Seacoast Breweries bracket has a formidable final four: Vote here

·7 min read

Peter Egelston will be the first one to tell you that he has not kept tabs on a March Madness bracket since he was a kid growing up in Southern California watching the Bill Walton and John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins effortlessly reach one NCAA men's basketball Final Four after the next.

When it comes to this year’s Seacoast Breweries Bracket, however, it’s fair to say that Egelston has more than just a rooting interest.

Not only has Egelston’s iconic brew pub, Portsmouth Brewery, made it to the final four, it will now face off against his other quintessential creation, Smuttynose Brewing, in the semifinals.

“Something like this has to be done in a spirit of fun,” said Egelston of the inaugural 28-brewery bracket which is brought to you by Seacoastonline.com and Fosters.com, where our readers can vote, and spans from Smuttynose in Hampton all the way up to Sebago Brewing in Kennebunk. Readers have been voting each week, moving closer to choosing their favorite craft beer brewery in Seacoast New Hampshire and southern York County, Maine.

“I think it just shines a brighter spotlight on the work that everyone is doing in craft beer which is always a good thing,” Egelston said.

If victorious, Egelston could square off against another familiar face in his former and most celebrated brewer at Portsmouth Brewery, Tod Mott. Mott’s Tributary Brewing in Kittery narrowly upset top seed Stoneface Brewing, 684-657, in the quarterfinals. Tributary will now face Definitive Brewing, which has a tap room in Kittery and also knocked off a top seed in Newmarket’s Deciduous Brewing, 783-683, to punch its ticket into the semis.

Located in the heart of Market Square, Egelston opened Portsmouth Brewery in 1991 and three years later he and his business and life partner, Joanne Francis, opened Smuttynose on nearby Heritage Avenue in Portsmouth. The craft beer visionary said all the connections in the tight-knit industry have made this friendly competition a little more meaningful.

“A lot of people have passed through our doors, including a lot of brewers,” said Egelston, who moved Smuttynose to its sprawling current site off Towle Farm Road in Hampton in 2014 before selling the brewery in 2018.

“We certainly had through the Portsmouth Brewery, or indirectly through Smuttynose, a lot of interconnectedness which adds to the collegiality, but it also adds another dollop of competitiveness into the mix as well.”

The lone remaining top seed, Smuttynose survived a fierce challenge from Portsmouth’s popular Liar’s Bench Beer Co. to narrowly move on with a vote total of 1,184-1,143. Smuttynose head brewer Dan Schubert acknowledges the road won’t get any easier against the state’s first brew pub and one that will always be linked to his brewery.

“We’re thrilled to be in the next round, but it’s going to be tough going up against the original founders of Smuttynose,” said Schubert. “First and foremost, we’d like to pay tribute to Joanne and Peter, without the Portsmouth Brewery and their dedication to the craft, Smuttynose wouldn’t exist today. We’re proud to carry on this legacy and humbled that we’ve made it to the ranks of being a contender.”

The fact that Portsmouth Brewery is part of a 28-brewery field just here on the Seacoast is certainly not lost on Egelston. In fact, when he and his sister Janet opened their first brewpub in Northampton, Massachusetts, back in 1987, it was just the 74th craft brewery in the entire country. He credits many changes to state and national liquor laws and regulations, as well as far greater access to ingredients, among other improvements, for the explosion in the industry here on the Seacoast over the last decade.

“It’s a different landscape and a lot more user-friendly today,” he pointed out. “The people who really come out on top are consumers, of course, and they are really the winners in all of this.”

Egelston links luring the well-known Mott, who was the first to brew Harpoon’s legendary IPA among many other notable works, to Portsmouth to another pretty significant free agent signing in these parts back in 2003.

“We signed Tod Mott right around the same time that the Red Sox signed Curt Schilling,” Egelston mused. “The Red Sox won the World Series the next year and while we never won the World Series, we had a pretty good run with Tod.”

If there is a Cinderella 15th seed equivalent to this year’s plucky Princeton men's basketball team in this brewery bracket it just may be Tribuatary, Mott’s diminutive but dynamic operation off Shapleigh Road in Kittery, which has knocked off three pretty formidable foes in Whym Craft Pub and Brewery, Loaded Question and Stoneface. The final victory was especially sweet for Mott’s son and his lead brewer, Woody, who started his career with a three-year stint at the prolific brewery in Newington.

“Things are going well here at Tributary, but when I think of Loaded Question and Whym and Stoneface and these places that are huge parts of their community and have this great outpouring of love from their constituency, well I’m just delighted and floored that people have gone with us the past few rounds,” Woody Mott enthused.

How to vote in Seacoast Breweries bracket

Voting begins for the semifinal round on Wednesday, March 22 and runs through Sunday, March 26. Scroll below to find descriptions of all four breweries and vote. Click or tap for your choice of the winner in each of the matchups. The winners will advance to the final round.

The Seacoast Breweries Bracket has reached the semifinal round.
The Seacoast Breweries Bracket has reached the semifinal round.

Tributary Brewing vs. Definitive Brewing Co.

Tributary Brewing, Kittery: It’s safe to say that beer lovers across the Seacoast were blessed in 2014 when legendary New England brewer Tod Mott, decided to open his own brewery on Shapleigh Road in Kittery with his wife, Galen. Tod Mott, who was known for brewing the iconic Harpoon IPA and the highly acclaimed Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout for the Portsmouth Brewery, is still pushing the brewing envelope at Tributary, which has become a magnet for beer lovers across the region. Kate the Great, now named “Mott the Lesser” still hits the taps twice a year at Tributary and, as you can imagine, does not last too long.

Definitive Brewing Co., Kittery: Opening up a brewery in the shadow of national craft beer giant Allagash Brewing is not for the faint of heart, but that is exactly what a group of friends did in 2018 at Portland’s famed brewery epicenter on Industrial Way and Definitive Brewing Co. has not looked back since. In May 2020, the brewery brought its top-notch tap list to Route 1 in Kittery, much to the glee of many a weary shopper who would rather sip a Spirals, one of Definitive’s trademark juicy double IPAs, than tackle the spiraling checkout lines of the nearby outlet stores.

Portsmouth Brewery vs. Smuttynose Brewing

Portsmouth Brewery: In a rapidly growing landscape that has seen many of the establishments in this brewery bracket challenge crop up in the last decade, Portsmouth Brewery proudly stands alone. Nestled in the heart of Market Square since 1991, the iconic brewpub holds the title of the state’s first brewpub and craft brewery. Founded by craft beer visionary Peter Egelston, who went on to found Smuttynose a few years later, the brewery has served as the ultimate public house in downtown Portsmouth for the last 32 years. Along the way, many talented brewers have passed through its seven-barrel brew room, including Tributary Brewing founder Tod Mott.

Smuttynose Brewing, Hampton: A true heavyweight in any craft beer bracket, Smuttynose Brewing Co. is  one of New Hampshire’s original craft breweries. After starting in Portsmouth in 1994, it spread its wings to a sprawling campus off Towle Farm Road in Hampton. You can still find tried and true favorites like the iconic Finestkind IPA and Old Brown Dog Ale, along with a slew of new classics from head brewer Dan Shubert and his talented staff.  With a beer garden, restaurant, and plenty of live entertainment, it is a Seacoast staple.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Seacoast Breweries Bracket polls: Vote for semifinal winners