If you drank booze in your early twenties and you’re a dude, there’s a high probability that you’ve broken down the following scenario before. Scanning the room at the heights of a great keg party or gazing into the crowd at an incredibly packed bar — everything suddenly made sense. You love to drink! It’s the best, you told yourself. With this important observation, you turned to your friends, you’re BROS, and thought — these guys are great! The girls you hang-out with, well not only are they pretty, but they’re like awesome too. What a crew we have! In a life propelled by uncertainty, you finally found something to believe in — something that made perfect sense about what to do with your future — you should open a bar with friends.
Now there’s a direct correlation between the viciousness of your ensuing hangover and the length at which you attempt to pursue this idea, but let’s face it — many people have this dream, few people actually chase it. So when two young college buddies — albeit way more put together than yourself in the envisioned scenario above —open a brewery there is a sense of nostalgia tied to their endeavor. In a sense, you are rooting for them to succeed for it’s an extension of an idea you once had at the height of your own youth. And while Little House Brewing Company was founded by two college cross-country teammates from Vassar, and has been open for just over a month, nothing about their operation signals that that this tandem and their brewery isn’t ready to compete on the big stage.
Right out of the gate Little House Brewing has worked. Their superb location in downtown Chester doesn’t hurt, but since they’ve opened their doors in August they’ve served quality beer to a crowd. I’ve been to the place four times already — eagerly introducing newcomers to their craft — and each time the place has become increasingly more packed. There is a buzz. I was reticent to review a brewery so early in its lifespan, but here’s the thing — their product is already on par with some of the better breweries in the state, even if we don’t have a full scope of what their entire offerings will be.
The logo of Little House Brewing Company is slick, but what’s fantastic is that their actual brewery is as quaint as that logo suggests. Little House renovated a three-story 200 year old townhouse over the past year and unlocked an absolute prime location in downtown Chester. Next to Grano Arso and across from River Tavern, the place begs to be stopped at before dinner. With a maximum thirty minute drive to any of the following breweries — 30 Mile, Fox Farm, Noble Jay, Stubborn Beauty, Forest City, and Steady Habit — Little House can be looped in as the final stop of a beer tour before having dinner in Chester or the first stop if you’re heading towards Middletown. The brewery layout allows some versatility for drinking too. You can grab a pint and take it to the front porch with the mainstreet of Chester as your entertainment. There are a few four-top tables to sit at inside, with some more comfortable chairs and couches to lounge in as well. The half-rectangle bar sits probably 10-12 people, has a wooden base, a white backsplash, and a white and gray Little House Brewing sign that illuminates a turquoise green. It’s a sharp sign and, as the Dude would say, it really ties the room together. Lastly, the back porch holds a small beer garten that’s rustic as one would imagine for Chester. It should shine in the coming autumn months.
What I love about Little House’s lineup so far is that they’re brewing a range of beer, without getting too heavy on a specific style. How many breweries do we see open and then just exclusively brew APAs, IPAs, & DIPAs? Sure they’ll throw in a stout or a saison for good measure, but close to 50% of their offerings will be derivatives of an IPA. Do I really need three DIPAs on a tap list of seven? So when you look at what Little House is pushing out, it’s a nice refreshment of variety. A Honey Kolsch, a Gose, a Brown Ale, a Lager, an old school Pale Ale (no APA here), a Milk Stout, a traditional IPA, and a New England IPA have comprised their fleet so far — with a milkshake IPA and a Märzen coming soon. For the majority of us, our love of beer wasn’t forged in sipping an NEIPA for the first time, but in the endless creativity and diversity that the world of beer had to offer. Little House looks to be honoring this.
So on that righteous note, let me discuss Little House’s Alternative Fax, their New England IPA, which is, in fact, a statement beer. Yes, I just explained that Little House isn’t IPA heavy, but their foray into the NEIPA style exemplifies how talented these guys really are. The beer pours a murky, cloudy yellow — it isn’t a bright haze per se, but showcases the beer’s volume. At first sip you get a swell of citrus — namely grapefruit, orange, even a tiny bit of lemon — before ending with a wonderful piney finish that lingers. It’s addicting. I bought a growler the first time I visited with the intentions to save it for later in the week, but couldn’t resist — capitulated —and took the damn thing down myself that night. With the hype surrounding New England IPAs, Alternative Fax should shine. It’s already one of the best versions being produced in the state.
As alluded to above, there’s more to Little House’s line than Alternative Fax. I think three beers showcase their style well — Sleepy Bee, Water Feature, and Mini-Bear. I’ve covered Sleepy Bee before in my Friday Froth column a few weeks back, but if any beer was going to push Alternative Fax for Little House’s flagship, it’d have to be their honey kolsch. Low ABV, refreshing fruit, and the honey does well in stamping out a portion of the bitter from a traditional Kolsch — it’s a wonderfully drinkable beer for any occasion. Their take on Water Feature — a Gose — is also novel. Unlike most brewers that ramp up the salt and sour in their Goses, Water Feature takes the opposite track and aims for subtlety. You get some sour in the height of each sip, and super light hints of salt at the finish, but nothing is overbearing. Put it like this — if you’ve been turned off by the intensity of Gose characteristics in the past, then Water Feature is a nice alternative to sample. Lastly, their Mini-Bear is a must if it’s on tap. It’s a roasty milk stout with a touch of honey. What’s interesting here are the two sources of sweet you get in each sip— the sugary variety from the lactose and the natural sweet from the honey. You get this biblical tandem clearly throughout each taste, without sacrificing either the roast of the stout or it’s smooth finish.
It’s still early, but Little House is off to a promising start. They’ve already created a welcoming and authentic local vibe to their brewery and their beer is delicious. This is good news, but don’t count on two collegiate cross country runners to lose momentum anytime soon. These guys spent most of their lives pacing themselves out over long distances — it’s in their DNA to keep pushing forward.
Strengths: Incredible Downtown Location / Relaxed Atmosphere / Alternative Fax NEIPA / Variety of Styles / Line of Attractive Lower Alcohol Beer
Weaknesses: Limited Seating Area / Small Track Record
Tips: Fantastic opportunity to bargain with your wife. Make Little House the condition to which you attend the Chester Sunday Market. You’ll lock-in fresh beer every Sunday.
FEAST: They don’t serve food there, but you can bring grub in. Otto Pizza with Little House beer is a delightful combination.
FROTH: Alternative Fax for your NEIPA kick. Sample everything though, there isn’t a miss in their lineup.
FEAST: 5/10 – FROTH 8/10 – BREWERY 8.5/10