New Holland Brewing

New Holland Brewing Company                                               By:  Joe Deemer

Picture a typical fall Sunday afternoon. You’re watching the game, and it’s the second commercial break after a touchdown (because watching one measly kickoff should have you primed and ready to watch more paid advertisements, right?).

Now picture the typical commercials they air at this time. There are some buddies hanging out with an MMA legend, enjoying the perks of what seems like a perpetual backstage pass … and they’re drinking some beer. Or maybe it’s a hot day in a jam-packed train car. An enterprising hero cracks open a cold one, inviting an icy wind and inciting a dance party … and they’re drinking some beer. What about a pool party where a bedraggled rescue dog delivers a brew to anyone who calls him by name? He’s so adorable… let’s drink some beer.

The common theme? Here’s a fantastic scenario. Oh, and by the way … there’s beer.

For New Holland Brewing Company, a craft brewery based out of Holland, Michigan, those priorities are emphatically reversed.  First, there’s beer. Now, stop & taste.

When Brett VanderKamp and Jason Spaulding started New Holland Brewing Company (NHBC) in 1997, they were determined to craft delicious, thoughtful, well-rounded beers—the kind of beers that demand the drinker’s attention; or complement a gourmet meal; or, better yet, facilitate lively conversation.

VanderKamp and Spaulding weren’t content to brew beers that live on the periphery of your life—those mass-produced lagers you unconsciously sip at a house party, or in the stands of a ballgame, or (if you’re lucky) the company picnic.

They strove instead to produce beer that would enhance the quality of life for those who drink it. They believed that a beer made with passion and creativity—coupled with the same level of care and attention that any master craftsman imparts upon his creations—could take what might otherwise be an ordinary moment and transform it into an experience—an opportunity for the drinker to pause and realize that, yes, life is good…

And that’s the main reason NHBC has taken up the mantra, “Stop & Taste.” It’s a call to conscious and deliberate inaction. It challenges us to not become distracted by our jobs, or the television, or the smartphone in our pocket. It’s about taking a moment to truly taste a fine beer; to genuinely savor exquisite food; and be 100-percent present with the folks around you. You can visit to see NHBC team members explaining their philosophy.

Having just celebrated their 16th anniversary, it’s safe to say this movement is gaining traction.

This was especially apparent at the recent Hatter Day Street Party, which is becoming an annual event for the brewery. A section of Holland’s College Avenue is blocked off from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m., and an open invitation is extended to come celebrate with food, live music, a daredevil circus, and, of course, a selection of “Hatter Family” beers crafted especially for the festival. These beers include New Holland’s year-round offerings—Mad Hatter IPA and Imperial Hatter (Imperial IPA)—in addition to specialty offerings like White Hatter (Belgian-style White Pale Ale), Black Hatter (Black IPA), Rye Hatter (Rye IPA), Farmhouse Hatter (Farmhouse IPA), Oak-Aged Hatter (Oak-Aged IPA), and Michigan Hatter (Michigan Pale Ale).

“These beers represent what New Holland stands for—artistry and balance,” said VanderKamp. “They push the boundaries of an IPA with creative and artistic approaches, but they maintain a balanced profile and aren’t just different for difference’s sake.”

The patriarch of the Hatter family is the Mad Hatter India Pale Ale, though one look at a pint of the brew will have you thinking of anything but the word “pale.” Its auburn tones promise a more malty profile, but one sniff will reassure hopheads they’re in for a delightful experience.

“We started brewing our flagship IPA, Mad Hatter, in 1998. It’s a well-balanced American IPA with an English twist. I say English twist because our IPA is well-balanced and not a hop bomb like some American IPAs can be,” VanderKamp explained. “It has a good malt backbone and isn’t insanely bitter, but has that distinctive floral hop aroma.”

The name “Mad Hatter” wasn’t settled upon in the womb (or fermenter as it were). Instead it was the convergence of an un-named beer and a bunch of literature students from the local college having pints. It just so happened to be June 10th, the date on the ticket in the Mad Hatter’s hat in Alice in Wonderland; hence, Mad Hatter IPA. This love of literature is evident in many of New Holland’s brews, including The Poet Oatmeal Stout (the Raven on the label suggests Edgar Allen Poe), Monkey King Saison Farmhouse Ale (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and the popular seasonal Ichabod Pumpkin Ale (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). So maybe think twice before you snarkily ask what someone can do with an English degree…

The Hatter Days Street Party is just one testament to the warm relationship between NHBC, the town of Holland and the surrounding area, though it didn’t happen right away. Holland, founded by Dutch settlers in the mid-19th Century has traditionally been considered a bit on the conservative side. But New Holland Brewing’s commitment to its craft and community eventually won over the town.

