Next Portsmouth speaker

Samantha Finigan

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September 21, 8:30am • The Music Hall Loft • part of a series on Chaos

Our interview with August #cmCOMMUNITY speaker Jennifer Moore of RecoverGirl Sustainable Style

PKX: Tell us one thing about community in your life:Jennifer: It’s something that I heard people talking about, building community. I always sort poo-pooed it and thought it was silly talk. 

I didn’t realize until after the fact that I was doing just that: building community around sustainable design and fashion. 

It was something that only when I was asked to do this talk that I reflected back and saw that that’s what I had been doing all along. 

PKX: Where do you find inspiration as a creative person?

Jennifer: I can’t get enough to consume. 

I am just consuming all the time. 

I listen to podcasts, I read blogs, I have a ginormous Pinterest account, magazines, especially foreign magazines, newspapers, non-fiction books, the news, and biographies. 

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your field?

Jennifer: Project Upcycle, which is a runway event all about low environmental impact and high design, is the most interesting thing I am working on. The first year was a success so we are doing it again. 

Other than that, in general women’s involvement in fashion. The first wave was this body positive movement. 

Women with curves were reaching an audience and feeling supported and now There is another wave of older women who are doing the same thing. 

There continues to be support for the body positive movement and the age positive movement. People who have been left out for decades now feel like they can participate in the party. 

The body positive movement is democratizing the fashion world. Everyone can play. 

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere, past, present, or future, where and why?

Jennifer: As a women it’s not a good idea to go backward so I would go to the future. 

We are still gaining more rights, I don’t want to go backwards. 

PKX: Any advice to anyone just starting out in your field?

Jennifer: Even though blogging sounds like something from a decade ago, if you start something and keep at it, you’re training yourself and making your community aware that this is something that you care about and know something about. Start and keep writing!

PKX: What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

Jennifer: Lindy West​, ​she is a body positive writer and working for the New York Times. Other than her, I am most interested in young people who are interested in going into design and fashion design and have a sustainability focus. I want to hear from them because I feel like they can educate all of us on how we can change​ our​​ economy to support them so we don't​ have to go elsewhere to get what we need. We can have it all here and it can be more local,​ sustainable​, and​ better quality.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe.

Our interview with July #cmINTENTION speaker Christine Kelly.

PKX: Tell us one thing about intention in your life:Christine: It has shown up when I’ve bought houses. I had been looking for this one house in Winthrop, Massachusetts. I wrote down a list of all the things I wanted; hardwood floors, fireplace, off-street parking, garage, wainscoting, windows. The very next day the realtor called and said to come see this house. It was exactly what I had written down. 

By having a clear picture of what I wanted, it showed up. To me that is setting the intention of what I want then it is showing up.

It’s a very interesting concept. Intention links in my head to law of attraction and similar ideas. Also, this year my intention has been to do as many speaking events as I can, and I have been doing many more. The minute I had that intention in my head, opportunities showed up..PKX: Where do you find inspiration as a creative person?

Christine: I am very good at linking things that other people may not connect. 

Patterns I see in stories, in nature, or a little group of colors that catches my eyes.

It’s very widespread and can come from a lot of places. I like to look at something and see it a little differently. That can spark a whole idea or chain of ideas. It makes some sort of connection in my head.

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your field?

Christine: I’m a hypnotist, and I am a teacher of Neuro-Linguistic programming so any findings in neuroscience are new things in my field. What I find interesting is that they are confirming some of the practices that I and others have been doing. They started doing it first and now neuroscience is confirming how it works. That to me is fascinating. I started off my working life in the medical field, so I am fascinated by that. To me it makes a lot of sense. I like having the science behind what I do, knowing that’s going on and even using it before science catches up. Because of all the technology in our lives stories really touch people. Technology is still a little cold so people respond to stories well. I use a lot of metaphors in the work I do. 

We are all emotional beings even though we have automatic “everything.” We are still humans.

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere, past, present, or future, where and why?

Christine: I might go to the past and I would have been bolder. I would have been a little more creative. I was a little nervous. 

PKX: Any advice to anyone just starting out in your field?


Gather a lot of information and pull out what resonates with you.

If there were two people doing the same thing sitting side by side they would be doing it differently. Your passion, your creativity is going to be felt by whoever you’re dealing with.

