November 02. 2016 11:46PM

Littleton's Schilling Beer Co. announces plans for a major expansion

By JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent


Stuart Cozzens, his brother Jeff Cozzens and John Lenzini, who are, respectively, the COO, CEO and head brewer at the Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton stand Oct. 28 on the grounds of what wil be the site of a major expansion of the microbrewery. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

LITTLETON — Schilling Beer Co. plans a major expansion, just three years after the microbrewery began making its European-inspired beer.

The brewery expects to complete the multimillion dollar project in 2018.

Schilling will eventually be able to produce 4,000 to 5,000 barrels of beer annually, compared to its current 800-barrel capacity. The expansion, designed by Samyn-D’Elia Architects of Ashland, also will include a retail center and a tasting room overlooking the Ammonoosuc River.

Company CEO Jeff Cozzens said the company is funding the project through a combination of private finances and loans from the Small Business Administration.

He acknowledged some challenges lie ahead, foremost the site work, which is proving to be “more difficult from a design perspective — and more expensive — than we had originally anticipated,” he said this week in an email.

The company expects to add more than a dozen jobs, though not right away, according to Cozzens.

“Our expansion is all about adding diversity and driving depth in quality to our beer production, while making things logistically easier on (head brewer John Lenzini) and his staff,” Cozzens said. “That’s why we are investing a great deal of our resources into a custom-made, five-vessel brewhouse, and why our primary brewing and cellaring will take place on one level instead of three, as we currently do at the brewpub.”

About 95 percent of Schilling beer is sold on-site in pints and growlers, with cans and bottles on the way.

“We will indeed use 16-ounce cans for styles that we believe are conducive to canning, such as our fresh-hopped Belgo pale ales and European-inspired lagers,” Cozzens said. “However, the vast majority of our Belgian Abbey-style beers, wild ales, barrel-aged offerings, etc. will be packaged in 750 milliliter bottles. All of these will be sold out of the brewery’s storefront.”

Schilling is one of 65 microbreweries in the Granite State and nearly 4,700 nationwide. Schilling’s expansion comes amid reports of an industry-wide slowdown.

“We believe that growth in the craft market will eventually be impacted by a combination of crowded retailer shelf space, greater consumer choice and growing disparity in beer quality,” Cozzens said. “Our country has only recently exceeded the number of pre-Prohibition breweries, so when such a slowdown will be acutely felt in our state is tough to say.

“Schilling is very focused on retail sales and in creating an unforgettable guest experience anyway, so we are paying much more attention to what we can control in the short and medium-term to make us even better,” he said. “Mini-convulsions in the overall market do not necessarily impact us.”