The Mighty Mites small beer festival that was held Saturday at Coalition Brewing was a phenomenal success, at least from the perspective of the festival-goers. There could have been a little more shade, but the beers were fantastic, they didn't give you a hangover, and there were no lines to speak of. I expected a bigger attendance than there was -- hopefully Coalition at least broke even for their effort.
The collection of 18 beers, half of which clocked in at under 4% ABV, was curated by Beervana's Jeff Alworth. Note that 4% ABV is 3.2% ABW -- yes, that 3.2%, the reviled number that is still the limit for grocery store beer sales in several states. The Mighty Mites beers were a far cry from those blander-than-usual industrial lagers. I restricted my sampling to the sub-4% brews on the list -- with one exception for the lovely 4.4% Stone Levitation Ale -- and there wasn't a bad one in the lot. Some favorites:
- Brewers Union Local 180 Little Sir John Ordinary Bitter: smooth, light roasted malt flavor, pretty hoppy
- Hair of the Dog Little Dog (Fred and non-smoked Adam) Small Beers: light body but plenty of flavor, and tons of hops
- Lompoc Brewing Voodoo Mild: perfectly dark and bitter
- Beetje Brewing The Knoll American Pale Ale: light body, very nice bitterness
- Block 15 Berliner Weisse: refreshing and tart, but not too tart
The atmosphere at Mighty Mites contributed to the good time. Everything was very casual: no wristbands, bring your own mug or get handed a compostable cup, generous pours, no lines and no silly festival whooping. There was no entry fee or penalty, just buy as many or as few tickets as you wanted. Interestingly, many of the pourers were the brewers themselves, as in the photo at the right where you have (from left) Ted from Brewers Union, Alan from Hair of the Dog, Mike from Beetje, and Krister, one of the brewers from soon-to-open SE Portland brewery Base Camp. There were three people from Base Camp pouring at once during the early afternoon: Justin and Faye joined Krister. Nice community service, guys.
It's worth talking about the Little Dogs. As you may already know, they are small beers made from the second runnings of the malt used in Hair of the Dog's giant flagship beers. Great way to reuse and recycle, and it lets Alan squeeze another dollar out of his malt bill. They're also very tasty beers, thanks in part to the lavish dose of hops administered to them. The two on tap at Mighty Mites were Little Fred -- made from a batch of Fred, of course -- and Little Adam, but not the smoky Little Adam that has been served in the past at the HotD tasting room. Alan explained that his runs of Adam consist of five parts smoked malt to one part dark (not smoked) malt. The Little Adam at Mighty Mites -- also currently on tap at the tasting room -- is a small beer made with the unsmoked part. I love the smoked version, but there was also something special about this unsmoked one -- you got more of the beer and hops flavor instead of the smoke gimmick.
There were a few breweries that I was surprised were not represented at the fest. Hopworks has a wonderful hoppy session ale called Cool Grand that would have fit in perfectly; the Lucky Lab has been known to dabble in the light arts also. Surely big boys like Deschutes, Widmer, and Laurelwood would also jump at the chance to do something special for a fest like this. Not that there wasn't enough good beer, but if small is beautiful, the more the merrier.
With all the recent attention on "session beers", it's high time Portland had a festival of this kind. It's fitting that Jeff had a hand in it: he first evidenced a desire to throw a small beer fest in Portland over two years ago at the bottom of this post. By that time Lew Bryson had already instigated session beer festivals in Philadelphia in 2007 and 2009. Of course Lew has been a vocal proponent of lower-alcohol beers for a long time, but it's nice to see that Portland has now jumped on the bandwagon in a serious way. Kudos to Jeff and Coalition for making Mighty Mites happen, and let's hope it will become an annual event.