Friday, March 7, 2014
By Tom Atwell
High & Mighty will never be a native Maine beer company, but its three owners are considering a move to the Portland area. Even if that move doesn’t happen, High & Mighty makes some wonderfully flavorful session beers that deserve space in your refrigerator, local bars and beer stores.
High & Mighty began in 2006 when Will Shelton of the Shelton Brothers beer importing company, which sponsored The Festival in Portland last summer, started making beer as well as importing it. He contacted Paper City Brewery in Holyoke, Mass., and Beer of the Gods, made with 100 percent Bavarian ingredients with an American twist of extra hoppiness, was born.
As the brewery expanded, Shelton brought in Jim Marcyoniak, who had run beer festivals and tastings in Massachusetts before joining Shelton Brothers to work in distribution, and Andrew Bousquet, who handles sales.
NOTE: Usually I do telephone or face-to-face interviews for this column. The High & Mighty team prefers to run answers by all three members, so I sent them questions by email and the emailed answers were approved by all three.
The company’s Maine operation could come to pass in the next couple of years, although a Massachusetts brewery is still an option.
“We explored a number of options in Massachusetts and just couldn’t find the right fit as of yet,” the team said. “We’re still considering a few sites in Massachusetts but have discovered what we believe to be greener pastures up here in the Portland area.”
Marcyoniak has already moved to South Portland, and leading the search for a local operation, and it probably would not be just a brewery.
“We are exploring opening a small Farm to Table Brewery Restaurant in the Portland area. We are looking to have this completed in the next couple years. Our hope in doing so is to help maintain farm land as we believe it was meant to be; as farm land. We’d like to have this as an extension of High & Mighty, but you never can really predict what the future holds.”
As I age, I more and more look for good-tasting, low-alcohol beers, and that is High & Mighty’s specialty.
“We were – to our knowledge – the first brewing operation in the USA that was formed exclusively to brew lower alcohol beers, and we’re continually reformulating the beers to try to get them lower in alcohol,” the team said. “Some started a little higher, but we think 4.5 percent is kind of the sweet spot – it’s low enough that you can have a couple without making a fool out of yourself, but it’s just enough that people with a decent palate will not feel like they’re weak or watery.”
The starting point for High & Mighty beers is European, but they are not reproducing the classics that Shelton Brothers imports. “We thought some of those styles could use an update, and, frankly, we knew we needed to amp up the hop profiles to appeal to the American market. We’ve always strived for balance and drinkability – both of which had largely gone out of favor when we started brewing in 2006, at the height of the ‘extreme’ beer phase.”
They said that some of the secrets to getting big flavor at low alcohol include not filtering or pasteurizing the beer, using top quality ingredients, and a lot of trial and error.
High & Mighty’s two core products, Beer of the Gods and XPA, are sold in 12-ounce bottles and six-packs. Its seasonal and specialty beers come in 22-ounce bottles. All are available on draft. Beer of the Gods and XPA are about $8 a six-pack, although I bought singles for $1.65. I spent $6.49 for a 22-ounce lager Purity of Essence and $7.49 for its 22-ounce saison Pas de Dieux.
Of the four beers, the one that Nancy, son Zachary and I liked best was the XPA, an extra pale ale that the company describes as being at the midpoint between the hop fields of Oregon and East Kent of the United Kingdom, a hoppier, more flavorful version of an English pale ale. It was cloudy and golden, with a good head, a lot of malt flavor, with a great hoppy finish.
The bottle says it is 5 percent ABV, but the website says 4.5 percent, so it might vary among batches.
Beer of the Gods is a flavorful beer, borrowing from four different German styles with an American swagger, and only 4.5 percent alcohol.
Purity of Essence is described as an India Pale lager, and has a strong hops flavor in an otherwise crisp beer. It did not have a lot of nuance, but was easy-drinking and 4.9 percent ABV.
Pas de Dieux is 4.5 percent, had a nice saison yeastiness and more nuances, with a lot of citrus notes.
All of which means that High & Mighty would be a great addition to Maine, even though it is originally “from away.”
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:firstname.lastname@example.org