The story of this brewery begins with a common occurrence: college drinking.
It was 2010 and Carlisle Schaeffer and Sam Wagner were new students at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. The famous institution of higher education was founded by Matthew Vassar, who made his fortune as a brewer, so it seemed fitting that the new students were bonding over drinking and making craft beer as homebrewers, even if they were underage.
Schaeffer had previously had to hide jugs of fermenting brews from his parents in his closet at home. At Vassar, he ultimately converted his dorm-room kitchen into a lab for new brewing ideas. Wagner had learned the basics of homebrewing from his dad when he was 15 and was eager to expand on that knowledge.
“Pretty quickly into our relationship, we started joking about starting a brewery one day,” Schaeffer recalls. “Eventually, we just took that joke a little too seriously.”
The result is Little House Brewing Co., a charming, destination-worthy brewery that opened last year in Chester, in a building built in the 1800s that would do Matthew Vassar proud. While many breweries are set in out-of-the-way corporate parks or former factory spaces, this brewery is nestled into the fabric of the town’s main drag. There’s a front porch with tables you can drink at outside in the warmer months as well as plenty of room, tables and a bar inside.
The beer more than completes the equation. Between graduating college and opening Little House, Schaeffer worked a stint as head brewer at Cottrell Brewing in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, while Wagner honed his home-brewing chops by night, working as a marketing analyst by day. Their combined know-how shows.
I first tried Little House Brewing Co. beer as a judge at the Connecticut Blind Beer Awards last April and was impressed. This feeling of approval only grew after a recent visit. Belly Mist is one of the best New England IPAs I’ve had from a new brewery in a while. Made from a mix of Hefeweizen and Kolsch yeasts (two German styles), this beer has a golden-yellow appearance and a refreshing, fruit-forward flavor. Frat Haus is a light lager billed as a “college-style beer” inspired by “PBRs, Buds, Rolling Rocks, Genny Ices, or whatever we could get our hands on back in school.” It tastes far better than anything I drank in college. Other entries I sample are Gone Muddin’, an excellent coffee porter, and Brütale Malus, an innovative beer brewed with apple juice from Spoke & Spy Ciderworks in Middletown. The apple brew isn’t my favorite, but earns my admiration for the creativity that went into brewing it.
Don’t expect to find this beer on tap at too many locations in Connecticut, as Little House is focused on its neighborhood these days, Schaeffer says. “We’re always on tap at Otto Pizza, just down the street, and deliver kegs on the back of an old tricycle. You can often find us on at Red House in Deep River, and a number of rotating restaurants in the Middletown area.” He adds, “We may up our distribution slightly in the winter months, but the focus is really on the taproom experience.”
Little House Brewing Co.
16 Main St., Chester
Wed.–Thu. 2–8 p.m., Fri. 1–9 p.m., Sat. noon–9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Closed Mon. & Tue.
Not wheelchair accessible