PKX: What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

Christine: I’d love to see Tony Robbins because of the way he engages with the audience. I want to watch him and analyze his language patterns and watch the response of the people. For a local person, I’d love to see Kathleen Cavalaro, I love to hear her take on things and enjoy the way she sees things.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe.

Our interview with June #CMCRAFT speaker, James Buchanan of Orchard Writing. 

PKX: Tell us one thing about CRAFT in your life.

James:  So as a writer, the craft of writing is about always learning, you’re always trying to get better. 

Even the fundamentals: characterization, scene, setting, dialogue. Dig a little deeper. Even more. What I see as the important piece of being able to dip into your creativity is that you’re able to create something that has value but also something that is not replicable by anyone else. 

When you’re working for a client, you are trying to establish a solution to a problem. 

In my case it goes to the problem that they have a story to tell, but they don’t have the craft of writing to be able to tell it in a little bit of a storyteller. 

My ability is to dig a little deeper. 

The other half of my craft is creating as much value as possible. It’s creating a great compelling story that somebody wants to just read. 

PKX: Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person? 


My inspiration I owe a lot to my clients. 

But when I’m writing “for myself,” I try digging a little deeper and chewing on an idea more deeply to come up with something that somebody else hasn’t already come up with. Something that only I can come up with. That’s when I get published. 

When I don’t get published, it’s because I’m either trying to do something that I hadn’t really fully captured, or trying to write in a style that isn’t really mine. 

PKX: Is there anything new or exciting that’s specific to your writing or in your field? 

James: On the creative nonfiction side, the ghost writing, it’s being able to tell deeper stories that have more meaning. 

And then when it comes to the more straight up fiction, it’s being able to identify the seeds of stories and ideas. 

The big piece right there is anytime that you can help somebody find a deeper sense of happiness, be a little bit better. 

With the Internet now the world is open to you. I got frustrated with trying to do “the New York thing” and so I started looking at publishing and in some outlets in Europe and I’ve had a lot of success there. 

The internet is opening up the way people are accepting people and views from other countries and cultures.

It’s been growing for a long time, but it’s continuing to expand. 

It’s great to talk to editors from Portugal and have that moment of excitement when they’re finding what you’re writing interesting.

PKX:  If you could open a door to anywhere past, present, or future where and why? 

James: Either the1920′s or the 1950′s. Writers were far more appreciated and better compensated.  

Referring back to the other question–it’s hard to make a living as a writer right now. And I’m very, very lucky that I can do it. I know a lot of people who do what I do and they have other jobs and other jobs are their full time jobs and they write because they just enjoy it. 

When I look at the past though, there is a richer appreciation for the art of writing, but also the ability to tell a unique story. 

A lot of publications seem to repeat the same fields and it’s harder to find things that are truly, TRULY inspiring. 

I’m reading right now The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell, which is what the Girls of Corfu on PBS is based. The book series was written in the late forties, early fifties.

I am absolutely drawn into the author’s descriptions of the natural world, his humor, his ability to capture dialogue, the scene setting and so many of those craft elements. 

And so here’s this person who is passed away many years ago and I’m learning my craft from him as well as hearing his voice and seeing the world through his eyes. 

It’s pretty incredible.

PKX: Any advice to anyone starting just starting out as a writer?


Craft. Learn the tools, learn the skills, and then get really, really good at accessing your subconscious. 

All of the deeper stories, the deeper truth, that’s where all of the things that make “you” uniquely you are located. 

In my talk I’m going to talk a little bit about that. 

There’s a lot of interesting research on how the subconscious works. 

Your ability as a writer, or in any craft, to be able to access and dip into the subconscious, is what’s going make your writing more compelling, more interesting, and a higher quality. 

You need to be unique. You need to offer them something that they can’t get from anybody else. 

The way that you do that is through the ability to access your subconscious and dig a little bit deeper into your own. 

PKX: Awesome! What speaker would you like to see at a future PKX? 

James: One I would highly recommend is a local lawyer name Chuck Doleac. He’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He’s a nationally recognized expert on ethics and specifically looking at when ethical imperatives collide. Interesting. His big question: If you’re a judge and you’re presiding over a murder trial and it’s a capital case, and you are Catholic or Quaker or have a belief or moral imperative of do not kill; and yet you also have the legal imperative that you’ve sworn fealty to, you must sentence this person to death. How do you do that? How do you work through that? He answers that question. 

Thanks James! Looks like we have some deep digging ahead of us.

Interview by Monte Bohanan  and Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe. 

