Food Service & Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Retail

Brewery plans $10M location in Grand Rapids

October 7, 2014
| By Pat Evans |
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Brewery plans $10M location in Grand Rapids
A rendering of the $10-million New Holland Brewing Co. location planned for Grand Rapids’ west side. Courtesy Rockford Construction

A growing brewery in the region is planning to expand its presence by opening a $10-million location in Grand Rapids.

West side project

New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland said this afternoon, after more than a week of speculation, that it's planning to open a taproom and restaurant and brewing and distilling operations in the 400th block of Bridge Street NW at Broadway Avenue NW — following more than seven years of searching and negotiations.

The more than $10-million project comes with the help of Rockford Construction in Grand Rapids and its Rockford Development Group and lead designer Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber in Grand Rapids.

Rockford Construction, which is based on the west side, previously announced its intentions to revive the Bridge Street NW corridor.

The site will also feature about $7 million in residential and retail space by Rockford.

Demolition of buildings currently at the site will occur next March.  

The New Holland space should be completed by late 2015 or early 2016, and the other half of the site should be finished by April of 2016.

“My mom is a westsider. . . . I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the west side,” said Brett VanderKamp, president, New Holland Brewing Co. “(Rockford’s) Mike VanGessel didn’t have to convince me. There’s great traffic, great visibility, but it’s still in a neighborhood.

VanderKamp added that he remembers running around Richmond Park on the west side of Grand Rapids as a child, visiting his grandparents in the city.

Craft beer and spirits

New Holland will locate parts of its extensive brewing and distilling programs in Grand Rapids, bringing about 150 jobs to Grand Rapids.

The taproom will serve up two or three exclusive English-style pub ales.

The brewery’s growing sour beer program will also move to Grand Rapids.

A 20-barrel brew system will be installed with several 40-barrel fermenters, including some White Pine horizontal, open-top fermenters for natural fermentation called cool ships. A cool ship is a traditional Belgian way for hot wort to cool naturally without a heat exchanger and allow natural yeast and bacteria to settle into the beer.

The pine fermenters will also be used for whiskey wash, and the company will place a focus on single-malt whiskey in Grand Rapids. VanderKamp said he hopes they’ll be able to source much of the grain from Michigan.

“There’s a nice connection between single-malt whiskey and sour beers most people don’t know,” he said.

VanderKamp said the production of the specialty beverages in Grand Rapids would “only ever equal” a few thousand barrels a year.

The beers and whiskey will be available for distribution, thanks to a change in legislation last year that allows a brewery of more than 30,000 annual barrels to have a second tasting room.

Still, the production of single-malt whiskey and sour beer doesn't make up a huge portion of the company’s 35,000 barrels, which allowed New Holland to take its time in finding a Grand Rapids location as it grew at about 20 percent a year on the lakeshore.

Site selection

Last year, VanderKamp passed on a spot in the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids. He said it wasn’t about money, but several factors didn’t line up.

A move to Grand Rapids has come close three times in the seven years, all the way to contract negotiations.

“Nothing ever materialized for what we wanted,” VanderKamp said. “Grand Rapids wasn’t germane to our existence, but it was always on the horizon as something we wanted to do.”

VanderKamp also said New Holland Brewing has always felt apart of the larger Grand Rapids beer scene and expects to contribute immediately to Beer City efforts, such as the Brewers Grove and other collaborative projects.

Craft beer district

On the west side, Harmony Brewing Co.’s second location in the old Little Mexico building on Bridge Street NW, Harmony Hall, and Long Road Distillers on Leonard Street NW are both set to open in the coming months, while Mitten Brewing Co. has called Engine House No. 9 on Leonard Street NW home for nearly two years.

New Holland will fit nicely into the bunch to help create a craft beer district, VanderKamp said.

He doesn’t see any conflict arising between the companies and points to his neighbors two doors down in Holland, Our Brewing Co.

“It’s a great collection of creative folks,” he said. “There should be great camaraderie. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

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