Holland, Mich. — It may not feel like it yet, but the crisp breezes, changing leaves and chilly nighttime bonfires of autumn are fast approaching. So signals the return of Ichabod, New Holland Brewing Company’s classic pumpkin beer, which is slated to appear in bars and restaurants starting August 13.
The beer will be tapped in New Holland’s Grand Rapids and Holland pubs startingSeptember 4.
Ichabod is a pumpkin ale brewed with real pumpkin, malted barley, cinnamon and nutmeg. This marks the beer’s twenty-first year in New Holland’s lineup. In that time, it has become a heavily anticipated seasonal release.
“Ichabod was one of the first beers we ever brewed,” said Brett VanderKamp, Founder at New Holland Brewing Company. “It’s been an absolute favorite for us at the brewery, and our fans in Michigan and beyond, ever since.”
For the first time this year, consumers will be able to enjoy Ichabod in six packs of cans.
“We’re excited to have Ichabod come out in a can. This will be a perfect beer for sipping around the campfire and for tailgating,” Joel Petersen, Vice President of Sales at New Holland Brewing Company said.
Ichabod will be a limited release this year, making it available for a shorter period of time within the season. Petersen said this decision aims to make room for other fall flavors to shine and to allow Ichabod to be in the market during the peak of Fall.
“Fall, with all of its grandeur, offers many flavor profiles, including pumpkin, and we think people can and should explore,” Petersen said.
Many locations pouring New Holland’s Ichabod will also serve Filthy Pumpkin, a 60/40 combination of Ichabod and Dragon’s Milk that Petersen says is a mug club member favorite at New Holland’s pubs.
“When Ichabod comes out, it kicks off the anticipation for the amazing fall season we have here in the midwest,” Petersen said. “This is a beer that pairs well with sweatshirts, sunny days, cool nights and the smell of smoke from the fire pit.”
Pigeon Hill Brewing Company released three specialty canned beers to an enthusiastic group of early rising holiday shoppers in Muskegon, Michigan on Black Friday. Grapefruit Renny, a double IPA (DIPA) featuring, as the name suggests, grapefruit juiciness. Also released was the rare Your Mom on French Toast, now officially dubbed “YMOFT,” an imperial stout featuring maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. The final new canned beer of the day was Your Grandma on French Toast, now called “YGOFT,” which was the star of the show. A bourbon barrel aged variation of YMOFT which is highly sought after and produced one of the longest lines at the Winter Beer Festival this past February in anticipation of its pouring.
The can release was to begin at 10:00 a.m., and despite arriving an hour early a line had already formed some 50 people deep. Foregoing the madness of holiday shopping, a great crowd of warmly clad craft beer lovers stood in line on a relatively mild late November morning. Jamie, Stubby, and Cody were the first three gentlemen in line, but Cody actually arrived first. “I came right from Cap and Cork after their midnight release so I was here about 1:40 a.m.” says Cody with a hearty laugh. Deciding he didn’t want to be first in line, Cody chose to nap in his car despite a couple of interruptions from a random “passer by” who was looking for cigarettes, beer, the time, and to sleep in his car. Cody laughed it all off citing just how stoked he was to be getting one of his favorites—YGOFT.
A sunny autumn morning was made more pleasant by the brewery with a complimentary breakfast that was served to all patrons. Breakfast samples were brought out to those of us standing in line. Upon entering the taproom from the breezy Western Avenue, the smell of bacon, sausage, pancakes, and syrup grabbed you by the senses and just hugged you all over. The breakfast scent combined with the true brewery aroma created a sweet aromatic melody that made the beer and the food even more rich and satisfying.
“The name Pigeon Hill was a nod to the community. Pigeon Hill was a large sand dune that was mined out for cast iron castings” says Michael Brower, who is a co-owner of the brewery. “When you walk in the taproom it’s basically a living museum. Everything from the wallpaper which features Muskegon street scenes to the lights which are from local factories that have closed. Our tables are made from old virgin white pine that was cut here in Muskegon and sank during the 1880’s.” Michael’s dedication to family, community, and craft were clearly on display as his parents were cooking breakfast, his grandmother (pictured on the YGOFT label) and his wife were all working to serve the thirsty and excited crowd.
Asking Michael about the origins of YMOFT he replied, “‘Your mom on toast’ was actually one of my catchphrases. In fact, I have emails going back to 2008 in which I sign off with that phrase. It means nothing but I loved it and it fit in with my sense of humor. We talked about it from day one, ‘What beer will Your Mom on Toast be?’ We didn’t know if it would be something bready or not but when we tried a french toast beer and decided to make our own it clicked, ‘Your Mom on French Toast.’ I’m not even sure if it was me who came up with the name!”
