As many of you readers know, New Holland Brewing Co. is a brewery near and dear to my heart. I used to live a few blocks from the brewpub in Holland, MI, and in many ways New Holland was my “gateway” brewery into the wonderful world of craft beer.

We recently went to the AWESOME Beer Kitchen in Westport and I enjoyed a Farmhouse Hatter on tap there. Mad Hatter is New Holland’s year-round IPA, but the brewery does a LOT of experimenting from the Hatter platform… over the years I’ve had variations that include the imperial version, a black Hatter and even a smoked version, as well as this “farmhouse” style.

Farmhouse Hatter is a Belgian IPA/pale ale version of this popular beer. Belgian beers are all the rage these days, and I’ve had three Belgian IPA’s I’m aware of. A couple of years ago I reviewed Great Divide’s Belgica, and I’ll have a review of an Iowa brewery’s offering in this style, too.

New Holland modified its Mad Hatter recipe with wheat and pilsner malts and then used a Belgian Saison yeast to give it its Belgian characteristics. The result is quite pleasant, with an ABV of 5.8% and good balance.

The one problem I seem to have with Belgian IPA’s is the interplay between hops and the Belgian yeast. To me, there is a rubber tire character to the flavors that I’ve noted in each one of these beers I’ve had. Farmhouse Hatter’s hop levels seem lower than the normal recipe, though, so this character was minimized in this beer and I liked it a lot more because of it. The Belgian Saison character is evident in the early part of the sip with some grassy, somewhat sour (but think of a fruity sourness or mild tartness rather than a true sour beer) overtone with the hops coming in on the tail end of the sip. The hops in this case were floral rather than piney, West Coast style hops. There was a nice dry, bitter finish, but the beer had good balance and was a pleasure to drink (although one was plenty for me).