Founded in 2012 as the only brewery making traditional cask-conditioned British-style ales on the Peninsula or in the South Bay, Freewheel Brewing Co. has expanded its offerings beyond real ale while remaining true to its vision.
“Freewheel is a true community brewery and pub,” sales and marketing director Devin Roberts said of the operation, located at 3736 Florence St. in Redwood City. “We are unique in that we specialize in traditional real ale, but are more than that. We are part of the community, and are patterned after the traditional idea of a pub being an important part of people’s lives – the kind of place where you can meet with friends and family in a comfortable and welcoming environment.”
Head brewer Alisha Blue, one of the few female brewmasters in the Bay Area, was trained at the renowned Siebel Institute in Germany and worked at Rooster’s Brewing Co. in North Yorkshire, U.K., so she has knowledge of and experience with a wide range of beer styles.
“After living and brewing in England, it is refreshing and awesome to be part of a place that offers traditional cask ale and the local pub experience here in the Bay Area, along with the fact that we are a true independent brewery that sees and controls all aspects of the brewing process,” Blue said. “We are not only making traditional cask ale, but also brew other interesting and varied beers for keg and bottle.”
• Freewheel Special Bitter (FSB) is low in alcohol (4.7 percent alcohol by volume) but remarkably high in flavor for its strength, as is typical of the British bitters served in the U.K. FSB pours a rich copper color with a dense, long-lasting white head of foam from the hand pump, and features a well-balanced blend of earthy hop bitterness (the beer is 40 International Bitterness Units) and biscuity Maris Otter malt richness on both the aroma and the palate, with bright esters from Freewheel’s proprietary ale yeast strain suggesting ripe pears. FSB has a rich, creamy mouthfeel with tiny bubbles of natural carbonation, and the finish features a lingering malty smoothness.
• British golden ale is a newer style that marries the lightness of lager (4 percent ABV) with hoppiness more akin to an American pale ale. Freewheel’s Ironbridge Gold is a bright, clear golden color with a dense white head. The aroma showcases citrusy and floral hop notes, with a prominent malt character underlying. The bitterness level is moderate (30 IBU), and the hop flavor is surprisingly different from the hop aroma, with a deep earthy, woodsy quality. The malt is much more subdued on the palate than in the aroma, and the creamy, almost fluffy, mouthfeel leads to a smooth and well-balanced finish.
• Freewheel’s K9 Kölsch is straw colored with a low white head and a delicate aroma of pilsner malt and spicy noble hops. The initial impression on the first sip is a crisp, spicy bite of hop bitterness followed by light, clean malt, but with the hop bitterness (24 IBU) still present. The 5 percent ABV brew is easy drinking, with a light body and medium carbonation. The finish is dry and pleasant, integrating hop and malt qualities very well.
• Hogo Jamaican Stout suggests the smoothness, spiciness and sweetness of dark rum in both its aroma and flavor. The balance tips just a shade toward the sweet side with only 35 IBU in bitterness to offset the dark fruit esters of raisin and cherry, medium body, relatively low carbonation and 7 percent ABV. The beer is black in color with ruby highlights and a low eggshell-colored head. Dark grains provide a hint of chocolate, but the roast character is very restrained compared with traditional stouts from the U.K. Pleasantly sweet but not cloying in the finish, Hogo is a beer I hope becomes a regular offering.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.