Our interview with May #CMCOMMITMENT speaker, Jonathan Blakeslee founder & owner of White Heron in Portsmouth NH.

Tell us one thing about commitment in your life?

By committing to things, we are able to move ourselves to places that we initially didn’t think we could get to.    

Is there anything new or exciting in your field?

With White Heron we are getting ready to open a retail tea and record shop attached to the cafe. Simultaneously I am finishing up a musical album under my own name and launching a tea blog. I would like to write a book about tea so this is a good way to get started. 

Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person?

I feel like I find inspiration in the everyday. 

We are surrounded by it if we want to be. It’s just good to be open and stay more present and stay more aware. Not be so addicted to our devices and our habits that we don’t experience the world around us. Everything has potential for inspiration.

If you could open a door to anywhere past, present, or future where and why?

My dad was born in Rio de Janeiro and my grandmother was from Rio de Janeiro and I never was never taught Portuguese but I almost wish I could have a glimpse into my father’s life but especially my grandmother’s life. She was such an amazing human being. She worked for the consulate, she spoke multiple languages, she was musical, she played guitar, piano, and sang. I can ask my dad about it but I really want to see it for myself. I have never been to Brazil, so I guess this is a past and a future thing.  

Any advice to anyone starting out in your field?

It can feel scary. 

Starting White Heron was a massive leap of faith. 

Did I have qualifications for any of it? Not particularly. I was always a really hard worker and had a lot of restaurant experience. If it’s something you’re passionate about, do the research, due diligence is important, don’t jump in blindly. However if it’s something that you really feel passionate about you have to use that to power yourself forward. This new you that you can see, others cannot. They are trying to be caring and protective. If I fall on my face I will only blame myself. If I don’t succeed that’s okay too. 

What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

Yoda would be cool but let me try to think of someone less green. Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dreams. That book had a huge influence on me. I remember the concept in there about potential futures.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi & Monte Bohanan for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe.

Our interview with April GAME speaker, Nick Mirabello of UROCK Marketing & MassPay.

Tell us one thing about the CreativeMornings #cmGAME in your life?

Although, it’s easier to coach others than myself, there is a fun game one can play when preparing to wake early. The night before when setting the alarm, for instance a 5:30am wake up – don’t just set the alarm for 5:30 because that would be boring instead set it for 5:31, when it goes off in the morning, wake up and say to yourself, “five-thirty-one, let’s have some fun!”  Set a time make a rhyme! It truly can start your day in a refreshing way. Instantly shifts the mind and trains your brain to think positive thoughts when you hear that early alarm. Also, my morning routine is a gratitude game. 

I try to play a game every time I wake up in the morning – to have a better day than I did the day before. 

Naming things in my mind or writing them down in my gratitude journal of things I am grateful for, every morning I read a positive quote, and I think how can I put that message into play today?

Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person?

Mostly interactions with other people, other energy. I have always had the desire to inspire, maximize people’s potential. 

That is the beautiful thing about life. All of us are different; we all have different beliefs, different backgrounds, and different values. 

I try to find the most positive things in people and bring that out. I get inspiration from that. Surrounding myself with people, places, and things I love. That really drives my inspiration. Motivational videos, podcasts, quotes that inspire me and challenge myself to be creative to find where the silver lining is or how to pinpoint optimism when adversity strikes.  

Anything new and exciting in your field?

I have two fields, an entrepreneur field and the company I work for, MassPay where I leave it on the field. The newest endeavor is our wellness division that I have the opportunity to create and lead. Not only internally for our team of 47 employees but also for our clients, we want to provide and offer a wellness division to them. Another is, the ever-growing field of technology – at MassPay we are looking at how we cannot combat it but rather embrace it. 

How can technology and humans get along better together in this next decade and beyond?

If you could open a door to anywhere- past, present, or future where and why?

I used to always gravitate towards the future. I sometimes would want to rush to get there. 

I have realized I need to be more grateful and more present in the present moment. 

It’s also fun to look at the past because you learn from it. The door I will open will be June 2019 when my niece, Destiny will be graduating high school. When she walks across that stage, is handed her diploma, and heads off to college. I think that will be a very special moment for me and my family on many levels. As an uncle to see the joy and emotion from my sister who is amazing, who works extremely hard, and to see Destiny graduate will be so gratifying knowing she will embark on an incredible path for herself. For our youth is our future and I’m excited to see where and how they can shape our next decades.

Any advice to anyone starting out in your field?

Write down your plan, if you write it down it becomes reality. 

