Founded in 1996 by Brett VanderKamp and Jason Spaulding, New Holland is best known for its high-gravity and barrel-aged beers. In addition to their signature beers like Mad Hatter IPA and Dragon’s Milk stout, they have a great stable of seasonals and rotating brews. Several of these beers are offered in versions aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Most of this beer is bottled or kegged before being shipped off, but while touring the factory, we saw several of the casks shrink-wrapped on palettes, meaning some lucky bars will soon be serving their beer straight from the wooden barrels. We also saw the company’s bottling line, which has a rich brewing history all its own. First installed in the Latrobe Brewing Company (of Rolling Rock fame) in Pennsylvania, the line was sold to Summit Brewing of St. Paul, and then sold again to Sierra Nevada in Chico, California before finally arriving at New Holland.
Unfortunately, if you are looking for New Holland beers in New York City, your options are limited. The brewery only distributes as far east as Pennsylvania, but Barcade in Williamsburg does have their Mad Hatter on tap.
New Holland has had some challenges putting down its roots in southwest Michigan. While cities like Paris, Texas or Moscow, Idaho may have little connection to their eponymous European counterparts, Holland, Michigan cleaves close to its Dutch roots. In addition to being home to multiple wooden shoe factories, a tulip festival and a large Dutch costume industry, Holland and the surrounding communities have long maintained restrictions on alcohol introduced by their Dutch Protestant founders.
The owners of New Holland worked in concert with other local businesses to overturn Holland’s ban on alcohol sales on Sunday, a goal they accomplished last year; the brewery’s downtown brew pub is now open seven days a week. In the neighboring town of Zeeland, voters overturned a ban on alcohol sales in 2007. The measure passed by only 40 votes, but the town’s lone establishment with a liquor license, Vitale’s Pizza, is packed to the gills most nights of the week. Three weeks ago, the town held its annual Pumpkinfest; this year’s event was notable because it was the first to serve beer (some people were not enthusiastic about this idea).
Thanks to the work people like Rex and Mary Halfpenny, the founders of the Michigan Beer Guide, and a network of dedicated homebrewers, the quality and reach of Michigan brewers will continue to grow.
I would be amiss if I did not mention some of the other highlights of our trip to Holland. Veldheer's is your one-stop shop for everything Dutch - they have tulip bulbs, traditional ceramic tiles, and a wide selection of clogs. You can even see how the wooden shoes are made, from billet to footwear (surprisingly, they are not totally uncomfortable). But their small shoemaking operation cannot meet the voracious local demand for the shoes; Veldheer's imports more than 5,000 pairs from the Netherlands each year, while they fashion only 1,000 on site. Once you’re decked out in your wooden shoes, you can clatter on down to Fabiano’s Peanut Store, an old-time family-owned candy shop best known for its peanut paddle pops - a chocolate-covered ice cream popsicle rolled in fresh Spanish peanuts.
With quality craft beer, ungainly Dutch footwear, and delicious salty-sweet treats, why wouldn’t you visit Holland?
-- Andrew Gustafson