“Much like the skeptical beer drinkers of the past, Holland has grown to love the diversity and artistry that NHBC has brought to the community, much like what craft beer has brought to the beverage industry,” said Emily Haines, Community Manager at New Holland Brewing. “It’s a great lesson in how, when we withhold judgment, we can experience new and amazing things.”

A prime example of those new and amazing things is the Agribrew series. These are beers that are inspired by (and an homage) to local agriculture. These beers include Paleooza Michigan Pale Ale (brewed entirely with Michigan-grown hops), an October brew, Harvest Ale: Hopivore, which is wet-hopped with Michigan-grown hops within hours of the initial harvest and the newest member of the Hatter Family—Michigan Hatter, made with Michigan hops from the Leelanau Peninsula.

“We have a special place in our hearts for our Agribrew Series,” Haines said. “It’s a reflection of our commitment to local farmers and sustainability.”

Naturally, NHBC has taken this cooperative local Agribrew effort a step further with their “Stop & Taste Harvest Dinner Series” ( These special events, which run from June through October, feature multi-course meals planned by NHBC’s Co-Owner, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, and “Beervangelist,” Fred Bueltmann. Bueltmann, who travels with the featured chef, tours the local farms where all the ingredients for the meal are sourced. Then, he and the chef taste the ingredients and determine proper pairings from NHBC’s range of beer and spirits offerings. (Note: It’s okay if you’re considering changing careers at this point…)

“The format is inspired by relationships we’ve developed with local farms and the talented restaurants who feature them,” Bueltmann explained. “These dinners invite people to connect with the ongoing harvest all around us and the beauty of our agriculture. By designing dishes that showcase the ingredients in their peak moments, while artfully integrating beer, we engage the very best parts of eating and drinking seasonally.”

Residents of the greater Pittsburgh area can find some of New Holland’s offerings at local distributors. The easiest varieties to import to a refrigerator near you include Mad Hatter India Pale Ale, Full Circle Kolsch, The Poet Oatmeal Stout, and Sundog Amber Ale.

Mad Hatter India Pale Ale. As mentioned above, this India Pale Ale is brewed in more of an English style. The 55 IBUs deliver the hop punch that IPA lovers crave, but the presence of crystal malt provides a color and slightly sweeter counterpoint that make it more accessible to fans of nut brown and Irish red ales. A dry hopping process using Centennial hops ensures that a clean, floral, citrus aroma shines through without imparting any additional bitterness.

Full Circle Kolsch. For many fans of the “big-3” American brewers, a fine Kolsch is the “gateway” craft beer, and NHBC’s Kolsch offering is no exception. A pale straw color, with floral and bready notes on the nose, Full Circle delivers on the promise of a cool, crisp complement to a hot summer day. Switch out your buddy’s “big-3” beer with a pint of this lawnmower classic and witness the early conversion of a craft beer connoisseur.

The Poet Oatmeal Stout. This near-black offering delivers all the tasting notes you would expect from this variety, but you won’t need a fork to eat it. Not only will you detect hints of oats amongst the more common coffee and cocoa flavors of traditional stouts, the oats’ presence provides a silky smooth mouth feel that might have you giving it the ol’ Listerine/Scope treatment before it finally goes “down the hatch.” Weighing in at 37 IBUs, The Poet lacks just a bit of the bitterness you might expect from a stout, but this allows the additional subtle notes of plum, fig, and raisin to shine through as well—a very pleasant effect.

Sundog Amber Ale. The hop/malt balance and easy sip-ability of this amber ale suggests a perfect summer evening or fall session beer. But at 6.0% ABV, you may find yourself getting slightly more from the “session” than you bargained for. Caramel and toasted nutty tones give way slightly to the telltale grapefruit presence of Michigan-grown Cascade hops. I understand arranged marriages are a bit out of style, but I definitely foresee a shotgun wedding between a bottle of Sundog and my next grilled cheeseburger…

Indulge me once more. Re-imagine that Sunday afternoon I mentioned earlier. I understand this may be a bit of a hard sell, but the next time your team’s down by 14 or more points, and you can just tell your defense won’t stop anything, and your punter is making a solid case for MVP; do yourself a favor.

Turn off your TV. Find a friend or loved one. Grab a great beer. Stop. Taste. Enjoy.   New Holland is proudly distributed locally by Tony Savatt, Inc.