When asked about the process of making YMOFT, Michael replied “We start with our imperial stout Majestic Beast as the base beer then add maple, vanilla, and cinnamon and really that is the recipe.” I then asked when the idea for grandma came up he laughed, “I think the day we brewed it. We were like, ‘I wonder what this would be like in a barrel?’ When we started we were working out of the tap room and only had 940 square feet so we didn’t have room for barrels. Once we opened our production facility it became a reality. We got our hands on a couple of Buffalo Trace Rye barrels and said ‘let’s see what happens!” Indeed!
Joel Kamp, Chad Doane, Michael Brower
We were given a small tour of the original taproom and brewhouse as well as the newer production facility located nearby led by Michael and Chad Doane, head brewer. Upon arriving at the doors, we were greeted by an unknown drummer who played very well. Joel Kamp, co-owner of Pigeon Hill Brewing, came out from behind his kit and greeted us warmly as he wiped the sweat from his brow. “I really had a nice groove going there” he said with a smile on his face. A wonderful German lager was poured and the three gentlemen showed us around the facility. There was a very tangible sense of excitement as they talked openly and freely about the obstacles they’d overcome, the work that led to the success of the day at hand, as well as the future for their company.
Jay Fettig, founder and owner of North Pier Brewing Co., is not “from” the beer industry. He’ll even tell you he’s only a mediocre-at-best homebrewer. But, that doesn’t disqualify him from running a successful brewery. While in business school at Indiana University, he drafted a business plan for what would eventually become a Benton Harbor, MI destination.
North Pier came out swinging when they opened in May 2016, during the same weekend the Senior PGA Championship was being played across the street at Harbor Shores Golf Club. Fettig says it was “definitely trial by fire, but we sold a lot of beer.” And, they still do. It must’ve been a good weekend for them to open because it’s not uncommon for golfers to pull up in their carts between holes 13 and 14 to grab a howler to go. They have continued to sell more beer than originally estimated.
Initially, North Pier planned to roll out 800 barrels annually. After the trend Fettig noticed during their inaugural summer in a tourist-heavy Lake Michigan town, and feeling the pinch of struggling to keep up with draft demand in their taproom, he activated a growth strategy. Now, they have the capacity to produce 4,000. They know well enough that they don’t have to max it out all at once just because they can, but have set themselves up to grow into it at their pace. Baked into their existing property is an additional 13,500 sq ft, on which they can build, that would allow them a total of 20,000 sq ft for production. They’re also sitting on a 7,500 sq ft warehouse that will be used as a cold room and a buffer for the miscellaneous.
Fettig’s right hand man and head brewer is Steve Distasio. Distasio, who joined North Pier nine months before they opened, attended brewing school in the UK, and had a tenure at Rogue studying under John Maier. “Hiring Steve was the best move we could’ve made,” says Fettig. Distasio runs a tight and impeccably clean ship. His approach, he says, is to “operate a very small brewery like a very big brewery.” Fettig adds that they’re also conscious about not chasing trends. Out of the 12 beers on draft in their taproom, most are Belgian-inspired.
Steve Distasio & Jay Fettig
From the beginning, Fettig and Distasio had distribution and ultimately canning on their radar. “If we wanted to grow and do what we had intended, we had to do it sooner than later,” Fettig says of striking while the iron was hot. They partnered with a distributor in November, and are releasing their first two 16oz cans out of their taproom during their one-year anniversary party on May 27—a perfect way to relax this Memorial Day weekend. Two of their mainstays, Buckrider, a Belgian IPA, and The Conjurer, a Belgian Golden Strong, will be the first available off the line. They’ll also release a limited number of 750ml bottles of a saison aged in French oak wine barrels with two different types of Brett. The event is free to attend, but ticket packages that include an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil and po’boys, along with a beer token and commemorative glass, can be purchased via Eventbrite.
North Pier is family-friendly, and welcomes outside food. Although they don’t have any intention to build a kitchen, they have a close relationship with their cash-only neighbors across the street at North Shore Inn who’ll deliver the best burger in town to soak up Drake’s Drum, North Pier’s 12.6% English Barleywine. When the weather’s nice, a garage door in the taproom retracts to create a seamless ebb and flow with their communal deck outside, which is available for private rental during the off-season. However, at the rate North Pier is going, they may not have an off season for a while.