Portsmouth brewer’s possible move stirs up beer lovers

Updated July 13, 2012 at 3:45 p.m.The Portsmouth Brewery has confirmed that Tod Mott, its head brewer, will leave his post on July 19, that he will take his famous imperial stout with him and that he has plans to brew it again — but not under the “Kate the Great” name. Mott plans to brew the beer again but it will have a different name, because he owns the stout’s recipe but not the “Kate the Great” name or brand, the brewery said in a release.For fans of the stout, that could mean that the beer may actually be easier to get their mouths on.Mott brought the recipe for the famous, dark imperial stout with him to the Portsmouth Brewery from a previous brewpub where he had worked, and it quickly “became one of the most sought-after beers in the world, thanks to rabid interest from the online craft beer community,” said the brewery.But while the recipe was Mott’s, it was the brewery staff that built the “Kate the Great” brand into the large release event that it became, with gubernatiorial proclamations, custom-printed scratch tickets and tens of thousands of dollars in donations to local nonprofits, it said.”Tod came into Portsmouth Brewery with the imperial stout recipe and he’ll also leave with it; Portsmouth Brewery retains the rights to the intellectual property known as ‘Kate the Great,’ including the name and branding,” said the release. “Tod has plans to brew this beloved beer again, it’ll just have a different name.” Whether there will still be a “Kate the Great” Day at the brewpub is still not entirely clear.”At the time of writing this release, future plans for “Kate the Great” have yet to be decided by Portsmouth Brewery.”Tyler Jones, who was the brewpub’s assistant brewer for four years before taking a position at Smuttynose Brewing, will take over as head brewer.Mott’s last day will be Thursday, July 19 and will include a toast and torch-passing ceremony.”The entire family of Portsmouth Brewery would like to thank Tod heartily for eight-and-a-half years of service, countless laughs and millions of delicious pints,” said the brewery. “We wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”***********************Is Tod Mott, head brewer at the Portsmouth Brewery, leaving his post and taking the legendary Kate the Great with him?Rumors of Mott’s potential departure from the Market Street brewery has set off a flurry of posts in a thread on Beer Advocate, a website for craft beer devotees, who conjectured about his future with the 21-year-old brewpub.Todd Alström, one of the website’s founders, wrote in a post in the early hours of Wednesday morning that he had reached out to Mott, who “confirmed that he’s indeed leaving, but doing so on good terms with Peter (Egelston) and the rest of the Portsmouth Brewery crew and staying on until however long it takes to transition his role over to a new brewer.”And, he added, “The upside is that he’s looking into starting his own brewery in southern Maine and retains the rights to Kate the Great.”Calls to Mott at the brewery, and to Egelston — owner of both the Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose Brewing Company — were unreturned by deadline.According to Mott’s biography on the brewery website, he joined the Portsmouth Brewery in 2003, more than a decade after kicking off his professional brewing career in 1990 as an apprentice at Catamount Brewing in Vermont. Before moving to the New Hampshire Seacoast, his resume included stints as head brewer at several Massachusetts breweries — Harpoon Brewery, Commonwealth Brewing Co., Back Bay Brewing, Quincy Ships Brewing Co. and the Tap in Haverhill.He has brewed a range of beers during his time at the Portsmouth Brewery, none more famous than a Russian Imperial stout he concocted named Kate the Great.The beer became a local legend when, in 2006, Beer Advocate Magazine named it the best beer in America and the second-best beer in the world. The stout is sold just one day a year — known as Kate the Great Day and held the first Monday of March — which annually transforms the brewery into a mecca for craft beer fanatics, many of whom camp out outside the brewery on the eve of its tapping.Weeks in advance, a beer lottery is held, and scratch tickets are sold just to give purchasers a chance of being able to purchase a bottle of the beer.There were just 420 gallons of Kate available on Kate Day 2012, held March 5. There were 15,000 scratch tickets sold at $2 apiece in advance of the day. The keg was tapped in just over seven hours.What Mott’s departure would mean for the fate of Kate the Great Day is not clear. But on its website, the brewery said that the 2013 Kate the Great Day has already been set for Monday, March 4.On the Beer Advocate forum, user FrankLloydMike wrote that Mott and Portsmouth brewery are basically “synonymous,” adding that “he’s easily one of the best brewers in New England, and as far as I know his stint at Portsmouth is fairly unusually long for a non-owner brewer.” — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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