Fremont Brewing Embarks on Multi-Million Dollar Expansion

Fremont Brewing founder Matt Lincecum likens his company’s own creation narrative to the story of Stone Soup.

As the old folktale goes, a hungry traveler possessing nothing but a small pebble convinces a group of villagers to provide all of the essential ingredients, including the pot, needed to make a delicious soup.

In the Fremont version of the story, Lincecum – a thirsty entrepreneur with just $10,000 in the bank – sets out convince a well-known real estate developer to lease space to his startup craft brewery in the middle of a recession.

It works. Now holding the keys to an empty warehouse, Lincecum starts looking for investors who will fill his new space with brewing equipment and all the ingredients needed to make a delicious batch of beer.

He succeeds and nine months later, in August of 2009, Fremont Brewing kegs its first beer.

Five years later, the company is now regarded as one of the best craft breweries in Seattle and expanding as a result. Through Aug. 5, Fremont’s Interurban IPA is the 12th best-selling U.S. craft beer in a can, according IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

But this time around, Lincecum has more than $10,000 to play with and can also show his local bank some positive sales trends, which means he’ll be able to access a multi-million dollar loan.

“Honestly, we feel extremely fortunate to receive this much support from the market,” he told Brewbound. “We are truly humbled by this. It is not something we take for granted and we are truly grateful to be in this position.”

That position is one where Fremont, which this year will brew about 20,000 barrels of beer out of its 8,000 sq. ft. facility, can grow into an 80,000 sq. ft. brewery that will eventually be capable of churning out 250,000 barrels of beer annually.

“It sounds like a lot right now,” said Lincecum. “But is that a lot if we [craft brewers] continue to gain market share? Maybe 250,000 barrels isn’t a lot in 10 years.”

Fremont plans to dedicate about 60,000 sq. ft. of the space to brewing, fermenting and packaging. The additional 20,000 sq. ft. will be used for office space, Lincecum said.

Initial production capacity at the new facility, which is located at 4700 Ninth Ave NW in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, will be 60,000 barrels. The company is looking to install an 80-barrel, four-vessel brewhouse as well as bottling, canning and kegging lines, Lincecum said.

“You want to buy and build a place that allows you to grow into it,” he said. “I don’t want to have to look back in five or 10 years and feel like I have to do this all over again.”

The good news for Lincecum is that he won’t need to move brewing operations for quite some time. Fremont Brewing will eventually own the property as part of a lease-to-buy arrangement with Fremont Dock Co., which owns the space the company is currently brewing in and recently purchased the Ninth Ave. property where its moving, for $10.25 million.

Fremont Brewing plans to move the bulk of its brewing operations to the new space next fall and hire as many as 40 new full-time employees. The expansion will cost upwards of $8 million and is being financed through a combination of cash flow and bank debt, Lincecum said.