Lucky for me, the clay supplier for my pottery business is located about 15 minutes from Holland, MI, where you will find a few breweries to choose from. Last week I chose to stop and check out things at New Holland Brewing Co. I actually began my college career at Hope College, just a few blocks from where New Holland is located, but unfortunately, I had left the area before they opened their doors.
New Holland operates a brewpub and restaurant downtown with a wonderful menu and around 20 taps. The beer choices consist of both production beers brewed at their facility just outside of town and pub brews, brewed at and specifically for the pub. Last February, Steve Berthel (or "Bert") joined the New Holland team as head pub brewer. As a long time collaborator with New Holland, Steve brought his extensive brewing knowledge from years of experience as head brewer at Kraftbrau (a now closed brewery that was located in Kalamazoo), and owner and head brewer at The Livery, Benton Harbor, MI, as well as being a member of the Board of Directors fro the Michigan Brewer's Guild.
I had not been to New Holland since Bert started brewing there, so I was glad to catch him cleaning up the brew house when I arrived. He had just finished brewing a collaborative English pub ale with neighboring brewers from Our Brewing Company (located just a few doors down), and the guys from Big Lake Brewing Company. All three breweries will release this beer in their pubs during American Craft Beer Week - May 12-18.
As the head pub brewer, Bert oversees all of the specialty beers brewed at the pub. More than half of the beers offered at the time of my visit were his beers, (see photo of tap board - beers listed in yellow are his) including three barrel aged beers. I decided that a sampler board was in order to enjoy with my Tree Hugger veggie sandwich.
Bert's first brew last year was Water Sign IPA, a collaboration with New Holland president Brett VanderKamp and New Holland partner Fred Bueltmann. Since all three share February birthdays, they have collaborated on versions of Water Sign for the past couple of years to celebrate. This year they had two different versions that I was able to sample - a cask version Water Sign Pale Ale (5.2% ABV) with Michigan grown hops and malt, and a barrel aged version Water Sign Beer Barrel Bock (9.6% ABV) with Michigan grown hops and malt.
The barrel aged version had a characteristically lower carbonation and was served at cellar temperature, so not quite as cold as the other beers on tap. This allowed the wonderful malt flavors to shine through. I love cask ales, and this was one of the more enjoyable ones that I've tasted in a good long while. Bert told me that he used hops from Empire Hops Farm, and that this was probably the first all Michigan brewed bock.
Since my birthday is in May, I consider Maibocks to be my birthday beer, and Bert had one of these on tap as well - B.O.T.L. Cap (7% ABV). This had a nice dark malty sweetness. The other non-barrel aged beer I tasted was a high gravity doppelbock called Czeched Out (9.4% ABV). Again, being from the bock family, there was more of a rich, malty sweetness to this beer, with the hops taking a backseat in the flavor.
The last two beers were big bold barrel aged beers - Mad March Hare (barrel aged English Strong Ale, 9.6% ABV), and Really Wicked Princess (barrel aged Scotch Ale, 10.2% ABV). Both were very rich with nice bourbon overtones, and medium to full bodied mouth feel. The Scotch ale included some expected peaty-ness, probably from smoked malt. Overall, a very, very enjoyable offering from New Holland.
I personally am not that familiar with spirits, however, as an extension to their brewing, New Holland has a line of distilled beverages as well. You can get a sample board of their whiskeys, just as you can get a sampler of their beers. The one whiskey that I have enjoyed from New Holland is their Beer Barrel Bourbon. This is first aged in new American oak barrels for several years before aging in beer barrels - the opposite of aging beer in bourbon barrels.
Dragon's Milk (bourbon barrel stout, 10% ABV, IBUs 31) is one of the beers that New Holland is most well known, and one of my favorite beers from these guys. They have just announced that they will be releasing two "reserve" batches of this beer. The first being Dragon's Milk Reserve with Toasted Chilies, which will be shipping out from Holland this week and hitting Michiana bottle shops very soon. This reserve blend is aged with chili de arbol peppers in bourbon barrels for three months.
“This reserve batch of Dragon’s Milk was a brew we first brought to festivals and eventually to the Great American Beer Festival, where it won Silver in the Experimental category,” says Brett VanderKamp, president of New Holland. “Our festival-fans might remember it as ‘Smaug’s Breath’ but in market you’ll see it as Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Toasted Chilies, even though it’s essentially the same recipe.”
In late fall 2014, the second Reserve offering will be released – Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Raspberries. A different slant on the barrel-aged stout. Using the tartness of raspberries against the rich, deep vanilla notes of the stout.
“The raspberry Reserve is equally amazing,” says VanderKamp. “It will definitely appeal to those who love that tangy tartness of raspberries and those who are a little scared of the chilies,” he laughs.
First released in 2001, Dragon’s Milk was one of the early bourbon barrel-aged stouts in the US. The barrel-aging scene has since exploded. Once a single-batch annual release, Dragon’s Milk has become New Holland’s largest selling year-round beer, gaining accolades and recognition internationally, including a recent silver medal in the 2013 Brussels Beer Challenge.
“We’re excited about these two limited-release offerings,” says VanderKamp. “It has been important to us to offer Dragon’s Milk year round. Even though it is a time- and labor-intensive brew, we feel like it needs to be a flavor profile available to our fans whenever they want it – for those big and small celebrations in life. But we’re also looking forward to offering these two fun, smaller runs of the Dragon’s Milk Reserve. We believe they will make our fans proud and encourage them to stop and enjoy the moment.”
About New Holland Brewing Co.
New Holland Brewing Company’s deep roots in the craft industry go back to 1997. Our role as an integral member of the artisan approach is something we take seriously, yet engage lightheartedly. We believe the art of craft lives in fostering rich experiences for our customers, through creating authentic beer, spirits and food while providing great service. Recognized for our creativity and artistry, our mission to improve the lives of craft consumers everywhere is seen in our diverse, balanced collection of beer and spirits.
New Holland brews and distills at two locations in Holland, Michigan: our production facility on the north side and our Pub & Restaurant in downtown Holland. The restaurant welcomes guests seven days a week and production tours are on Saturday afternoons. We welcome visitors and locals alike, and appreciate the opportunity to share our artisan approach through warm hospitality and enriching education.
With just under 150 employees, New Holland Brewing Co. sells its beer and spirits across a growing regional landscape, while anchored in the upper Midwest. In 2012, our production facility underwent substantial development including the tripling of our brewing capacity through outdoor fermentation, the addition of a centrifuge and the expansion of our Dragon’s Milk cellar. In 2013, the company is expanding its distilling capabilities, renovating the downtown Holland Pub & Restaurant and focusing on the integration of Michigan agriculture; hops, wheat and barley, into several new and existing brands.