The official reason for traveling up through the great state of New Hampshire and into Vermont was a wedding, but Google offered some additional points of interest on the way, including what is now one of my favorite spots, Shilling Beer Company.
Tucked behind the quaint shops on what can be called the main drag of Littleton, New Hampshire is what I can only assume to be an old lumber mill (grist mill, research first, then write). The building backs up to the Ammonoosuc River, (fun drinking game: consume any amount of alcohol and try to pronounce Ammonoosuc) and has an honest-to-God covered bridge. So right off the bat this place is a selfie-rich environment.
Inside it’s a wood lovers dream. Wood floors. Wood walls. Wood ceilings. The smell of smoldering wood from, you guessed it, a wood fired oven. I like wood, don’t get me wrong, but I felt the need to grow out a beard and find the nearest retailer of fine flannel.
The seating is a mix of communal and regular (wood!) tables, and I was actually kind of surprised to be greeted by someone at the door and shown a spot to sit. I would hesitate to call this a brew pub, it’s more like a brewery/restaurant. There was a very good amount of staff between the bar and growler filling station and the rest of the restaurant, so service was on point and quick.
The first thing we were told is that unfortunately, there were no hot entrees available right now. This took us by surprise, we were just there to try the beers and maybe split a plate of something anyway, it was three in the afternoon, but no hot entrees? They had a selection of some awesome looking pizza on the menu, so this was a little disappointing. It was explained that pretty much the only source of heat they use in their “kitchen” (an open area in the middle of the space) was the wood fired oven. And since it was after the lunch rush and before the dinner rush, they needed to build the fire back up and re-heat the stone.
That. Is. So. Cool.
First of all, props for not compromising on your methods. A wood fired oven can put out some great food, and only using that for your entire menu is bold, risky, and shows dedication to “doing it right or not at all.” Besides, that lead us to the “slate” or “board” section of the menu, full of charcuterie and cheese, which my friends, I pushed back my stool and slow-clapped for.
By the way, you won’t find any of the food menu on their website. Like, nothing. I’m trying to remember exactly what we got and because I’m a shitty blogger, I took no notes. So prepare for some generalizations and some overall impressions!
The pretzel bread was almost too much bread. Almost. I mean, we finished it. Just saying. There were duck liver pates, pickled green beans, and local cheeses where you can be introduced to the cow they came from because it lives down the street. Super good stuff. Perfect accompaniment to the sample beer flights we got.
Really, really glad to see so many sours on tap here. There were a range of them, and you could tell they really understood what they were doing, because none were gross. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had a “sour” beer at a brewery and it was just disgusting. Screwing up a beer and calling it “sour” and charging more money for it is not ok, but so many breweries do it. Thankfully Shilling had a nice range from a gose to a oud bruin style to a sour red. Perfect counter to the rich cheese and meats.
So we went to the wedding and had a lot of fun (actually, it became the blueprint for our own). We started on the second leg of our trip up to Montreal because heck, why not it was practically right there. More fun was had. I asked a wonderful woman to marry me. She foolishly said yes. We packed up the car and started the long trek back to Boston, and you know what? We happened to find ourselves (read: I engineered the timing perfectly) back at Shilling at one in the afternoon to try that pizza. And it was damn good.