Tod Mott, Co-founder and Brewer, Tributary Brewing Co.
Tod Mott’s been waiting a long time to open his own shop. He started as an all-grain homebrewer in the late ’80s; after an internship at Catamount, he landed a gig with Harpoon, where he created the now-famous Harpoon IPA. But Mott wanted to be a pub brewer. In 2003, he joined Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire. On any given day at the brewpub, you could find Mott running up and down the ladder to the tank in the brewhouse. After over eight years (and the success of another world-famous beer, Kate the Great) at Portsmouth, Mott and his wife are opening Tributary Brewing Co., a 15-barrel brewery in Kittery, Maine. “With my wife, Galen, behind my decision,” Mott says, “I knew it was the right time and thing to do. We are in it together.”
What was your experience at Harpoon like?
I was asked to be the brewer’s hand when the lead brewer had an accident and needed the use of able-bodied hands, which his were not! So I played the brewer’s hands. Little did the brewer know I was gunning for his job. Within a few months, I had retained the lead brewer job. And having a year under my belt, I was asked to brew a seasonal beer. I chose an American Stout after having a love affair with Sierra Nevada Stout. The Stout was decent, but the Irishness of Southie was not having anything to do with an American-made Stout, and the Harpoon Stout only saw one season. The next beer I brought to the seasonal rotation was the Harpoon IPA in 1993. The style was reminiscent of Ballantine IPA. I thought New England needed a beer with some hops. I never had any idea how well received the beer would be, and how the style has led the way to one of the most enduring beer styles.
What was it like to watch Kate the Great blow up?
Watching the Kate the Great [phenomenon] was an amazing organic happening, which just grew out of the love for beer. … I will be brewing the next version of my Imperial Stout at Tributary … and we’ll be changing the name. The name belongs to Peter and Joanne who [marketed] KtG while I was at Portsmouth Brewery and directed the philanthropy for the money generated by the lottery tickets for the bottle sales. But I actually own the recipe.
How did you know it was time to leave Portsmouth?
My decision to leave P-Brewery was difficult because I had brought so much to the brewery, had such a great time brewing there and thoroughly enjoyed my fellow workers. I knew my time for starting my own brewery was starting to run down. If I didn’t get out soon, I would probably never do my own project.
What is it like to finally be able to open your own place?
The thrill of opening our own brewery is so intense that I often have trouble sleeping. There are a number of factors that keep me lying awake at night, but mostly it is the excitement of having one’s own company. The beer industry is a great place to bank our future on. … Having the autonomy to do it our way and being the decision makers will be a real pleasure.
What will you miss about working for someone else?
That it was not my dime! I am a very frugal person and don’t spend money unless I have to. I always had my employer’s best interest in mind. Now my employer will be me!
What have you learned during your career?
I … firmly believe there is always something to learn each day. Paying attention to detail and being honest is the way to go. Bullshit is just that. I have learned to see through the BS and can call someone on it. ■