I have to say that the tour of the New Holland Brewing Company was one of the best all around tours I have ever been on. There were not many tours taking place so one could actually hear the tour guide speak (I’m looking at you De Halve Maan Brewery in Brugge, Belgium); she was informative and clearly had a passion for the content she was delivering. It was long, but long in a good way.
To recap: One of the main reasons for visiting Holland, Michigan was to tour the brew house and distillery. While there are dozens of brew houses in the United States, the majority don’t offer tours, as in the closest you get to the beer is drinking it from a glass at a restaurant. But tours of the New Holland brew house is a big deal. From Memorial Day weekend on, tours are offered three times a day on Saturdays at 12 PM, 1:45 PM, and 3:15 PM (during winter one tour takes place on Saturday). Tour tickets are $10 but when you hear how many samples are offered, you’ll see that $10 is truly a bargain. (Tours are only available to those 21 and older.) They are scheduled to last 75 minutes although ours went over due to people asking questions and general conversation taking place.
While the New Holland Brewing restaurant is located in downtown Holland on 8th Street, the brew house and distillery is at a separate location, about a 10 minute drive in definitely a more residential section of town. But as the tour guide explained, the more removed location gives it the opportunity to expand as opposed to being up against space restrictions.
Unlike previous adult beverage production tours I’ve been on where the samples come at the end, on this one, you drank as you toured, trying different beers at different areas of the facility. At the first sample stop, all participants are given a cup which serves as your sample cup for the rest of the tour (there were water bottles so you could rinse out your cup if you didn’t want different beers mixing). Some of the beers that were offered as samples included Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout, Mad Hatter India Pale Ale, The Poet, Cabin Fever Brown Ale and Four Witches Black Saison.
What also sets the New Holland name apart is that their brew house is also a distillery. They make a variety of whiskeys (the most popular is its beer barrel bourbon), rum, vodka, gin, and hopquila (rooted in beer and tastes like tequila). Samples of the spirits included the whiskey, gin, and hopquila (I had the last and oh my gosh was it strong). The neatest thing though was probably seeing the post Prohibition pot-still (as a Boardwalk Empire fan, it was doubly cool).
The company’s website (click here) is extremely informative about all of their beers and spirits, as well as events going on around the country that feature their beverage concoctions.
Even if you’re not a beer drinker (I am definitely not), I tip my hat to such a well-run facility that offered visitors a really terrific tour, especially since the company’s founders started making their famous brews in their dorm room at nearby Hope College (clearly they were too cool for school).