Look for the bright red door in downtown Chester! When you find it, you’ve found the Little House Brewing Company, which will be opening its symbolic door (which matches the one on their logo), soon. This one hundred and thirty six year-old building has been entirely overhauled, transforming it from what was originally built as a residence (and has since been several different businesses) into a full fledge tap room/brewery, complete with stout tanks and kettles, an outdoor beer garden, a green leafy hop vine arbor and an inviting, historic front porch and barley garden, which will be ready to officially welcome customers sometime in the next few weeks.
Marrying together youthful entrepreneurism with an historic sense of community, the team of 26 year-old beer makers, college friends, and businessmen have very literally put their blood, sweat and tears into converting and readying the old grey building, which sits front and center at 16 Main St. in Chester’s iconic downtown, and turning it into the location of their dreams come true.
Carlisle Schaeffer, who grew up on Liberty Street in Chester, just around the corner from the fledgling business, met his partner Sam Wagner, at Vassar College in upstate New York. (Matthew Vassar made his fortune in brewing). Before “bonding over beer”, the two friends connected while training for their college Cross Country and Track and Field teams. By sophomore year, Carlisle knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life… make beer. He even wrote his senior thesis on the subject; “Brewing Against the Grain.”
For Sam, the artistry of beer making was still just a hobby, which he loved sharing with his dad, who introduced him to home brewing while he was still in high school back in Minneapolis.
So, while Carlisle was perfecting his brewing technique as an apprentice at Cottrell Brewing Company in Pawcatuck, CT, Sam was experimenting with different aspects of beer making microbiology in his basement, after long days working in corporate America, in what he affectionately calls “the cube”.
With help from family and friends, as well as a very successful kick start campaign, (which recruited 289 backers in just thirty days and ended up superseding the set goal of $20,000); the duo is now fully emerged in the business of beer.
“We have been very careful to keep our official opening date pretty vague because there is still a lot to do and with an almost two hundred year-old building, there have been some setbacks,” explained Sam. “However, we think it is safe to say we will be open by mid-summer.”
The team hopes to capitalize on the foot traffic generated in downtown Chester with the weekly Sunday Farmer’s Markets, First Fridays, the “Four on the Fourth,” road race, the Winter Carnival and several other local events.
“Our goal is to truly be a part of the community,” said Carlisle. “We want this not to just be a business that makes beer, but to be somewhere where people come together, to get together with friends, talk, hang out and enjoy the beauty and quaintness of downtown Chester.
“We have already experienced how wonderful a small town can be. We had to go through a lot of zoning and permits and the town has been so great. They even changed some outdated zoning laws to help us along. It has really made us feel like the community wants us here and wants us to succeed,” explained a grateful Carlisle.
He added, “It’s been very encouraging to hear the excitement. The town’s people have asked us every step of the way, ‘what can we do to help?’”
Part of the reward of opening their own business, the team said, has been the opportunity to be part of every aspect of the company from the laying of the new wood floors, (the red and white oak wood is from Deep Hollow Farm just up the road), to painting the outside of the building with Sam’s dad, to choosing the subway tiles for the tap room back splash and of course creating the variety of custom crafted beers. The first six beers that will be on tap during the opening days have already been chosen, but the two friends are keeping mum about what they are.
“It will be a surprise worth waiting for,” said Carlisle.
“Let’s just say that there will be something for everyone,” smiled Sam who, by the way, owns the business’ bar buddy and brew dog, Kirby the Pug, who is an unofficial beer tester whenever she gets the chance, although that is not encouraged by Sam and his girlfriend who live in New Haven.
Carlisle, on the other hand has no dog, so he has to taste test the beer himself, while he is babysitting it 24/7, bunking on the second floor of the business’ building, making it easy to open that red door five to six days a week, which is the plan.
In the tap room, which has an occupancy max of 47 people, including staff, the menu will include flights of beer, and pours (both half and full) and for on the go suds there will be growlers (glass containers) and crowlers (32 oz cans).
Looking forward to making and selling their own spirited creations, the team of young business owners is currently busy putting the final touches on every aspect of the business, being sure of course, to pay close attention to water, yeast, hops, and the fermentation methods of their life blood…the beer!
“It really truly is a dream come true and we could not be more excited,” said Sam with a glance to Carlisle and a smile.