Believe in yourself, believe you can do it. Have that mental toughness to block out any negativity. Never give up. Know that any road block or detour you come across is just reminder of how bad you want something. That you may need to recalculate but you will still get to where you want to go. It’s that bow and arrow effect…sometimes we have to pull back to launch forward!

What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

On a local level: Jessica Todd - she has inspired so many people. Herself, her team, her guests, her brand, her story, all of it is compelling and empowering.

On a global level: Simon Sinek, he is all about Starting With Why. He inspires people to do the things that inspire them. Sinek & his team believe in a bright future and our ability to build it together. He gives keynotes, facilitates workshops and develops software that inspires individuals and organizations to live their Why.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMorningsPKX. Photographs by Kate&Keith.

On March 23, we are flipping the script and handing the mic over to you! Instead of our usual monthly speaker in March, five speakers from the PKX community will get five minutes exactly on the topic of COURAGE.So be brave, now’s your chance. If you’ve always wanted to speak at CM, have an idea or a story that you think the rest of the community would love to hear, or have just lost a really awesome bet, send us your best speaker proposal.Submit 60-sec video (preferred) or short written pitch that includes: title, how it relates, & broad outline of talk to portsmouth@creativemornings.comSubmission Deadline: FEB 23rdCan’t wait to see all of the creativity flooding our inbox!

Laurie-Beth Robbins

Our interview with January ANXIETY speaker, Laurie-Beth Robbins of Smart Octopus Cookie.

PKX: Tell us about your journey to being the expert on the ANXIETY conversation?

Laurie-Beth: So my story begins in rural Vermont. 

When I was 6 years old I asked my parents for frog legs & octopus salad to eat.

They didn’t know where that came from, and nor did I! Something within me asked. But to their credit, they fostered that interest. They went above and beyond with their humble, middle income to find these ingredients for me and expose me to that. I chose my parents well. 

Fast forward, and I got into competitive public speaking at school. I would barter with my parents to be taken to gourmet restaurants for winning the tournaments. I won, and they took me. So the food and the speaking started early. 

Food and speaking were my haven from brutal bullying at school. Anxiety was an early theme for me. 

If not for my wonderful parents, I probably wouldn’t be here. 

My tormenters made a very confident woman out of me, but not until later in life. 

We do carry our scars for a long time. 

But public speaking was always my zone. When I was in my zone, I couldn’t hear the bullies. I’m 150% in my zone while speaking and it’s my true love. I love that person in the corner of the room - if I can reach that person with my speaking, then it’s all worth it. 

PKX: Talk to us about the topic Anxiety a bit more.


I was taken in Greece as a 28 year old by Balkan thugs and I was to be sold into the sex trade. 

But there was no Liam Neeson to arrive on cue. I saved my own ass and in a very long way I made it home. I was raped by two men. 

I have looked the eyes of Hell in the face, and in that moment I began to realize that we all have the same energy. 

So even though I make videos about smoked lobster and decadence, I do know anxiety all to well. 

I do know the ultimate struggle. 

The difference is I was raised by probably the most upbeat people in the world, and to their credit, they helped me choose the good in life. 

You have to go looking for the good in every single situation. 

We have a choice every day to send it in a certain direction, and most people fail that test and they send it in a really negative direction.

Anxiety is a very powerful energy.  

The same energy and the same power that is in that stress, can give us the same prowess to correct it and have something wonderful. It’s a matter of choice. 

We get in our own way. We have pity parties. We decide we want to be anxious.

We feel scared, and we stay that way. But that same dynamic feeling that is giving you the panic is ENERGY. That’s powerful. If you use it in a positive, good, direction, you can walk out of here feeling better than you ever did. But it’s a choice. 

Not everyone wants to be around strong, upbeat people who are confident. 

Anxiety presents a wonderful choice. We all have it. No one is immune to it. But how we respond to makes the difference. 

Anxiety is just another powerful form of energy, and it can be channeled to do good, or harm. 

I’ve met people who have been through horrors. 

I asked a wonderful man who was a holocaust survivor how he is able to stand with humor and pay it forward. I asked him what would his advice be to people today. He said “You have to look at your life and say is there anything in my life right now, even a tiny sliver that is good, and if there is, you have to focus all your energy on that. And if you believe there is nothing - then you have to go looking for it.” 

That changed me. It really changed me. You’ve got to go looking for the good.

You have a choice with that energy. Poor me, or I’M ALIVE. 

