Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tributary Brewing

It seems like every week, another small brewery opens. Often times it's a journeyman assistant brewer or cellar man striking out on their own after a couple of years service in a small local or regional brewery. Their brewing education and experience can be wide ranging. There are even many who have opened or are opening breweries who have no formal training or experience beyond home brewing! Talk about a land of opportunity!

Front entrance.
But when the Tributary Brewing Company, a 15 barrel production brewery in Kittery, Maine, opened in September of 2014, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that this was destined to be one of the best small breweries in operation. Anywhere. The brewer/owner of Tributary is none other than Tod Mott, whose credibility, reputation, skill, and knowledge are beyond reproach. Tod was on the scene for the first big craft beer surge in the early 90s, and he's been one of the most important forces driving the quality of craft beer on the East Coast ever since.

In Sept. of 1990 Tod started a brewing apprenticeship at Vermont's Catamount, along side another New England brewing legend, Paul Sayler, who is currently at Gravity Brewing in Burlington, VT. His first full-time paid brewing job followed in 1991 at the Harpoon Brewery, then a fledgling operation. It was during his two year stint there that Tod developed Harpoon IPA, essentially planting the IPA flag on the East Coast at a time when it was only flying out west.
Olde Ale, Solstice Saison, IPA, and Oatmeal Stout.
Mr. Mott continued to journey through the New England brewing world, leading production at Commonwealth Brewing in Boston for about six years, and while there hiring former fellow Catamount brewer Paul Sayler to be head brewer at Commonwealth's expansion at 10 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. Tod also did some brew time at Back Bay Brewing (Boston), Quincy Ships (Quincy, MA), and The Tap (Haverhill, MA), before landing at the Portsmouth Brewery for an 8 1/2 year tour of duty.

Heads up!
We first met Tod at the Portsmouth Brewery for an interview in 2011 and our antiquated MiniDisc recorder failed us (thanks to that, we got a much better recorder). Even if we didn't get to record it, it was an honor and pleasure to talk about beer with Tod, and learn about his great work at the Portsmouth Brewery. It was there where he reprised a recipe for a Russian Imperial Stout once called Boston Strangler Stout from his days at Back Bay Brewing. People tended to choke on that name, so it was rechristened Kate the Great!

When Tod finally got his own brewery, after almost a quarter-century of commercial brewing, he knew that he'd finally have the opportunity to brew and age his prized 12% ABV stout in the proper fashion. The Portsmouth Brewery, though with all its charms, was severely lacking in space. He had to be creative to attain the rich barrel aged characteristics of the beer -- without barrels. But the latest incarnation of the highly acclaimed beer, now known as Mott the Lesser, will enjoy a lengthly aging in actual oak barrels. One version will rest in former Pinot Noir barrels infused with port. Another is an apple brandy barrel infused with apple brandy. And a third is a Woodford Reserve bourbon barrel which is infused with Jamaican rum. He's still looking for one more barrel in which to age the rich stout -- an Islay whisky barrel. Another benefit of a bigger brewery for this beer is that he'll release it not once a year, as was done at the Portsmouth Brewery, but twice -- in April and October.

When asked about the name of the brewery, it turns out that Tod's partner Galen came up with the name while the two were rafting in the Colorado River. She also gave the brewery it's motto: "One tributary leads to another", which certainly has been the case with Tod's brewing career.

We sampled all four of the brews on tap during our visit, plus a special bottle of a barrel aged version of the Olde Ale. The Olde Ale was brewed with a very special and rare heritage malt, Chevalier Malt. Only 4 metric tons of it were made by Crisp Malting for just four select US breweries. But when one of those lucky brewer's (Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery) couldn't fit it into his busy brewing schedule, an opportunity arose for Mott to get some. Lucky for Tod he has malty friends in strategic places!

All of the Tributary beers were incredibly well made, full flavored, had fantastic aromas, and above all things were balanced. Balance is the first thing that comes to mind when tasting his IPA. It's no surprise that Tributary ranks #6 of the best new breweries of 2015 by the Rate Beer website, worldwide! Listen to the podcast for more on Tod, Tributary, and what may be trickling in from tributaries yet to be explored!
Bob, Galen, Tod, and B.R.
Tod is always happy to chat with patrons.
Growlers to go.
Tasting room.
Crazy looks from Billy, one of two brewery dogs.

Katie, named for The Great. That's her heard howling on the podcast!

15 barrel brewhouse.

CO2 blow off.


Mott the Lesser's chart.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Oxbow Beer Part 3 of 3

The coolship.
Part 3 of 3 of our interview with Tim of Oxbow Beer begins with discussion of their 7 barrel coolship. A coolship is a shallow vessel used to cool down the unfermented wort directly after the boil. The shallow container allows for a large surface area, exposing the cooling beer to the air, not only to chill it faster, but also to innoculate it with all the wonderful micro organisms floating about! There is wild yeast and a host of bacterium in every breath you breath, and those little creatures are responsible for turning sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Oxbow made one beer with this coolship/wild fermentation method in 2014 and three more in 2015. They rely entirely on the natural microflora (basically, yeast and bacteria) from the open air, and also whatever survives in the aging barrels that the beer goes into. They don't add any cultured yeast at all. See more photos of the brewery, the Portland Blending and Bottling plant, and hear the other installments of the Oxbow podcast here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oxbow Beer Part 2 of 3

Part 2 of 3 of our interview with Tim of Oxbow Beer focuses on the two Oxbow locations -- the brewery in Newcastle, Maine, and the Blending and Bottling facility in downtown Portland, Maine, and how the beer travels the roughly 50 miles between the two. Also, the unique water that Oxbow uses is discussed. The photos here are of the Portland facility. See more photos of the brewery and hear the other installments of the Oxbow podcast here.

Bob, Tim, and B.R. at the Oxbow Portland tasting room.

Greg, head of sales, and Ben.

Bartender Tom.

B.R. and Tim check out the conditioning room.

Oxbow is down the alley, in the back.