The Brewery is as of 2004, located just to the Northeast of Burton-upon-Trent and has revamped the range of beers it is now offering. Luckily, I was sent their range to write about and review, I was also intrigued as to how they have been relatively quiet in such a buzzing scene at the moment, so sent over a few questions to boot.
So, what about the beers?
Freedom Authentic Lager
A 4.0% straw coloured lager, hopped with challenger and first gold hops and carries a soft and gradually thin halo of froth. The aromas are very simple, with crisp biscuit malt driving the nose, with hints of more metallic notes becoming present. The flavours are a bit more substantial, with lighter and sweeter flavours coming into play first, when the palate gets a bit muddled between bitter and sweet gradually improving with the length; as with the nose, the malt drives things but there is a very light zestiness also present.
The mouthfeel is light and lively, leading to a crisp and bitter finish, remaining very balanced the whole time. This is the most visible Freedom beer, present in some bars and pubs and from previous drinking, it has been poorly looked after by many venues, but is a decent lager if looked after and served correctly.
King Koln (Freedom homage to Kolsch)
As ever, another straw to light gold coloured kolsch style beer (meaning its an ale rather than a lager) that carries a thin white head and weighs in at 5.0%.
The aromas are very lemony and carry a fair bit of citrus fruit, the cereal crispness that comes in is also quite inviting. The flavours are similar to the authentic lager, yet feel a little more refined and gentle, leading through to a dry and refreshing acidity and a crisp bitter finish that lingers for a while in the middle of the tongue and a little at the sides.
Light, efferverscent and virtually no residue, this is a very refreshing and competent effort.
Organic Helles (A sustainably brewed lager)
A very, very pale gold to straw coloured helles style lager, which Freedom are pretty brave to attempt - one of my personal favourites in this style is the Augustiner Brau, which is a nigh on perfect helles, as such this has a pretty high benchmark set for it! At 4.8%, this helles style lager pours in lively fashion and leaves a good level of white suds that thins in a few minutes.
The aromas are again, very citrussy and light, with plenty of lighter biscuity and floral notes, along with a very gentle soapy, almost herbal edge. The flavours are of light biscuits, lemon and cereal. With a thin, gentle and bubbly mouthfeel, this is also very refreshing and pleasantly dry in the finish, with a good level of acidity and light puckering on the tongue.
This attempt is crisp, clean and true to the style and although its not Augustiner, its no less enjoyable for it.
Boston Beech (American Red Ale)
A deep red to chestnut coloured ale with a thin and light chestnut coloured froth on top, this 4.7% ruddy offering is again a very malt driven proposition. The aromas are of metallic cereal and almost raisin or sultana fruit along with other red berry dried fruit, woody notes are also present. The flavours are woody, malty and slightly resinous along with the hum of the red berry fruit; there is also some interesting background noise of liquorice and deep toasted cereal.
The body is rounded, the mouthfeel very lively and the tongue and actually quite round in the mouth, leading through to a dry, bitter finish with plenty of wood and raisin.
I have been informed that this beer has now been discontinued by Freedom, which is a shame, as it is a pretty competent American Red with a bit of character and plenty of drinkable character. Apparently, according to the brewery it was more of a German Dunkel masquerading as an American Red, just make things a little more messed up.
Liberty Pils (Free Thinking Pilsner)
Another light golden lager which carries a fluffy white head with plenty of fizz upon pouring, although this gradually thins out within a short space of time. Hopped using Saaz and Centennial hops, this 4.4% pilsner style lager has aromas of toasted cereal, preserved lemons and some slight metallic and floral edges along with touches of richer citrus orange.
The flavours are of malt, lemons and have some lighter grassy and biscuit hints that come through, though the hopping doesn't seem to impart much richness here. The mouthfeel is fizzy and light, a little short on refreshment (low on acidity perhaps?) and the finish is a dry and bitter cereal experience which lingers for a good 15-20 seconds mid-tongue.
Probably works rather well with a curry.
East India Pale (India Pale Lager)
A change in gear for the colour palette here, with this IPA/lager hybrid coming out as a deep burnished amber colour that is 5.5%, strongly metallic and slightly sweet on the nose. The bittersweet malts, light florality and some honey make it a slightly more hop driven experience from the other beers of Freedom, but there feels like a lack of oomph.
The mouthfeel is great, very rounded, residual and puckering for a refreshing edge. The finish is dry, lingering and pinches at the sides of the tongue.
There are some interesting facets to this lager, the aromas do shift massively following the first mouthful. Perhaps a bit more hop character would provide a boost, but this is a very enjoyable beer as it is.
Hi Andy, good to hear from you again, thanks for doing this, let’s start of with an easy one… Do you not think the lager industry is one of the harder areas of the UK beer market to crack?
Absolutely but it is also one of the biggest markets! Just think of the number of pints of boring fizzy yellow stuff that are sold each year. It's great that a small percentage of the drinking population that have had their eyes opened to beer with flavour but let's open up the eyes of the mainstream. Joe Bloggs isn't going to leap from Fosters to Mikkeller; quality lager is the perfect step. Even hop heads keep coming back to a good Lager.
Do you ever sell outside the UK, given the boom some of the UK breweries have seen, especially with sales of 'craft' to Italy and Spain?
Part of my joining Freedom was to help focus on export. It is a great opportunity, but much like the UK it is mainly Pale Ale people want to drink (good job we have East India Pale Lager). This doesn't worry me much, as there is definitely a trend in people turning back to more sessionable accessible beer in the UK and if Europe follows suit this will only help us.
There is an obvious difference in size, ethic and brewing from the likes of Carling, but what is different in the way you produce and present your lagers compared to other UK brewers who do 'dabble' with making lagers?
To make a truly tasty, quality lager with real points of difference from the big boys isn’t too much of a challenge. Our head brewer is ex big beer and he brings all the great experience regarding quality standards to our brews. One of the big differences is that we actually get to 'lager' our beer properly, everything we produce we mature for a minimum of 4 weeks. With regard to some of the other brewers producing lagers, honestly.... I am convinced a number of 'lagers' out there are actually repackaged golden ales. There are 3 or 4 truly amazing Lagers from small producers (excluding ourselves at Freedom of course) that I really rate but that’s about it.
Has there ever been a temptation to push the boat out and brew more traditional British style ales given the staggering growth of the market and the popularity surrounding beer in the last decade or so?
The customer is always right and there are many different customers for us. Some want clean crisp, better levels of quality, whilst some want the tropical fruit and citrus hop bombs and finally, some want the traditional ale flavours. I would actually class our 4% beer as a traditional product, but feel it is in a different class in terms of quality. Freedom kicked off innovative, interesting, quality (and yes, hoppy) beers in 1995, so we will carry on what we started!
What's next for Freedom in terms of market presence?
This summer, one of the best bits of customer engagement you will ever see, you’ll have to stay tuned and look out for that! Add to that us relaunching an old classic, (our Soho Red) and one more big surprise that is to come in May; I know I am bias, but the trial brew we carried out was head and shoulders above the competition.
Hope you enjoyed, see you next time!
Many thanks to Andy Ahmad-Walsh for his time and to Freedom for sending their products across for review.
Tel: +44 (0) 1283 840 721