New Holland Brewing Co. expands to Battle Creek

One of Michigan’s oldest craft brewers is expanding again – this time to Battle Creek, where New Holland Brewing Co. plans a triple whammy: an all-new brewpub, micro-brewhouse and a micro-distillery.

Expected to open in late March, the new location not only expands New Holland Brewing Co.’s retail footprint in Michigan, but will also help spur economic development in downtown Battle Creek. 

Brett VanderKamp founded New Holland Brewing Co. in 1997.
“What we see in Battle Creek is a community investing millions of dollars into the infrastructure,” says Brett VanderKamp, CEO of New Holland Brewing Co. “The city has a tremendous group of champions through non-profit groups and long-standing businesses. They just need a little help bringing a sense of place. There are some good starts, but we need to add some variety and alternative spaces where people can get together, socialize and talk to one another.”

It’s not New Holland’s first foray into a challenging area. The opening of its Grand Rapids brewpub, known as “The Knickerbocker,” in a former adult store on the city’s west side has been a catalyst for development there. That neighborhood is now flourishing. “It took six or seven years. I expect it will take about the same amount of time in Battle Creek,” he says.

What’s happening: New Holland Brewing Co. is opening a brewpub, micro-brewhouse and micro-distillery in a former J.C. Penney building on West Michigan Avenue in downtown Battle Creek. The brewpub will offer menu items similar to its other restaurants, small-batch release of beers and spirits crafted on site. The setup also includes an all-season beer garden. The beer garden will have a walk-up bar, fire features, televisions, yard games and entertainment stage. 

The beer garden under construction. The beer garden will have a cover and will be open year round.

Why Battle Creek: Cereal City fit the demographic profile New Holland was seeking in its efforts to expand its retail presence. The southern Michigan community is also within 100 miles of its corporate offices in Holland, part of the criteria in its search.  Under its state licensing, the brewer is allowed three restaurant/tasting rooms in Michigan. The company operates two others – one in Grand Rapids and the other in downtown Holland. New Holland Brewing Co. also has spirits tasting rooms in South Haven and Saugatuck. “We like to add to the fabric of downtown communities we can give a lift to,” VanderKamp says.

Construction delays: Begun three years ago, construction of the Battle Creek brewpub has taken longer than expected, delayed by pandemic restrictions and the resulting supply chain and construction issues. Structural problems were also discovered in the early 20th century building, also causing delays. Those issues have been resolved. A soft opening is planned for in mid-March. 

Will this brewpub differ from others: The Battle Creek Brewpub is modeled after the Holland Brewpub. VanderKamp says the company has taken the best of its business practices and modern amenities and applied them to Battle Creek. “The beer garden is a big part of who we are and we have been able to learn from our other business what works and we have brought that to Battle Creek,” he says.  Coincidentally, the company’s original Holland Brewpub is also housed in a former J.C. Penney department store building on a significant downtown corner. 

What’s next: The company is looking to open more spirits tasting rooms in small, more rural towns with a tourist bent, similar to its stores in South Haven and Saugatuck.  

New Holland Brewing Co.'s production complex is in Holland.

How did New Holland Brewing get started: As you might expect the company’s genesis was home brewing. VanderKamp, who is from Midland, began brewing beer while he was attending Hope College. He graduated with a degree in geology/environmental sciences. “I was a fairly passionate homebrewer and loved the exploration and newness of homebrewing,” he says. After college, he moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he witnessed the surge in craft brewing. “I could see how craft brewing could be a business and could bring the community together,” he says. He packed his Volkswagen Golf and returned to Michigan, initially launching New Holland Brewing Co with a friend in 1997. 

Today, New Holland is distributed throughout most of the continental U.S. and employs about 300 people, with another 100 expected to come on board when the Battle Creek brewpub opens. The company produced more than 41,000 barrels of beer in 2022.
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