New Holland Brewing Co.
Holland, MI

Style: Kölsch
Most beer drinkers experience an evolution, particularly the craft beer drinker.
The typical novice beer drinker will start out with a macro brew or some cheap swill, perhaps from dad’s stash or empty pockets or college kegger parties, before they somehow discover craft beers. They’ll start with a ‘tweener-brew, like a Sam Adams or Killians, and then move on to a local brewpub or true craft brewer. Often, there will be a style that will get people going, like weissbiers, porters or the big IPAs and the “hop-head phase,” before the palate eventually rounds back out into appreciations of subtlety and small differences. I find that the hop-head phase lasts the longest for many people. Eventually, however, one usually comes “full circle,” where some of those simpler beers are as enjoyable and appreciated as a peanut butter sandwich or macaroni & cheese. In other words, a beer doesn’t have to be extreme to be good.
Having long known the founders of New Holland Brewing Company, it’s been a privilege to watch their company grow, prosper and evolve over the past dozen years or so. It strikes me, as I’ve seen their beer menus mutate over the years, that they too came Full Circle, as this brew is a return to a simpler style and more delicate balance of the four major brewing ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast. It is back to the beginning, if you will, from the Mad Hatter IPA, Old Poet Stouts and Zoomer Wits upon which their brewery was built.
Another time, I’ll take some space describing kölsh beer and a bit of the history behind it, as the kölsh is the ale answer to lager beers and the northern answer to Bavarian weissbier. Having been to Köln on many occasions, I can heartily concur with his description of the passion locals place in their beer. While there are just over a dozen brewers remaining who are part of the “Cologne Brewery Association,” unfortunately, much like every other major beer market, the “normal” style is pretty much dominated by five major players, who have consolidated the brands and homogenized the style for the most part. However, there are a few locals over there who are tweaking the style—to the betterment—much like American brewers have done over the past twenty years or so with every possible beer style.
The typical Köln experience is to sit among your friends as a server walks by carrying trays or racks of 200 milliliter glasses (about 6 ounces). One simply hails a rack as they pass and you grab a glass or three, as the server marks them down on your coaster.
At the risk of dating myself, the end of the evening sounds like the Happy Days episode where Richie Cunningham attends a bachelor party (go forward to about 3:30 for the money shot) episode and Howard asks, “How many teeny-weeny glasses did you have?”
And you mumble something like, “Seventy-two.”
All that said, I could not accurately compare Full Circle (or Lucid, as it has also been known) to the kölsch beers of Der Vaterland. While Germany’s versions are very light, pale and effervescent, Full Circle has a bit of color to it and it is not nearly as carbonated as its Old World brethren. The body has a nice malty sweetness to it and there’s a hint of diacetyl as it goes down softly. There is a bit of bittering hop to clean up the finish. The balance is exceptional and it’s a wonderfully complex, layered beer, particularly on a clean palate. Like its kölsch inspiration, this makes an excellent session beer.
In all, if you don’t mind the style leeway, this is quietly one of my favorite New Holland offerings.