Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Full Schilling - Part 1

Let's go for a drive...

It's raining in Jamestown, Rhode Island, where the VelkyAl family was staying with my best mate Dave and his brood. It was a Wednesday morning, and backing out of their drive way, I was excited at the thought of the 240 mile drive north ahead. According to my weather app on my phone, our destination was going to be warm and sunny. Our destination, mostly up I-93 north, going through Boston  to New Hampshire, through the simply majestic White Mountains, including past a still frozen lake, was the little town of Littleton.

Apparently a little over 6000 souls call Littleton, New Hampshire, home and they live in possibly one of the most scenic places I have visited in the US so far. Pulling into the town, crossing the Ammonoosuc River, eventually parking up next to the river, we had just a few hundred feet, and a kids bashing of public gongs session for the boys, to our destination, the Schilling Beer Company.

If you follow any of my social media then you will know that I am a dedicated fan of Schilling Beer Co. We don't get many of their beers down here in central Virginia, but whenever one of them shows up on tap at either Beer Run or Kardinal Hall then I know what I will be drinking when I am there. My first ever Schilling beer was indeed the Alexandr, on tap at Kardinal Hall, back in September 2020, and with a pleasing coincidence it was with Dave back when he and his family lived in this neck of the woods. Again if you are a follower of Fuggled/VelkyAl world, then you will also know that I am an abysmal "beer tourist". I don't plan holidays around breweries I would be interested in visiting, let's be honest here, once you have seen a couple of brewing setups there really isn't much to see that would make a difference. Being a 4 hour drive from Schilling though simply demanded a day trip, yes that's right, we drove 4 hours to Littleton, stayed for a few hours, and then drove back to Rhode Island. Admittedly we didn't spend all those hours safely ensconced in the beery bosom of Schilling, we also discovered that Littleton is a delightful town that is pretty much perfect for the kind of folks that constitute the VelkyAl family, did I mention the gorgeous river yet, on go on then, have another picture of it.

Schilling itself consists of both a brewpub and a taproom in separate buildings, it being lunchtime and with 3 toddlers of 4 years old in tow, we parked on the screened in deck of the brewpub and ordered beer and pizza. Choosing the pizzas was simplicity in itself, my boys can be picky eaters, so Margherita minus tomato sauce was in order. Choosing my first beer was torture, just look at this menu:

A brace of Czech style pilsners that would more than stand up in Czechia, a keller pils, a kellerbier, a Helles, a schwarzbier, an Altbier, a tmavé, a polotmavé, a landbier....how does a lagerboy make a decision when finally presented with a beer menu that doesn't make him groan? Obviously you get the Alexandr, drink it in four mouthfuls and forget to take a picture, but make sure you follow it up with a Palmovka 12° that you do remember to take a picture.

Just look at that thing of beauty, that walloping great cap of foam that would not look out of place in any of my old haunts in Prague, that near total lack of fizz - there is a difference between condition and fizziness, and by god every beer I had hit the nail squarely on the head. Being with family and friends, I didn't bother with many more photos, but I tried every pale lager they had on tap, as well as the Rennsteig schwarzbier and Kaiserpfalz altbier. Each beer was excellent, not just good, not even plain old very good, but excellent, and in the Seidla kellerbier, downright fucking fantastic. Fed and watered we wandered off on to Main Street to do some shopping, knowing that the tap room was still to come, I had a date with a beer that I knew was there...

As well as being an abysmal beer tourist I am not much of one for traipsing around shops, but I had the happy glow of a satisfied lager drinker on, and Littleton's book shop that doubles as a toy shop was a veritable Aladdin's cave of delights. Better yet, at least for this greedy guts, was the White Mountains Canning Company, that stocks all manner of locally made jams jellies, pickles, and perhaps the best, bar none, American cheddar cheese I have ever had, Harman's Really Aged Cheddar. Our good lady wives had another shop they wanted to get to, so Dave and I corralled our boys and headed to the Schilling taproom, across the way from the brewpub, straight into the embrace of an osmička...

Going by the name Malý 8°, what you have here is a 3.1% abv, double decocted (if I remember rightly), Czech style pale lager that has more flavour, more presence, and exhibits a far higher level of technical brewing skill than basically any other lager being brewed in the US today. Bold claims I know, but if ever there was a gravity that shows the difference decoction makes it is 8°. There are some out there that claim decoction is not necessary because malts are more modified these days, well sorry, they are simply wrong. A decoction mash is not just about getting the right amount of sugar out of the grain, decoction adds flavour, mouthfeel, and character that a simple infusion mash will never give you. Think of it this way, at least for pale lagers, decoction is a 3D beer to infusion's 2D, it adds depth. Malý 8° might be small, but goodness me it is a mighty, mighty fine beer. So I bought a case of cans to bring  home to Virginia with me, and a selection of other beers to make up another case.

Is it evident yet that I love Schilling Beer Company? More than that, I want to go back to Littleton and spend more time there, I want to spend an evening drinking great beer overlooking that covered bridge over the river, and bimble back to a tent or hotel with a happily distended belly full of great lager. I am sure that Littleton will be visited again in the future, and hopefully not too far into that future.

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