Imagine the life of George Harrison at the height of Beatlemania. He wrote transcendent songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something.” And he played iconic guitar solos on a number of Beatles songs. In any other band in the known universe, Harrison would have been the lead singer, songwriter, guitarist and golden god. In the Beatles, he was simply ‘the quiet one.’
Tod Mott, master brewer and founder of Tributary Brewing in Kittery, has been the George Harrison of New England brewing since well before this beer writer was old enough to legally toss back his first pint. Mott is brewing royalty in these parts, but he has spent a career crafting award-winning brews for other companies. But now, armed with a room of shiny stainless steel brew tanks and two decades of brewing prowess, this brewing legend is going solo.
Let’s review Mr. Mott’s brewing oeuvre, shall we?
In 1990, he got his start apprenticing at the now mythical Catamount Brewing Company in Vermont. He landed a job at Harpoon in 1991, where he became obsessed with hops. That’s when he came up with the formula for Harpoon IPA. That’s right, Harpoon IPA is Mott’s brainchild. In the early ’90s this beer was revolutionary. In our current post-millennial glut of atomic IPAs we might forget that back then there was no East Coast IPA that came close to Mott’s Harpoon IPA.
Following his tenure at Harpoon, Mott had a five-year stint at Commonwealth Brewing in Massachusetts, before Portsmouth Brewing Company came calling. It was during his time in Portsmouth that Mott concocted Kate the Great, a Russian imperial stout that BeerAdvocate dubbed the best beer in America and the second best beer in the world.
After years of playing lead brewer for other people, Mott is going solo.
It’s a rainy day in October when I drive down I-95 to visit Tributary Brewing. When I get out of my truck outside a building that looks like a strip mall, I take a deep breath; the air smells like bread. It’s a brew day.
Inside, the Kittery tasting room is a big open space with a couple leather chairs, some picnic tables, a small bar and an obligatory brewery dog. It’s cozy and inviting. I belly up to the bar and order a flight of what’s on tap: Pumpkin Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Pale Ale and an IPA. When the 4-ounce tasting glasses are placed in front of me, I’m electric with the brewing virility I’m in the midst of.
The Pumpkin Ale is a full-bodied pumpkin beer that has a nice spice balance. The Oatmeal Stout has a wonderful smoky aroma and a beautiful chocolate finish. The IPA has a complex flavor profile, and a citrus, pine finish.
Those three are delicious, but the Pale Ale makes me weak in the knees. The aroma coming off this beer is fresh pineapple and mango. I spend a few moments just smelling this brew. The flavor is so bright and crisp, that I’m astounded. I know I shouldn’t be, it’s made by Tod Mott for God’s sake, but still — it’s that good. The finish is a subtle pine. I cannot wait until it is distributed up and down this state.
As Tod Mott crafts his first solo project, ‘the quiet one’ of New England brewing is about to make a loud noise.
WHAT: Tributary Brewing Company
WHERE: 10 Shapleigh Road, Kittery
HOURS: Noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
ON TAP: Pumpkin Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Biere de Garde and Pale Ale
NEWBURYPORT FALL BEER FEST
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Nichols Hall, 9 Harris St., Newburyport, Massachusetts
Why: If you wake up Saturday morning after having attended the last event of Portland Beer Week and find that you’re not ready to let go of the brewing dream, then get in your car and make the hour drive south to Newburyport for its Fall Beer Fest. You’ll get plenty of samples of New England brews, including some Massachusetts favorites.
DO IT FOR DANIELLE NIGHT
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Sebago Brewing Company, 201 Southborough Drive, Scarborough
Why: Sebago Brewing Company has long been a great place to work if you want to be part of the local brewing industry. So it’s no surprise that Sebago is hosting an event to raise money for a long-time former employee who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. There will be beer specials and a silent auction.