Grand Rapids, Mich., may be known as “Beer City,” but best friends Brett VanderKamp and Jason Spaulding had the vision to make their neighboring hometown of Holland just as influential in the beer industry. Upon founding New Holland Brewing in 1996, the pair set out to introduce beer drinkers to innovative craft styles.
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, New Holland’s microbrewery began producing a range of craft beers — including the bourbon barrel-aged stout Dragon’s Milk, which has developed a cult-like following since its 2001 debut. As Michigan’s booze laws evolved, so did New Holland, leading the small brewery to begin distilling craft spirits less than a decade after its establishment.
The years since have been good to New Holland. Today, the brewery-turned-distillery has grown into a mega beverage brand with two locations each of its restaurants, tasting rooms, and brick-and-mortar storefronts. Here are nine more things to know about New Holland Brewing.
New Holland was born from homebrewing.
New Holland Brewing was born from best friends Jason Spaulding and Brett VanderKamp’s passion for homebrewing — a pastime that (like many homebrewers) they discovered during their time at college. Shortly after graduating, the two decided to turn their homebrew hobby into a business and launched New Holland Brewing in 1997. Since its humble start, New Holland Brewing has become one of the state’s largest independent craft breweries.
The New Holland Brewery is a fire survivor.
In February 2021, New Holland’s beer production temporarily came to a halt when an electrical fire damaged its facility. Small but mighty, the fire damaged one wall and the roof of the brewhouse, causing Holland to cease brewing and regroup. Although much of the beer reserved in the tanks was still able to be packaged for sale, it took another five weeks of repairs before New Holland could brew beer again.
Forget oat milk, Dragon’s Milk is New Holland’s specialty.
The New Holland Brewery is also the home of the bourbon barrel-aged stout Dragon’s Milk — its name referring to a term used to describe robust ales and elixirs during medieval times. From its three-month aging in bourbon barrels, the roasted malt is enriched with flavors of coffee, chocolate, and a hint of sweetness. Its distinct taste earned it a devoted fan base and inspired a full line of bourbon barrel-aged beverages, including limited-edition beers, whiskeys, and hard seltzers.
New Holland also makes a wide range of spirits…
In 2005, New Holland Brewery began using its expertise to distill craft spirits, and in 2008 — once Michigan loosened its distilling restrictions — began to sell them. The brewery/distillery began with a bourbon and rye made in the same barrels used to house its Dragon’s Milk stout. Over the years, the New Holland spirit family has grown and today includes everything from an apple pie-flavored beer, barrel-aged bourbon, and aromatic fruit-flavored gins, to vodkas, liqueurs, and even rum.
…And canned beverages
Not to be forgotten from the lineup are New Holland’s canned beverages, which include spiked seltzers and a range of ready-to-drink (RTD) options. Launched in 2018, New Holland’s RTD collection includes four expressions: Holland Mule, Blueberry Gin Lemonade, Rum Punch, and Blackberry Bramble. Later, in 2020, the distillery released a line of vodka-spiked seltzers crafted with the distillery’s Lake Life Vodka and fruit flavors like peach, lime, cranberry, and pineapple. Similar to its RTD beverages, the seltzers are sold in cans but are low in both sugar and calories for the conscious drinker.
What’s a great beer without good food?
You can enjoy New Holland’s full beer lineup and tasty pub fare at its brewpub restaurants, located in Holland and Grand Rapids. Along with a full menu, each brewpub offers a selection of pub-brewed and limited-edition beers. For unique cocktails crafted with the distillery’s spirits, drinkers can also visit New Holland’s taprooms located in Saugatuck and South Haven. Both Michigan-based locations offer eclectic cocktail menus with signature drinks and seasonal shots.
Become one with the brand with New Holland Brewing merch.
With a full line of merch, drinkers can show their love for New Holland and its beers. Dragon’s Milk offers merchandise including bourbon barrel-aged coffee, smoker chips made from beer and bourbon barrels, and scented lip balm. Fans can even purchase the bourbon barrels used to age the stout.
New Holland supports the arts.
With the Covid-19 pandemic affecting so many creative industries, New Holland Brewing launched the Gezellig Concert Series in March 2020 to create opportunities for musicians to perform from the safety of their homes. A nod to the brand’s name, the virtual shows were named Gezellig, a Dutch word for cozy.
New Holland wants to take you on a journey.
For connoisseurs, New Holland delivers brewing expertise with its Journey Series of beers, which showcases the brewery’s innovative styles and techniques. The first release –– a foeder-aged sour ale aptly named The Call — symbolizes the brand’s calling to brew premium beers rooted in traditional style. The innovative line ranges in explorative tastes, including sours, wild, and barrel-aged brews, and has been released in limited quantities since 2020.