If you walk through hell, and survive, then you have an obligation to give some of that strength that other people who are navigating anxiety. Give them a hug, a smile, some of that life force. 

I’m not heroic. I’m not courageous. But talking about pain is very courageous.

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your field?

I think people are more accepting of “motivation” now. You see so many upbeat memes right now. People are craving motivation. A little upbeat Laurie-Beth Robbins moment! 

People are craving solace on their devices and in their lives. 

A sliver of motivation on your facebook feed, local summits and meet ups - that is exciting to me. 

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere in the past, present, of future, where would it be and why?


To one of Salvador Dali’s eccentric dinner parties. They would have wild animals strolling around, everyone would wear costumes - they would have this wild lobster tree - that is so my league. I used to host exotic parties. I would love to open a door and peek into one of this parties. 

PKX: Any advice to someone just starting out?


Never use notes. No teleprompter. You are far more powerful without them. No one will know you missed a word. So if you forget what you were going to say, and you will, you will something you didn’t plan which is even better. Learn to be an extemporaneous speaker. That is far more confident. When I taught speaking, I made them be extemporaneous on the first day of class. No notes! That is my advice. A wedding toast, a eulogy, a debate - no notes! It also helps with anxiety! You are stronger than you know!

PKX: If we could invite anyone to be a speaker at PKX, who would it be?


Joan Rivers. I love her. I still love her. Bright. Hilarious. Strong. Someone who struggled. She knows real deal authentic living. I would love to just hug her and get a little bit of that schtick. Thanks Laurie-Beth. We hope everyone decides to think about the choice they have with anxiety after your talk. Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

Barbara Bates Sedoric

Our interview with November DEATH speaker, Barbara Bates Sedoric - Founder of LastingMatters.

PKX: Tell us about your journey to being the expert on the DEATH conversation?

Barb: My answer is two fold, maybe three fold. 

Many years ago I was a paralegal in a big firm in Boston and I was often sent to widow’s houses after the death of their spouse. I was looking for documents for a court inventory. 

What I found besides documents were…families grieving, families stressed out, decisions that hadn’t been made, arguments between siblings, and essentially chaos at a very emotional time. 

It really stuck with me. 

I was dumbfounded that every time this happened, nobody knew what was going to happen when someone passed away. They had boxes of things and papers, but they were missing almost everything else of importance. 

The second part of the answer is that it’s in my DNA. 

I grew up in three generations of financial advisors and I’m married to Tom, a nationally recognized wealth manager. We always talked about the “what if’s.“ 

The third part is that this happened to me. 

11 years ago my brother called me and said two words that changed my life: “Mom’s dead.” 

I had just talked to her the night before. The adrenaline kicked in, the panic, “who do I call?” - all of the chaos I had seen so many times.

We found ourselves in a place of not knowing the details of what my mother wanted at her funeral. 

I spent a few weeks with my dad cleaning things out. 

So my decision to start LastingMatters happened when I talked to my dad in those weeks after my mom’s funeral. I decided this was not going to happen with my dad. When the time comes, and we really do not know when it will, ever, I wanted to be prepared. 

I also realized I had a solution to a big problem. 

And there was nothing like the LastingMatters Organizer out there that I could find. 

It took me 4 years. I interviewed 100s of people - and it boiled down to one question: What do you wish you had known before someone passed away that would have saved you time, money, stress, and family discourse? 

We wanted to design an approachable organizer about life and death that wasn’t morbid.

People don’t want to feel helpless - this organizer empowers people. 

PKX: Where and how do you find creative inspiration?

Barb: I never thought of this as being creative before I was asked by CreativeMornings. But then I realized - it is!

It’s very thought provoking to start talking out loud to people about your death. 

Even the language around DEATH is provocative. We “lost” Uncle Joe. Well we didn’t “lose” him. People don’t want to use the words even. 

It inspires me to share my work with people, and then have them think about their own individual needs. 

Maybe you don’t want to have a funeral? Maybe you want a cocktail party!

People get creative with death. We plan for everything else - parties, weddings, retirement. But we don’t do a good job planning for the inevitable event. 

People are afraid because they think that if they talk about it, it’s going to happen. 

Well, it IS going to happen. You are going to die. 

And we don’t know when. 

So let’s talk about it.

It’s as simple as “do you want to be an organ donor?” Do you know the answer to that question? 

It takes a year to plan a wedding. The funeral is the same thing - except you have to do it in 3 days. 

