERE.

How much growth do you foresee and desire?

IF WE COULD STAY AT THIS SIZE FOREVER, I WOULD LOVE THAT. UNFORTUNATELY, I’M NOT SURE THIS CRAZY WORLD WORKS THAT WAY SO I’LL LEAVE THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION LIKE THIS: I’D LIKE TO CONTINUE TO GROW THE BREWERY SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO DOUBLE DOWN ON RAISING OUR INDUSTRY-LEADING WAGES AND BENEFITS AND FOCUS ON MAKING THE BEST, MOST CREATIVE BEER WE CAN. I DON’T WANT TO GET SO LARGE THAT WE HAVE TO SPEND ALL OUR TIME MAKING “PRODUCTS” AND HITTING “SALES GOALS”…THAT SAID, IT’S PRETTY SWEET TO NOT BE BROKE ALL THE TIME.

Your barrel-aged strong ale series has developed a big following, and deservedly so. When did you start your bourbon barrel program?

THANK YOU. 2010.

How much trial and error was involved?

NOT TOO MUCH. I WAS PRETTY CLEAR ON THE GOALS AND KNEW WHAT I WANTED TO MAKE FOR OUR BARREL PROGRAM. I ALSO APPROACHED OUR BEERS INCREMENTALLY. FOR EXAMPLE, THE FIRST EVER RELEASE, THE 2010 BOURBON ABOMINABLE (the old name){now called “B-Bomb”} WAS THE REGULAR ABOMINABLE ALE PUT INTO MY BARRELS AND AGED FOR A YEAR AND THEN BLENDED WITH SOME YOUNGER BOURBON ABOMINABLE. I DID NOT WANT TO MODIFY THE RECIPE THE FIRST YEAR BECAUSE WANTED THAT VARIABLE TO STAY CONSTANT WHILE I EVALUATED THE BARREL CHARACTERS. THE FOLLOWING YEAR, I MODIFIED THE RECIPE TO BETTER WITHSTAND THE BARREL-AGING PROCESS.

The beers seem to brewed specifically for barrel-aging.

INDEED, THEY ARE VERY SPECIFICALLY BREWED TO AGE IN THESE SPECIFIC BARRELS. THIS IS KEY TO MY PHILOSOPHY, ‘KNOW YOUR BARREL AND YOU WILL FIND YOUR BEER’.

What are some specifics on your process that lends them to be so
perfect for the barrel?

THAT’S A QUESTION BEST ANSWERED OVER A BEER…UNTIL THEN, I BREW FOR THE BARRELS AND FOR A 10-YEAR HORIZON.

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Bourbon barrel-aged beauties

I remember you mentioning Rochefort 10 as an inspiration for the quad you are aging in Scotch barrels for the Mr. B’s collaboration.

YES…MY DON QUIXOTE BEER…JUST ONCE, I’D LIKE TO BREW SOMETHING LIKE ROCHEFORT 10.

What about Rochefort 10 does it for you? I love that beer.

THE LONGEVITY, THE MATURITY OF THE MALT CHARACTER BALANCING ON EDGE WITH THE YEAST AROMATICS AND THE SLIGHT BUT CRITICAL TART TOUCH OF LACTO…AND THE DEPTH OF IT ALL. TRULY, A CONTEMPLATIVE BEER.

Can you tell us about the Mr. B’s collaboration beer that’s currently in barrels and how it’s tasting?

NOPE…THE BEER IS NOT YET READY TO SPEAK.

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Rochefort 10-inspired Belgian Quad aging in Scotch barrels

We received a limited amount of The Lamb. Please tell us about your wild beer program.

THE BLACK HERON PROJECT IS IN FULL SWING BUT WE’RE LAYING LOW UNTIL WE’RE SATISFIED THAT WE HAVE ENOUGH BEER TO OPEN AND MEET DEMAND….THESE BEERS TAKE A LONG TIME. WE HAVE A GREAT BREWER, JEREMY CZULEGER, WHO JUST JOINED US FROM BROUWERIJ WEST IN SAN PEDRO, CA AND HE WILL WORK WITH MATT LINCOLN AND I ON PRODUCTION AND RECIPES FOR THE NEXT WAVE OF BLACK HERON BEERS.

Do you foresee it becoming as big as your bourbon barrel beer program?

NO. I DON’T THINK THE MARKET IS THERE AND WE REALLY JUST WANT THESE BEERS TO STAY SMALL, FLOW WITH THE SEASONAL HARVEST HERE IN WASHINGTON STATE, FOCUS ON LOCALLY GROWN GRAINS AND TAKE THEIR TIME.

What is the inspiration for these beers, the process behind them, and how much does terroir play a part?

RESTLESS CURIOSITY AND A NEED TO MAKE MORE SAISONS THAN WE ARE CURRENTLY ABLE TO…MORE SAISONS. TERROIR IS EVERYTHING FROM THE MALT TO THE HOPS TO THE FRUIT AND THE WOOD.

Cheers,

Matt Lincecum

A big thank you to Matt for the thoughtful responses and for making the world a better place with good beer.

-Tim Jerding