Brewery Name: Tributary Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: Kittery, ME
Growlers: So many growlers. Tributary doesn’t can or bottle their beer and doesn’t distribute, so growlers are their specialty. They have a well-stocked fridge full of growlers.
The Beers: I’ve been to Tributary just twice, both times for the same beer: Mott the Lesser. For those unaware of the backstory, Tributary is the brainchild of Tod Mott, the former brewmaster at the more well-known Portsmouth Brewing Company and creator of the world-famous Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout (once named by BeerAdvocate as the best beer in the world). When he decided to strike out on his own in 2014, Mott took his famous Kate the Great recipe and began brewing it again, under a new, cheekier name: Mott the Lesser. Mott the Lesser is typically released just twice a year, and beer lovers travel from far and wide to acquire it. Despite a purchase limit of just two bottles per person, people often camp out for hours before the brewery opens just to ensure that they get a taste.
Vibe: If you’re traveling far for a chance to purchase a beer as rare as Mott the Lesser, it’s understandable that you would want to get there as early as possible to ensure that you don’t miss out. If you live just across the river from the brewery (like I do), you learn a trick or two. Thanks to the low bottle limit, bottles of Mott the Lesser are usually available for many hours after the brewery opens. Rather than show up at 10am and wait for hours, I walked in around 2:30 and waited in line for barely an hour before waltzing through the door, collecting my bottles, and enjoying a glass of that sweet nectar on draft. It’s hard to judge a brewery solely based on a major release, but in the case of Tributary, I think you can. Tod Mott himself (seen above) was often working the crowd, making his way through the line and talking to people about the brewery and the beer. The crowd was friendly and lively, and the smell of wood-fired pizzas baking just across the parking lot was incredible. Even though it was a gloomy day, the wait in line wasn’t bad at all--in fact, it was almost fun. Once you get inside, you can see that Tributary knows what they’re doing. The tasting room isn’t huge, but they make the most of the space they have, with a small bar, picnic tables, and a few stools and tables scattered about. There are almost always dogs around, and with a regular slate of live music scheduled, there’s usually something fun going on. They keep their fridge well-stocked with growlers, and you can buy shirts, glassware, and other goodies near the entrance. You can see the gleaming vats of the brewing area through a set of doors next to the bar, reminding you that you’re just feet away from where the magic happens.
Dogs: Usually, yes. On Mott the Lesser release days, guests are asked to leave pets at home.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$$. I rate Tributary a little on the pricey side primarily because they don’t can or bottle their beer (except for Mott the Lesser, which comes in at a hefty $16 per bottle). That means that if you’re looking to walk out with beer, it will have to be in growler form. That said, their beers on tap are priced pretty standard, and they do sell mini-growlers for those just looking for slightly more inexpensive taste.
Food: They don’t serve food in the tasting room, but you are welcome to bring your own from other establishments. On major release days (like the one I went to), local restaurants will often set up shop outside and sell pizzas and other treats to those waiting in line.
Brewery Rating: 9/10. The vibe is great and the beer is tremendous. If there was just a little more space inside it would be a 10/10. I wish they would set up a separate line for those just looking to purchase bottles during Mott the Lesser releases, as it can take a while for people to filter in and out of the tasting room, but that’s a minor complaint that applies to just two days out of the year. Tributary is a fantastic place to visit, with a friendly staff and a head brewer who is always happy to interact with guests.
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