I was in Michigan for a few days for vacation and visiting old friends, and we spent one day up in Holland seeing my old digs, trying to make a beer run, and visiting New Holland Brewing Company. The beer run wasn’t as good as I had hoped, and the weather was horrible the day we went up there, but NHBC was lively and I had some good beers.
When you visit the brewpub, which occupies the former Vogelzang Hardware store on 8th St. in downtown Holland, there are always three sets of beers
to choose from: Mainstays, High Gravity and Specialties. The mainstay choices are things the brewery makes year-round, like Mad Hatter IPA and The Poet stout. The high gravity series are the big beers, a lot of which are also made all year long, like Night Tripper, Existential (double IPA) and The Pilgrim’s Dole (wheat wine). The specialty beers are seasonals or one-offs that change frequently. On this visit there were 4-5, and I wish I had snapped a photo as I can’t remember them all, but one was a smoked lager, which I had, while there was a helles and a couple more beers to choose from. Thanks to NHBC’s Facebook page, I can now fill in these blanks. The specialty beers on tap while I was there were Copper Pot (Vienna Lager), Smokey Joe (smoked lager), House Lager (style unknown) and there was a helles whose name wasn’t available, either.
I tend not to like smoked beers, as the smoke can be way too overpowering for me, but I decided to try the smoked lager and see what I thought. I didn’t take tasting notes, so my recollections are the best I could do, but I really enjoyed this beer. The beer itself was a regular lager, basically in this case a vehicle to carry the smoke flavor, but the smoke was subtle and delicious. It would have paired really well with food, I think. I can’t remember a whole lot about the beer other than I liked it a lot and it was probably the best smoked beer I’ve had.
I also enjoyed a Night Tripper, which was $5.00 in a 10-ounce flute type of glass. The beer was served way too cold, in my opinion, off the tap, but it warmed up very fast after having my hands cupped around the glass for a few minutes. Again, I didn’t take tasting notes, but this is a nice imperial IPA. The carbonation is low, it is pitch black, and there are lots of nice roasty flavors along with dark fruits and quite a kick of alcohol on in the aroma and flavor. I enjoyed this beer a lot, but I found 10 ounces to be a bit much for me. I was going to do a mix of samples from the High Gravity series and while I enjoyed the Night Tripped very much, afterward I had wished that I’d done that instead of a full glass of just one.
My girlfriend wanted to have a Dark & Stormy, but they were out of ginger beer, so she had a mint julep, instead, made from NHBC’s artisanal Zeppelin Bend whiskey instead. The whiskey sells for something like $75/bottle, and their whiskey cocktails are $16 each! It seemed like an OK drink, but I think their bartenders are very much beer servers first and mixologists a distant second. It was not a $16 cocktail, in my opinion, although they did give her a nice hit of whiskey and can’t be accused of underpouring it.
They had a lot of liquor infusing in big jugs behind the bar, and I was tempted to try the cucumber-infused gin, but I passed. My stomach was so-so that day, and I just wasn’t in much of a drinking mood. New Holland started distilling their own liquors about 3.5 years ago or so, and when they first started making them available I had a “gin and tonic” there. Unfortunately, the “gin” was brandy with flavorings in it to make it taste gin-like, so it was AWFUL in a drink. That abomination liquor is now called Jumpin’ Juniper, and they do make a real gin now, but I was afraid to try it, even though I am a huge fan of Hendrick’s very cucumber-ish gin. Maybe next time!