Jim Dykstra's picture

Brewing with Fred Bueltmann of New Holland Brewing Co.

New Holland's VP of Brand and Lifestyle discusses his artisanal philosophy with The Beer Connoisseur. (Issue 22)
Fred Bueltmann of New Holland

BC: You seem to be the embodiment of "craft." How'd you get that way, and why are you so dedicated to it?

Bueltmann:  My creativity was encouraged while I was growing up, which was originally focused on developing a talent and career in music, but was present in all of my interests and hobbies. I feel like I’ve had a strong appetite for learning, which was also encouraged by the mentors in my life. This overall curiosity and creativity led me to learning to homebrew in the late ‘80s and teaching myself to cook. The more I learned, the more I could see evidence of process, good and bad; whether I made it or not. This awareness had great impact on what I valued, and led to great excitement when I saw there were various opportunities to get in on it. I didn’t always know it at the time, but I was slowly bringing my professional and personal values closer together.

BC: Very few people grow up wanting to work in craft beer. What path did you take to end up where you are?

Bueltmann: I went to music school and intended on going into film scoring. I ran out of money and was trying to finish school part-time, while playing gigs and tending bar. In a strange happenstance, my homebrewing partner Mike ended up being hired by Guinness as a regional ambassador to Pilsner Urquell, our favorite beer at the time. He recommended I talk to and interview with his distributor, which was an industry and world I was completely unfamiliar with. I felt like I was hearing about a make-believe world as I heard about both his job and the one I ended up interviewing for. I had dismissed “business” as a threat to my creative career in music, so I had no idea this blend of passion, creativity and business existed as an option. I talked my way into a sales job at the distributor, selling mostly specialty imports and the rest is history. My passions collided, and I found I was really good at helping interpret beers, and find how to get people connected to them. After two years, I got a job managing the Midwest for Warsteiner, and in 1995 I was hired as the first sales manager at Kalamazoo Brewing (Bell’s).

Fred Bueltmann New Holland

Bueltmann gives his wife Ulla a tow on his one-horsepower all-terrain vehicle.

BC: What drew you to New Holland?

Bueltmann: In 2004, I decided it was time to leave Bell’s, where I had been for the better part of 10 years as VP of Sales and Marketing. I knew Brett and Jason from the Michigan Brewers Guild, where I had served on the board with Brett for a number of years. As I looked around the industry and considered my next steps, the biggest draw to New Holland was our creative fit. It felt like I had what they needed and they had what I needed. There was a great culture of creativity and balance, which we’ve certainly built on since. There’s an overall commitment to quality and measuring our accomplishments against our vision and values, versus against others' – that I greatly appreciate and enjoy driving forward.