Everyone has a story to tell. 

Writing it all down is a gift you can give to your family and loved ones. A gift you can get and receive. 

PKX: How did this months DEATH theme speak to you?

Barb: I recognized my ability to create something that can help people. I found that powerful and meaningful. 

I think that everyone will benefit from having this conversation. 

And the holidays are perfect. Place an organizer on everyone’s table setting and let the conversation fly. 

PKX: Any advice to young legal professionals?

Barb: It’s very targeted area - I don’t know many people who do this. 

If you are really interested in helping other families in a more meaningful way:

You have to be at ease talking about death. It’s not for everyone. 

Even my friends sometimes say to me “is this really what you want to do?” 

My approach to death is practical.  I want people to be able to grieve in comfort. It’s that simple. 

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere, where would you go?

Barb: I would open a door to the past. 

To my grandparent’s house in Rochester on Christmas morning. 

I would see people who have passed away. 

I would be that carefree child again - not the responsible adult that I pretend to be. 

I would love that.

PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak, who would it be?

Barb: Ian Bremer. Because he is the most intelligent global thinker, and this is a global organization. He’s my first choice. 

I would invite a friend of my husband’s, Gloria Steinem. She is one of the most thoughtful people I know. When you are in her presence, you are the only person that matters. 

I also like Michael Kimmel - author of Angry White Men. Read it if you want to understand the political environment we are in today.

Locally - my husband Tom Sedoric on financial literacy and civics education. 

Thanks Barb. We are looking forward to having this conversation about DEATH with our own families.

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

Tod Mott

Our interview with October PIONEER speaker, Tod Mott - Founder and head brewer at Tributary Brewing Company in Kittery, Maine. 

PKX: Tell us about your journey to becoming a master beer brewer.

Tod: In 2003 I was in an interview with Portsmouth Brewing and they asked me to critique all 8 of their beers. I literally tore every single one of the beers apart, except their brainchild called Old Brown Dog. But the other 7 - I said, hey “Sky’s the limit.” They hired me, and we turned what was floundering little brewery into a world class one. We all loved it, but over the course of 8.5 years you just get tired of the same thing. 

My creative process really evolved at Portsmouth Brewery. 

Instead of just having a set of beers set in stone and maybe one or two seasonal beers, we rotated the stouts. That kept things interesting. We tried all kinds of stouts - we had a Black Cat Stout, Le Chat Noir which was a Belgian Stout, we had an Oatmeal Stout, a Milk Stout, a Russian Imperial Stout called Kate the Great. 

Kate the Great got this crazy cult following. 

We went from being little Portsmouth Brewery making good beer, to now all of the sudden we were a destination brewery one day a year - the first Monday in March - we would release Kate the Great. At midnight when we closed on Sunday night, there was a line. People would spend the night, in March, in New Hampshire. The governor gave us a proclamation - Kate The Great day. 

This all happened because of The Beer Advocate. Jason and Tom Alstrom put out this issue once a year for the best beers. in 2007 they called Kate the Great the second best beer on the planet and the best beer in America. 

A Russian imperial stout being called the best beer in America? It was so humbling. 

There are so many great beers in America. 

At Tributary we have taken the recipe from Kate the Great, not the name, just the recipe because that recipe has followed me since I started brewing in 1996 at the Back Bay Brewing company where we were calling it The Boston Strangler Stout. We got a cease and desist on that name from the families of the victims, which we honored, and just called it a Russian Imperial Stout. Every year I would make the stout wherever I was brewing. 

PKX: When did you know you were on to something with beer with your palette?

Tod: Because I drank so many out of balance beers. 

So many craft breweries are putting out these "hops bombs” that are too bitter.

My father was a wine enthusiast. I got the taste for wine as a 14 year old. 

We went to Switzerland and on Sunday afternoons my father implemented a rule that we would have a small glass of wine as was the custom there for teens. So I started tasting and finding nuance - and we would sit and talk about it. Why does this pair well with food? So I was way ahead of the curve and I’ve developed a really great palette. I am a national judge on the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. I’m getting pretty burnt out on it. It’s not just hanging out and getting drunk. You have three flights a day of 7 beers, three days in a row. A lot of paperwork and tasting notes. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s a big responsibility and I take it very seriously. 

PKX: So talk about this explosion in craft beer.

