New Holland brews up something different in GR


The 40,000-square-foot space allows New Holland to offer some features that wouldn’t fit in its lakeshore location. Photo by Pat Evans

Intentionality is evident in the design of New Holland Brewing Co.’s The Knickerbocker.

All heavy construction will be done in about a month at the facility in Grand Rapids, allowing New Holland and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction to finish the details and prepare to open before ArtPrize begins, New Holland President Brett VanderKamp said.

The facility on Bridge Street is big — 40,000 square feet — and includes a variety of spaces for customers to gather and more spaces for what New Holland leadership wishes staff could do in Holland, where the company is based.

VanderKamp said the plan starts with him being on the same page as Rockford President Mike VanGessel over what the development is meant to be — which is more than just a re-creation of the brewery in Holland.

“We didn’t want to just come and put up a tin can and slap a sign on it,” he said. “This is the main entryway to the West Side, and it needs to be a special building, starting at the front door and going through the building.

“Mike and I were aligned in that and wanted it to be a showpiece not just for New Holland but the entire West Side of Grand Rapids.”

With dozens of contractors working throughout the building, the end product is still hidden, but the vision is obvious. The entryway opens into the main dining area, with an open view into the large finishing kitchen and large windows letting in natural light.

Off to the side is a three-sided bar with two tap towers on each side. VanderKamp points out the taps ensure the bartender never turns away from customers. Beyond the bar area, a large “four season” beer hall with long, communal tables sits on the other side of what will be a glass wall. The area has a four-story ceiling with windows all the way on the exterior and garage doors that open to give the illusion customers are outdoors any time of year. The garage doors open on one side to Bridge Street and on the other into the large back patio, which sidles up to a bar window.

Back inside, the main dining room includes a large staircase that leads up to an auxiliary dining area, much like in the Holland taproom. A leather-covered door separates the large upstairs dining room from a relaxed cocktail lounge to showcase the company’s spirits and cocktails, something VanderKamp said he wishes were possible in Holland — like several other features of the Grand Rapids location.

“Not every idea came off the blueprint, but there have been a lot of ideas implemented that we have wanted to do in Holland but weren’t able to make happen,” he said. “Having a whiskey bar, a distinct space for cocktails, is something we would love to have because we’ve never been able to solely showcase our spirits.”

Nestled into spaces throughout the building are seating areas that can be closed off for private events and meetings, many complete with A/V equipment. VanderKamp said the company looked at offerings from across Grand Rapids to figure out what event space was needed.

Many of the rooms look onto each other, the outdoor patios or the production space, as large windows were also a priority, he said.

The menu is in the works, but the entire facility is set up to better facilitate serving food and beverages than the Holland location. New Holland was able to build in solutions to many problems breweries and restaurants face in renovated spaces.

The Knickerbocker’s food preparations start in a large basement preparation area, which includes special rooms for the breakdown of whole animals. VanderKamp said the new restaurant is far less hamstrung by kitchen space and will be able to offer more of a full dining experience than the Holland restaurant. Some favorite dishes will make their way inland from the lakeshore.

“It’ll be Old World continental fare to pay homage to the West Side’s heritage,” VanderKamp said. “This is a much more full production kitchen, and we think it’ll be on a different scale and unique to downtown Grand Rapids for a brewery, distillery.”

Along with a more creative menu, VanderKamp said he hopes beverage production on Bridge Street will also focus on thinking outside the box.

Once production starts this summer, the distillery portion of the facility will work on mostly gin and liqueurs to start. On the brewing side, brewers will work with interesting ingredients, souring organisms and wood fermenters.

“Both gin and liqueurs allow for a lot of experimentation,” VanderKamp said. “Brewing, we’ll also want to push the envelope and get playful and do things we can’t or wouldn’t do in Holland at our production facility or pub.

“We believe Grand Rapids has an audience and will be looking for those things.”

Grand Rapids has proven to be an attractive market for established breweries. Both New Holland and Detroit’s Atwater Brewery are set to open Grand Rapids locations in September. Atwater in The Rowe will be at Monroe Avenue and Michigan Street, just down the road from New Holland.

Both come to Grand Rapids with name recognition and a wide distribution footprint.

VanderKamp said he’s excited about the proximity to Atwater, as he sees development going on around the entire area and believes it can sustain them. The Knickerbocker will benefit from the Barley Flats in the same development project by Rockford Construction, as well as the nearby 616 Lofts on Alabama. Another large residential project is proposed by Rockford at Bridge Street and Seward Avenue, which would include a Meijer Inc. store.

Atwater, meanwhile, is the main retail tenant of The Rowe, located across Monroe Avenue from the new Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, which is well underway. More developments are planned northward down Monroe Avenue as others, such as 616 Lofts on Monroe, finish up filling out residential and commercial tenants — including City Built Brewing Co.

The trend of small startup breweries has increased in 2016 and helped foster a culture of beer lovers in Grand Rapids, but the growth could level off soon, VanderKamp said. He said some could fold in the next 24 to 36 months as the market for shelf and tap space shrinks, but that both small neighborhood taprooms and larger production breweries with full service restaurants can have a place in the community.

VanderKamp understands, as New Holland is an evolution of one of those startups.

“There’s a lot of work and paying dues that goes on, and some might be finding out it’s more than they thought or is different,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have 20 years under our belt and had those growing pains early on that people don’t see.”

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