Sam Wagner and Carlisle Schaeffer, co-founders and owners of Little House Brewing Company, had a specific vision. As the guys explained to me the other day, they wanted the brewery to become part of the quaint tapestry of Chester’s main street. They wanted a place that helped build the overall community. By those standards, their vision is going strong. From the picturesque 200-year-old building, the warm & inviting taproom, and Kirby the brewery pug greeting you at the door, the guys have made a place that immediately makes you feel welcome.
The Little House Brewing Company Story Begins
The story behind Little House started back at Vassar College. Sam and Carlisle both attended Vassar and were on the same cross country and track & field team. Sam had homebrewed for most of his life and introduced this passion to Carlisle. Bonding over beer and running, the two spent much of their college days talking beer and imagining opening a brewery one day. Graduating in 2013, Sam and Carlisle went their separate ways locationally but stayed connected to beer. Carlisle, having grown up in Chester, stayed in-state and apprenticed at Cottrell Brewing Company (where he would work up to Head Brewer eventually). Sam went back home and worked in corporate marketing analysis and put in time working at Sisyphus Brewing in Minnesota.
The original thought of the two friends was to look at brewing space in the Hudson Valley area. That all changed one day in 2016 when Sam came back to Connecticut for a visit. They decided on a whim to look at an old building for sale on main street. The minute they did, a light bulb went off. As Sam told me, “We looked at the place for fun, but as soon as we walked through the door, we looked at each other and just knew.”
Building the Brand
The building was perfect. Big enough to house a cozy tap and tank room, yet small enough to be manageable. The gears started turning in the guys’ heads the minute they stepped through the door; it was everything they never knew they wanted! According to Carlisle, “The vibe for the place is locational. We loved it and had to figure out how to fit brewing equipment in a 200-year-old building. Plus we wanted to fit in. We wanted to contribute to the feel of the town.”
So they hired a local architect, drew up plans, and more-or-less restored the building. Then they carefully worked the brewery equipment into spaces that added to the aesthetic of the space. As a result of their hard work, the guys made a space that succeeded in adding to the charm of Chester. In fact, according to them, some people walk in off the street wondering if the space is a coffee shop! This warm “cafe” feeling was developed intentionally and is very important to the guys. They want people to feel at home in their cozy space, hence the brewery name: Little House. The space may be small, but the feeling is like being at home.
The Brewing Philosophy
Providing something for the community runs through their brewing philosophy as well. Though they’ve only been open for a little over a year, the guys have already brewed 70 (!) distinct styles in house. Though they tell me that their prime love is for malty, classical styles, the guys run virtually every style off their eight lines (including local cider brought in from Spoke + Spy). They always want to be able to appeal to all beer drinkers — from the experienced to the newbie. They aren’t afraid to experiment, but always keep classic, drinkable styles on tap. At my visit, there was a great spread of beer: from lagers, pale and brown ales, all the way to a DIPA and a tripel! The best part was, all the classic beer styles tasted as they should. Lagers, especially, are very difficult to make, but (according to Sam), they love the challenge of making them.
For the future, the guys plan to keep the momentum going. The local reception has been great (the taproom was moderately filled right at 3 PM on a Thursday), and they want to keep offering the community a solid place to drink. Also, they may start selling bombers of beer soon. In terms of style, both expressed an interest in continuing to develop their barrel-aging system and perhaps dabbling with a barleywine one day. Beyond that, they both look forward to working on more brewery collaborations, with one they did with Outer Light hitting shelves soon.
Final Thoughts on Little House Brewing Company
Sam and Carlisle take pride in being a local brewery. They have recently tried to source 100% of their ingredients from Connecticut and are very close to succeeding. Citing their unique location as a strength, Little House offers a gathering spot for all to come. This gives locals a place to drink and gives visitors a reason to swing by Chester. As they told me, they want to show everyone that local brewers can stand toe to toe with the big guys. In other words, they want to impress.
During my visit, the guys’ attention to detail (in their beer and taproom) and passion was readily apparent. Just as apparent was the quality of their beer. I recently have been pining for a brewery that makes great, old-world beer styles, and I got my wish in spades at Little House. Talented, excited about brewing, and not afraid to buck against trends, this brewery represents the direction I hope CT will take in regards to brewing! If you want to learn more about Little House Brewing Company check them out here and on Instagram and Facebook. If you think there’s a place I should check out, drop me a line here, then follow me on Instagram and Facebook. Until next time, I’ll see you where the pints live. Cheers!