Nestled behind one of America’s best main streets in one of America’s best small towns, Schilling Beer Company in Littleton has a lot going for them. Housed in a renovated three-story grist mill from 1797, Schilling’s taproom sits in the shadow of the White Mountains on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River — where they’ve been brewing commercially since September 2013.
I was able to visit Schilling a few weeks ago, and was immediately struck by their warm, welcoming atmosphere and fantastic beer.
A family-owned brewery, the name Schilling honors grandfather Dr. Richard J. Schilling (whose photo hangs near the bar). While they typically feature between 9-14 continually-rotating taps at the taproom, they brew all styles on a relatively small system (7-barrel brewhouse). Seasonally, Schilling tends to showcase their darker European-inspired beers during the winter and highlights their farmhouse-inspired beer and lighter Czech and German-influenced lagers in the summer. However, it’s worth noting that their brewing schedule isn’t strict — they brew beers they’re feeling passionate about whenever they’re moved to do so.
And that passion is evident in almost every aspect of their practice. Inspired by the beer he drank during visits to Europe as a graduate student, Head Brewer John Lenzini began brewing as an amateur nearly 20 years before co-founding Schilling.
I spoke to Lenzini and CEO/Co-Founder Jeff Cozzens to learn more about how the brewery operates and where their inspiration comes from.
Lauren Smith: What’s the inspiration behind your brewing philosophy?
John Lenzini: We brew beers inspired by the centuries-old traditions of central Europe – primarily those of Germany, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. While many of our beers are brewed “to-style,” we also enjoy creatively producing beers that do not necessarily fit the traditional descriptors.
LS: What’s your most popular or favorite brew?
JL: This is difficult to answer. Erastus, our traditional Abbey-style Tripel, is a favorite with our locals and many tourists, but hop-forward enthusiasts gravitate toward Racogne (a Belgo Pale Ale) or one of our single-hopped Belgo beers.
Jeff Cozzens: We exclusively brew continental European-inspired beers, mainly from the Belgian, Czech, German, and Russo-Scando traditions. We take pride in all of the beers that we produce with patience and great care, from our technical Bavarian-style lagers like Paulus, to beers like Erastus to Fall of Babylon, our Russian Imperial Stout. So, asking about our ‘favorite’ beer is a bit like asking which child is your favorite: we appreciate each of them for their unique qualities, styles, and influences.
LS: What’s one thing you’d like people to know about Schilling?
JS: We brew exclusively European-inspired artisan beers about which we are personally very passionate–beers that reflect the experiences and aspirations of our family. We take our responsibility to put out world-class beers very seriously, and that will never change. However, we never try to take ourselves too seriously; with every ounce of mad genius that John (Lenzini, Head Brewer) puts into making Schilling beers, there’s a pound of shenanigans that accompanies it. We have a ton of fun as brothers and friends working together, and have an incredible staff that tolerates an awful lot from us.
JL: We deeply appreciate being able to share our craft with our community and thoroughly enjoy working as a family to make Schilling Beer Co. run.
LS: Finally, what’s your favorite part about being located in Littleton?
JL: Littleton is an incredibly vibrant and supportive community. The people who live here make Littleton what it is: a great place to do business and live.
Whether you’re solely searching for a brewery off the beaten path, or are looking for a relaxing way to spend a Sunday, Littleton and Schilling are a must-visit for your New Hampshire bucket list. So, go visit Schilling and drink something interesting (I recommend the Mare Nectaris). It’s worth it.
A special thanks to John Lenzini and Jeff Cozzens.