People sometimes ask if I’m really this excited about all the Maine beers I cover. I look them dead in the eye and say, “Of course. How can I not be?”
It’s the golden age of beer, after all, and Maine is at the forefront of this renaissance.
For proof that Maine is helping to lead the way into the great brewing future, look no further than the beers that incite lines of hundreds people when released. Maine Beer Company’s Dinner, Bissell Brother’s Swish, and Allagash Brewing’s wild yeast beers all cause mild pandemonium upon release.
There’s another beer to add to this growing list of line-provoking Maine beers and, oh, is it good.
When Mott the Lesser, the Russian imperial stout from Tributary Brewing Co. in Kittery, was released for the fourth time this October, 800 thirsty people showed up to the microbrewery to acquire bottles.
The creative brainchild of Tod Mott, legendary brewer and Tributary co-owner, Mott the Lesser is a complex Russian imperial stout with subtle flavors that do no less than dazzle the palate.
You may be familiar with Mott the Lesser’s predecessor, Kate the Great. Mott brewed Kate the Great for Portsmouth Brewing Co. from 2008 to 2012 when he was head brewer. In 2012, Kate the Great was declared the best beer in America by BeerAdvocate. After starting Tributary in 2014, Mott, who retained the rights to his recipe, began brewing the Russian imperial stout under the name Mott the Lesser.
On a recent visit to Kittery, Mott explained the process for brewing his signature barrel-aged stout.
“I’ve played with the recipe a little. I age the beer in four different barrels now to achieve the flavor I’m looking for. On this last run, I added an Islay whisky barrel,” Mott said.
After brewing the stout, the beer was divided into an apple brandy barrel, a port barrel, a Mount Gay rum barrel and the Islay whisky barrel for aging.
“The key to getting the balanced flavor I’m looking for is patience. We let the beer age for three months in barrels before we blend it back together,” Mott said.
As I sipped a velvety sample, Mott explained that this process allows him to only release Mott the Lesser twice a year, but it’s worth the wait to achieve the beer’s complexity and drinkability.
When I pop open a bottle at home, I’m struck by notes of currants and caramel and hints of apple brandy. This beer is evocative in aroma alone. It pours a silky black with a small head of foam. In the glass, I really get my nose in there and pick up hints of port, chocolate malts and whiskey. I swish the beer around my mouth and release a seemingly endless cornucopia of flavor: caramel, licorice, raisins, vanilla, oak. My mouth is left with a syrupy coating, letting the flavors dance and linger over my tongue.
“New flavors will come out in the beer as it warms up,” Mott’s wife and brewery co-owner, Galen Mott, explained during my brewery visit.
Heeding her advice, I let my pour warm up towards room temperature, and suddenly I can taste more notes of whiskey, as well as toasted malts and port. Even as I take my last sip, new flavors continue to reveal themselves. This is a stunning beer.
At 10.5 percent alcohol, Mott the Lesser is deceptively drinkable. While some barrel-aged stouts taste overly boozy, this beer has smooth, mellow undertones of alcohol.
The next run of Tod Mott’s Russian imperial stout will be released next spring, but bottles from the October release are floating around the beer world. Track down a pour and you’ll see why, as the label says, “Sometimes Less is Great!”
WHO: Tributary Brewing Co.
WHERE: 10 Shapleigh Road, Kittery
ABV: 10.5 percent
TASTING NOTES: Deep complex notes of chocolate malts, whiskey, oak, vanilla, currants, caramel, port, roasted malts and brandy with a velvet mouth feel
NEXT RELEASE: Spring 2017
MORE INFO: www.tributarybrewingcompany.com