It’s easy to take the place you live for granted. I’ve enjoyed Hudsonville Creamery and New Holland Brewing Company’s products for as long as I’ve resided in West Michigan and simply enjoyed the fact that this tastes GOOD; I never paused to consider what made it that way. I was recently invited on a bloggers trip with Promote Michigan to check out what these businesses are doing right, and it was invigorating to see! For years, Michigan business owners have been seeing that customers are asking for high-quality, hand-crafted, locally sourced, all-natural products. As New Holland beervangelist Fred Bueltmann told the crew, the “Michigan Craft Renaissance” is “not just about eating and drinking anymore. It’s about connecting lifestyles.” I will add though, in honor of Michigan Craft Beer Month and National Ice Cream Month in July, we certainly did a lot of eating and drinking!
Hudsonville Creamery, which sources cream from dairy farms less than an hour away from the production facility, has been impressing ice cream lovers since 1926. We got to check out the 6th generation Pyle Family Dairy Farm and then began to reach for our coats as we got back into Hudsonville’s blast freezers and production area.
While many ice creams start with a water base, an abundance of cream less than twelve hours old provides the base for all of their flavors. In 1926, there were six flavors, all of which are still made at the creamery! Chef Ray explained that Hudsonville’s newest line, Naturals, stays true to ice cream purists and offers four of the classic flavors. Naturals are exactly what it sounds like: it’s made with that fresh cream, non-GMO cane sugar, whey, and nonfat dry milk. Taking the Naturals Strawberry as an example, no artificial colors or flavors are added. It’s just Michigan strawberries. Pretty simple to market and you can feel good about eating way too much ice cream, this product line is already in local Meijer stores so make sure you look for it!
New Holland Brewing Company has production figured out. Since moving into their current facility in 2006, there has been steady yearly growth and a constant need for more space, fermenters, and bottling capability. Some of the newest equipment includes five 400 barrel fermenters (so each one holds about 100,000 pints), a forklift lane for shipping delicious beer all over, and a more efficient recycling process for the caustic used to clean up anything that touches the beer. New Holland has also been recycling spent grain to a silo, where farmers are able to access it to feed cattle in the area.
I was very excited to get into the Dragon’s Milk Cellar, which rotates barrels from a number of Kentucky distilleries. About 1500 barrels a month are being shipped out of the facility. Another aspect of this production that I enjoy as a consumer, but never put much consideration into the process, is the spirits side of the business. New Holland has been using the 7th alcohol still ever commissioned in New Jersey which has been cranking out booze since 1924. One of the newer spirits varieties that I’m looking forward to tasting is the Hatter Royale, a hopped whiskey – I love hops AND whiskey!
To bring it all full circle, you’re probably wondering why a logical one-day tour included both a brewery and an ice creamery. In a word? Pairings. If you’ve ever attended a beer dinner or had a recommended cheese with your wine, then you understand the power of pairings. Things that taste great on their own or with any beverage can be completely enhanced or revitalized with a key pairing. After a lunch of beer pairings, it was time for the dessert, an imposing menu that we all tried to pick from. Turns out the chef made us ONE OF EACH, so I was presented with the best and most caloric plate I’ve seen in a while.
A myriad of New Holland’s spirits fit in with Hudsonville’s Naturals’ line in ways I could only dream of. With Hudsonville’s strawberry ice cream, we drank The Gerry: Knickerbocker gin, Clockwork Orange liqueur, and bitters. Next to that was an enormous ginger cookie which we drank with a Vanilla Ice cream/Barrel aged knickerbocker mule float. Whew! There’s more. To the right of that was a refreshing scoop of Salted Caramel ice cream drizzled with Dragon’s Milk Caramel and a walnut praline. With this we drank the Nola-Dragon-Sazerac with a splash of Dragon’s Milk. Finally, moaning and groaning, we moved to the Chocolate Cocoa Bean Ice Cream Sandwich, which was accompanied by a Rancher’s Breakfast. Beer Barrel Bourbon, Coffee Liqueur and Coffee Bitters was a great pick me up after getting deep into these desserts.
I hope my trip inspires more than just jealousy! Locals and visitors should be racing out the door to support these local businesses who are doing it right, or maybe host a pairings night at home with your favorite craft beverage and ice cream. The possibilities are endless in this Michigan Craft Renaissance!