New Holland Brewing Company, Holland, Mich.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I know what you’re thinking. How can a food blog that is owned and operated by a guy who never has and never will have a drop of alcohol in his life have a post about a brewery?
Well, the New Holland Brewing Company is far more than just what it brews in the back. Granted, its multitude of beers are the main reason that most people make the trip there, but when you have a load of people coming in every May for the famous tulips of Holland, well, you’ve got to have more than just brews at your disposal.
Fortunately, the New Holland Brewing Company does, and what’s more, they know how to get people thinking about them. Our first sign that this place was worth our while actually came in Ann Arbor, a few hours east of Holland, when a random person came into Tios with buttons for the brewing company. I’m guessing the marketing department figured that might be a good play given that the University of Michigan was having its graduation that weekend and the annual Tulip Time festival, which brings thousands of visitors to Holland each year, was well underway.
It actually didn’t work for us initially, because we merely took the buttons and forgot about it. But when we arrived in Holland and wanted to eat somewhere after viewing the rows and rows of tulips (which really are incredible and totally worth the drive), we remembered that we had heard about the place downtown where plenty of people were congregating. So we figured, hey, why not give this a shot?
Turned out to be an excellent decision, because the brewing company takes its food as seriously as it takes its beer. In fact, the pizzas here might be an even bigger draw than the brews, because this place produces some excellent ones. Even better, these aren’t your typical bar pizzas featuring one or two toppings that you’d find in any pizza place. These are high-brow pizzas done the way they should be.
One example is the Bacon and Potato, which delivers exactly what it promises, plus gorgonzola cheese, which isn’t exactly common on either pizzas or baked potatoes. If that wasn’t enough, they add fresh spinach to the pie after it comes out of the oven. That’s pretty well-thought out and very different. Another is the portobello mushroom, which adds sweet and spicy peppers, spinach and goat cheese to the mushrooms.
But as soon as I saw the Primo Pesto, I knew that I had my choice. This pizza includes a housemade pesto, chicken, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes and gorgonzola. In other words, there’s nothing on that pizza that I don’t like. Basically, this is pretty close to what Amy and I put in our pizza puff when we made our pilgrimage to Albano’s.
It’s every bit as good as those ingredients promise. The housemade pesto adds the perfect flavor, giving the flavor addition that takes a meal from good to great, which only an herb can provide. The baked chicken and fresh vegetables only make things better, and every bite is simply outstanding. It’s anything but your typical bar pizza, and that’s a very good thing.
Of course, Amy opted to go with another choice, playing on one of her own theories about food. Much like I believe that fresher is always better when it comes to food, Amy’s philosophy is that a place that makes its own beer on its premises has to have good beer-battered entrees. In this case, that meant beer-battered chicken strips with fries, which are both favorites of hers no matter where we are.
Her theory was right on the money. The Sundog Chicken Strips, which have absolutely nothing to do with the Central Hockey League team that plays in Arizona, were simply fantastic. The breading is exactly what a good breading should be, flavorful and complementary to the meat without being overwhelming. It’s so easy for a breading to go wrong, and that wasn’t even close to the case here. I sampled some of the chicken, and once again, the love of my life made a fantastic choice.
She did elect to try one of the beers, opting for a Red Tulip Ale. Given her love for tulips, it was kind of a requirement as soon as she saw it on the menu. No, it doesn’t actually have flowers in it, but it does play off the city’s theme quite well (they also have a Black Tulip). Its description says it features rich and smooth flavors with hints of dark fruit, and Amy said she very much enjoyed the drink.
The same could be said of our entire experience here, which was outstanding from the first second until we exited with a souvenir glass to bring home. Tulips are what Holland is famous for, but the New Holland Brewing Company is definitely something for the city to be proud to call its own.
Time to go: Lunch or dinner. For a brewery, it does stop serving food relatively early, as its kitchen closed at 9 p.m. when we were there. That could also be because of the festival.
Wait during my visit: Substantial, but again, Holland was ridiculously crowded. If you don’t go during Tulip Time, chances are you won’t wait long.
Location: The brewery is at 66 Eighth Street in Holland, Mich.
Cost: Not bad, about $12 a meal.
Parking: If it’s Tulip Time, you won’t get anywhere near the place and you’ll have to walk. If not, you should be able to find parking nearby.
Seating arrangement: Booths are all over the place.
Website: New Holland Brewing Company
Specialty items: Beers, pizza, chicken strips