Beer

A long-overdue visit to Schilling Beer Co. was worth the wait

Schilling's flagship beer, Alexandr, may be the best in New Hampshire. Gary Dzen

LITTLETON, N.H. — The middle of February in northern New Hampshire isn’t supposed to be mud season, but last week, during school vacation, we pulled off the highway and found the town of Littleton positively caked.

The car thermometer read 58 degrees, and for a few hours anyway (the next morning’s temps were in the single digits) the ground was squishy, with puddles everywhere. Just behind Main Street, huge chunks of ice hurtled down the Ammonoosuc River.

“It’s not usually like this,” said our waiter, pointing to the rushing water.

We’d come north from Massachusetts for the ice castles and a sleigh ride — both were canceled because of warmth and lack of snow — and landed in Littleton for the only thing on our agenda that was still definitely on: beers and pizza at Schilling Beer Co.

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Schilling opened in 2013, and it was this beer writer’s great shame that I had yet to visit. Since Day One, everyone said Schilling was excellent, and the more time that went by without my visiting, the more anxious I became that I was too late. When a family trip to New Hampshire became a real possibility earlier this year, a visit to Schilling jumped to the top of the list.

Schilling Beer Co. is two buildings: a former grist mill, circa 1798, that functions as a brewpub, and a modern brewery and tap room next door built in 2017-18 to look like a Scandinavian farmhouse. Two fires are roaring outside in fire pits when we arrive, and couples sit in pandemic-era igloos outside the buildings amid rapidly falling temperatures.

Once inside we’re seated in the brewpub, at a communal table on an enclosed deck overlooking the river. Schilling is known for two things, beer and pizza, and so of course we order both. As ice and water cascade by below us, our server delivers a stein of Alexandr, a Czech-style pilsner, and a glass of Doxology, a Belgian quad.

The quad is good, and we’re drinking from the last keg of it, according to our server. The beer was cellared for months in the basement and tastes of caramelized figs and raisins and, at 11 percent ABV, packs a punch.

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But the beer I’m most interested in drinking from the source is Alexandr, the company’s flagship.

In the glass Alexandr glows golden, a color enhanced by the natural light into something akin to the stripes on a hornet. There’s a big frothy head on top, and the first sip is smooth, almost creamy in texture. Bright flavors pop at once: lemon and Saltine crackers, an herbal, grassy thing on the finish. While easy to drink, Alexandr hits more than one note at once, the true sign of a desert-island brew. If this isn’t the best beer in New Hampshire, I’ve yet to drink a better one.

New Englanders should take solace that Schilling distributes in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. But a trip to the source is definitely worth it.

Cambridge brewery news

Closer to home, Lamplighter Brewing Co. opened its second Cambridge location this weekend. The space, at the newly developed Cambridge Crossing, features a brewery and tap room with 16 beers on tap, and community events such as yoga and live music. Lamplighter Brewing CX is located at 110 North First St., Cambridge.

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