Kate the Great Day: Day in the life of a beer guy

On Monday, February 9th, George and I experienced Kate the Great day at the Portsmouth Brewery. Here’s our story……

In January, the 2Beerguys crew went to a beer dinner social at Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth NH).  We learned that Kate the Great day was approaching. What is Kate the Great day?

Kate the Great is a Russian Imperial Stout that is brewed by Todd Mott from the Portsmouth Brewery. Todd had been brewing the Russian Imperial Stout for the past few years. In 2007, Kate was recognized by the Beer Advocate Magazine as the best beer in America based on thousands of reviews posted on Beer Advocate over the previous year. During the next release, the beer sold out quickly.

Last June, Peter Egelston (Portsmouth Brewery Owner) came up with the idea to announce the release of Kate the Great, but give out pages of a calendar as a ticket to purchase two bottles. Then at a specific time, release the beer and let the taps flow.

On February 9th 2009, Kate the Great would be release at 1:14. Here is what my day looked like.

Feb 8, 2009
– 6:00 PM: Sean talks to George aka “Wood”. Thankfully George is a self employed cabinet maker. He does a lot of work on weekends, so he has a lot of flexibility in his work time (every day is a work day). We set plans to meet at 5:45 in the AM and drive up to Portsmouth. We both had errands to do, but we knew if we got there by 7:00 we could purchase a ticket and get things done. Sean needed to stop by Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine and George needed to pick up some lumber in Berwick, Maine. It was perfect. We both had things to combine into the day and feel productive.

– 9:30 PM: I decided to go to sleep early and set the alarm clock for 5:30 AM. This is early for me. I wake up like a bear in the morning. I needed to get some sleep — tomorrow was a long day.

Feb 9, 2009: GAME TIME

– 5:40 AM: I woke up in a daze, not knowing what happened. I checked my alarm clock and noticed that I set it for 5:30 PM. Oh shit. I’m going to be later. I sent a text to George and he was a little behind.

– 6:30 AM: George and I arrived at the Portsmouth Brewery and found a parking spot right in front of the brewery. There were about 12 people there in front of us. SWEET!! We were in line. It was rather cold and EARLY!!!! You could see your breath. It was typical New England Weather, cold – balmy.

– 7:30 AM: The line had grown to about 50 to 75 people long. Ok. What were we waiting for? Well, if we got their early, we could get in line for a ticket — which would allow us to purchase two beers. Yes, I said allow us to purchase two 22 oz bottles.

– 7:45 AM: Line’s getting thicker. Almost already around the corner. Could there be about 100 people here? I think there was. Then I thought…. What am I doing? I’m in line early… in the cold… waiting to purchase a beer. Oh well. I’ve always been intrigued by DARK LORD DAY. Are you familiar? Dark Lord day is hosted by Three Floyds in Munster Indiana. Once a year, beer enthusiasts line up to purchase a Gargantuan Russian Stout brewed with coffee, molasses, and honey; 13% abv. I REALLY REALLY want to go to Dark Lord Day.

– 8:00 AM: The manager for Portsmouth Brewery appears from the fog. LET THE GAMES Begin.
– 8:07 AM: George and I have tickets in hand. Our days are January 14th and 15th.
– 8:30 AM: The line of 100 or so disappears and everyone in the line gets their ticket. Was it worth getting their for 6:30 AM?  Well, yes and no. We could have arrived at 8:31 and wouldn’t have waited a minute in the line. But maybe we would have had Nov/December? Who knows. It was fun. We had a good time talking to other beer lovers. The people at the front of the line arrived at 5:15. I believe that they were from Chicago. Some others near us have traveled from Canada and Northern Virgina. WOW. We felt bad. We only had to drive for about 20 minutes 🙂

Our plan was to return around 12:30 to get back in line for the 1:14 release. During the interim, we took two trips to Cabellas and went on a Tour of the Allagash Brewery. Our Belgian beer dinner was the following Thursday and I needed to pick up some materials for the event.

– 12:30 PM: We returned on time. Surprisingly, we didn’t have any problems finding a parking spot. I think it was because the 2 hour parking limit, forced drivers to move their car to a different space. We rounded the corner towards the brewery and saw a couple hundred people outside in line. WOW. LOOK at all the people here for Kate the Great day. We made it towards the door and learned that the restaurant was filled with beer enthusiasts waiting for the official release.

– 1:13 PM: The countdown began and the first beer was poured on 1:14 EST. People cheered and waited with baited breaths to taste Kate the Great.

– 1:20 PM: George and I were lucky to be in the first bunch allowed to purchase bottles. Upon our entry, we saw the large crowd inside.

– 1:23 PM: Bottles in hand. The place was a mad house. Too many people. We had made 3 visits to two different breweries and had not yet tasted any beer.  We were thirsty and hungry.  Time for some great food and drink.  We then headed over to Redhook to enjoy a Saturnalia Red Ale.

Kate the Great Facts:
– There were 950 beers bottled and 425 calendars pages handed out.
– 1 calendar day per customer.
– 2 Beers could be purchased per person
– $10 per bottle
– Calendar days were all gone by 10:00 AM.
– Kate would be available on draft — Expected to sell out within 2-3 days.

Do the math. Within a single day, over 600 people visited the Portsmouth Brewery. Patrons eat, drank beer and purchased merchandise. It must have been a great day for revenue.

– 4:30 PM: After picking up the wood, George dropped me off at home. It was a long day and so I sorta took a nap. It was funny when Ryan called and said “What are you doing?” Luckily he could tell that I was sleeping and let me be. Ryan was on his way to Portsmouth Brewery with some co-workers to try Kate the Great.

– 6:30 PM: George, Kat, Ian and I headed back to Portsmouth for dinner. We were meeting Amber and Lisa there.

– 7:00 PM: We arrived at Portsmouth Brewery. Thankfully, it wasn’t as crowded as earlier — but it was still hopping. We headed toward the basement to secure a pint of Kate. We hung out down there for a bit and chatted with  many of our beer friends.  We ate dinner in the restaurant up stairs…6 of us crowded into a 4 person booth.

– 9:30 PM: We left fthe brewery for home. It had been a long day, so Amber and I decided to go for a walk. Portsmouth is a great city for a stroll.  The cold was refreshing and awakening after a long day. We had almost made it to the car, when a nice British man asked us for directions. We tried to point him in the right way, but we soon realized that he was “pissed” and knew he needed a little help. On our walk to the hotel, he explained that he was a member the British Military and had just completed 2 tours in Afghanistan. He was here with 200 of his boys. He was thanked us for helping him. He was very nice and had a positive opinion of the job that the British and American soldiers are doing in Afghanistan.

– 10:30 PM: FINALLY ARRIVED at home.   Day was over — Thanks to Kate, it was a great day.

Kate the Great day is an adventure. If you’re up to the challenge, give it a try next time around.

Hope you enjoyed the day.


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