New Holland Brewing Company, firmly established near the southeastern shore of Lake Macatawa in Holland, is rapidly progressing on their latest addition near the west bank of the Grand River in Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood. Aiming to open in September 2016, this location will offer an unparalleled opportunity to revel in life’s finer points of good drink, food, and conversation by showcasing the company’s Stop and Taste philosophy.
“This has been a process; it’s been a long arc, if you will,” President and Co-Founder Brett VanderKamp said. Over the decade that his company had been contemplating adding a physical presence in the Grand Rapids area, three serious potential locations arose before the perfect one clicked and allowed them to go forward with their intentions.
The winning proposal came from Mike VanGessel, owner and CEO of Rockford Construction whose headquarters are a few blocks away from the new development.
“We’ve all got deep ties to Grand Rapids; it’s somewhere where we’ve always been. We’ve got a solid following there with huge fans, and we’ve been wanting to be closer to them obviously for quite some time now,” said Joel Petersen, vice president of marketing.
“We wanted what is an area that we think over the next 10 to 20 years will develop in an absolutely beautiful enhanced investment part of Grand Rapids,” he added. “We couldn’t be more excited about Harmony Hall being down the street, with Atwater coming in, and The Black Heron across the street. All of the different businesses that either currently have plans or are looking at plans along that corridor. I mean, one block away you’ve got Mitten, and you’ve got Two Scotts BBQ. It’s palpable in that area right now. There’s a lot of new businesses going down there and we loved that!”
New Holland Brewing Company believes in spending time, money, and effort wisely. Fred Bueltmann, partner and Vice President of Brand and Lifestyle, asserts: “We didn’t want to expand just to expand. We didn’t want to go to Grand Rapids just to add seats. We wanted to go when an opportunity presented something that we couldn’t do in our existing places.”
With the intensity of craft fans in the Grand Rapids market he knew their contribution had to be outstanding. “Our mission is to enhance people’s lives with remarkable choices, remarkable experiences, and I think that’s about providing them choices. So we put it through that litmus test, too, that if we’re not contributing something to the neighborhood, if we’re not contributing something to the city, if we’re not providing quality choices for people that make the overall whole better, then we don’t need to go,” said Bueltmann.
According to VanderKamp, the new place is nearly double the size of the Holland pub and will need the participation of the neighborhood to be successful. “We’re really counting on the West Side. It’s not something where we’re running in thinking we’re saving the West Side, the West Side has really got to come out to support us,” he said.
Moving forward with the Grand Rapids location won’t lead to New Holland Brewing Company abandoning their birthplace. Holland is in their name and in their blood; that’s where it all started. The city will continue to be the heartbeat of the company for many years to come. Their downtown pub on 8th Street will remain a strong presence for the brand, and long-term expansion plans ensure the headquarters of operations will stay at the production campus across town.
Since opening in 1997 New Holland Brewing Company has earned their share of the market through hard work and steadfast commitment to their vision. They’ve gathered a loyal following across their distribution footprint, as well as at their downtown Holland pub where Steve “Bert” Berthel will continue brewing his exclusive pub-only offerings. Having the Grand Rapids location, according to VanderKamp, “is going to allow us, really, these pilot batches that we can then bring immediately to a broader audience.”
There will be an indoor-outdoor beer hall open year-round. VanderKamp is proud to say they fought hard in spite of expense to keep the elements of the beer hall. The team feels it will be impactful as part of the entrance to the west side of town from the city center.
The new building’s impact extends beyond the visual aspect. The planned business model will take patrons on a journey through the full range of the craft movement. Every aspect is addressed thoughtfully and thoroughly.
The restaurant’s menu will focus on rustic traditions presented in a current way, according to Bueltmann. A whole animal butchery within the complex will allow every part of an animal to be used to make stocks, soups, rillettes, charcuterie and sausage in addition to typical meat dishes.
The on-site brewing and distilling will be of the same caliber New Holland fans have come to expect. The new space will allow for more room to be creative and take on projects that have been waiting in the wings.
“We’re going to focus on gin production and other botanical spirits,” Bueltmann said. He plans to undertake extensive exploration of gins, cordials, and liqueurs to complement the company’s existing cocktail program.
The beers in planning will be a “Euro-American wide range of beautiful and comfortable beers that celebrate some of the Old World traditions that may not get a whole lot of daylight,” Bueltmann said.
New Holland Brewing Company’s standard lineup will also be available at this location. Mainstays will draw long time customers in, and experimental brews will keep them coming back. “We are continual students of balance, so I think we’ll always want to see a good balance between the comfort level of things you know and encouraging you to stretch and invite you to adventure and try something new,” Bueltmann said.
“New Holland’s Stop and Taste Philosophy is about remembering and encouraging people to take a minute to enjoy what this is all about––which is connecting, communing over food and drink,” Bueltmann said. “This project is very much in line with that philosophy in that we’re trying to build the space that is a community gathering place where people can come in and set aside the distractions of the day and connect over a meal, connect over a drink, connect over a story, and enjoy themselves and enjoy what this is all about.”
You can find a full-length multimedia version of this article here, as Episode One of New Holland Brewing Company’s Storyteller Series.
Photography: Steph Harding