Tod: I’ve been waiting for this to happen to since 1996. It’s been outrageous! Took a while to get momentum, but now I’m concerned about the sustainability. The cream will rise to the top. Not everyone is going to make it. 

I think it’s a reaction to the big guys. 

Kids of brewers my age grew up with a refrigerator full of really good beer. 

There was never Budweiser in my refrigerator. 

PKX: Is Budweiser not a good beer?

Tod: It’s an incredibly consistent good beer. It just not very engaging. It doesn’t “rub the wrong the way” like a great beer does - it has no edge to it. But they are consistent. They are the American Society of Brewing Chemists and I have all the respect in the world for them, I just don’t particularly like that beer. 

I drank a lot of it in college because you could get a suitcase of it for nothing. But as I got older and starting brewing beer and my wife got me a home brewing kit I realized it’s all process. And since I had my master’s in ceramics, which is also all about process, it made sense to me. 

Brewing is art and science. It’s about understanding your ingredients, it’s recipe formulation, it’s time and temperature, and it’s chemistry and a little microbiology. 

And it was so easy for me to transition from ceramics to beer. I have this idea to put a kiln in the brewery and have the best mug club ever! I haven’t done that yet… 

PKX: Talk to us more about the craft.

Tod: Here at Tributary we are making Pumpkin Ale right now using pumpkins from a local farm. The pumpkins weren’t ready until two days ago. It’s very seasonal and a lot of work. We shred the pumpkins in a giant Hobart over at Portsmouth Brewery, then we use the enzymes in the barley to break down the pumpkin starch down into a fermentable sugar. It’s actually made out of pumpkins. Most pumpkin beers are just spice - there is not a single piece of food in it. We put actual food in our beer. 

I make traditional beers that were historically made for a reason. 

People made beer out of pumpkins because they had pumpkins laying around. 

Like with the origins of IPA, India Pale Ale. The ale was traveling from Europe to India by ship. It went through 7 climactic changes in the holds of ships in big huge barrels. Over the course of the time it took to get there, 3-6 months, it would go bad. The English figured out that what made it more microbiologically stable, was the hops. Hops are an antimicrobial, they are in the beer for a reason. So they upped the alcohol level, which is also a preservative and they added the hops. So the India Pale Ales, the stronger beers, were given to the officers as a straight beverage. And the enlisted men were given watered down versions. 

So historically, India Pale Ale came about as necessity. 

When the first settlers came to the new world, their beers were running out. They had to use whatever they could find. They had barley - they had stores of it along with hops they brought with them, but they were running short. They were trying to figure out, what could they use to augment the fermentability of the beer, and they started using pumpkins and squashes and apples - anything that had a sugar source for a starch and they would use the enzymes from the barley to start to break it down for the brewing process. 

The early settlers figured it out. History is so cool. 

So Imperial Stout and Kate the Great, now this is probably more along the lines of folklore that history, but the story goes the Czarina Katherine was looking for something to drink with her vodka. Beer just wasn’t doing it for her. So the English made an Imperial Stout that was upwards of 12%. 

Kate would have shots of vodka and a stout chaser. That’s why she was so great.

PKX: If you could open up a door to anywhere in time, where would you go and why?

Tod: I would open up a door to circa 1980, because my father was still alive then, and I would carry all this baggage I have now and go back i time and prove to him that I was so appreciative of what he gave me. My parents gave me my palette. My mom is still alive, she’s 90, and she’s so cool. 

But I would love for him to meet my kids, and drink my beer. 

He actually loved beer. Every once and awhile he would splurge and get some German lager. 

PKX: Why do you think your talk will appeal to our CreativeMornings community?

Tod: Creative community is exactly where we live. 

Brewers are a creative bunch. We are troubleshooters, we  are creative, we are inventive, we are imaginative, we use ingredients that most people won’t. 

I’ve done collaborations with some really interesting people. We did an Oyster Stout. And again - like the settlers - it’s a necessity. During WWII there wasn’t a supply of calcium. But there was an abundance of oysters. The British, so ingenious, used oysters to bring the PH down in the stout, and they used the limestone from the calcium in the shells. I think that is brilliant and creative. 

So brewers are pretty creative and very resourceful. We are all Macgyvers. 

PKX: If we could have any speaker at PKX, who would you like to see?

Tod: I saw Ken Burns at the Music Hall, now that he and Lynn Novick have Vietnam out, I’d love to see either of them. I bet Lynn has a lot to say. 

Thanks Tod. Some pumpkin ale sounds good right about now.

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.