Which brewery? New Holland Brewing Company, Michigan
What is it?: American Double/Imperial Stout | 11% ABV
How should I drink it? Pour it head-on into a snifter glass. DRINK AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. That’s right, you read that correctly.
Where can I find it? It’s a reserve, brewed once a year… with no guarantees it will be brewed ever again
I always look forward to my trips to Woodman’s. The gigantic grocery store has pretty much anything you can think of – including lots of fantastic beer. Since I moved it has become my personal source for all sorts of ales, porters, IPAs, and stouts. And I’ll tell you this, they have an excellent selection. If you ask, you might even find some rare beers. In the spirit of summer, and the baseball season, I was searching for a refreshing beer. When I bought today’s featured beer – New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk Reserve – I was told it was kept behind the counter to prevent folks from buying up all their stock and reselling them on eBay. So naturally I couldn’t pass it up, despite it being a beer not really suited for warm weather.
THE LAYMAN’S TAKE: The standard Dragon’s Milk is a very popular choice for many Michiganders and nationwide beer connoisseurs. Originating from – you guessed it – New Holland, Michigan, the very powerful boozy flavor of this popular stout has been a hit for years, and has solidified the name recognition of New Holland Brewing Company as one of the faces of Michigan craft brewing.
Anyways, this stout is – according to New Holland Brewing Company – aged in bourbon barrels for three months, then blended with coffee beans and cocoa nibs during aging. As a result, expect a very boozy, earthy flavor, just like the original Dragon’s Milk. If you can enjoy this strong flavor, you will probably enjoy the reserve version. While it is exclusive, it is far from perfect. It pours with a small head, laced with bubbles. As I said in the intro, make sure to pour this straight one to conserve the flavor underneath the head, and take your first drink quickly. That will be the best this beer has to offer. The nose (smell for snobs) is outstanding – you can really detect milk chocolate, vanilla, and a strong coffee finish.
As for the part that really matters – it leaves a bit to be desired. The pure Dragon’s Milk breathes it’s strong, oaky fire straight onto your taste buds (pardon the pun) and it really works for a great beer. This reserve has a slim and thin mouth-feel to it – not something you want or expect in a stout based on Dragon’s Milk. The strength of the original bourbon dragon (bad pun: part 2) is buried and replaced by hard-to-detect coffee and a light chocolate flavor. It’s tough to really love this beer, but it might be because expectations were too high on my part. It is simply to light to pay homage to its fatherbeer. You expect a beast of an imperial bourbon barrel stout, but instead you get more of a drake (nerdy reference that male dragons are called drakes and are much smaller than their female counterparts).
SCROLL-TO-THE-BOTTOM VERDICT: Dragon’s Milk is an awesome beer that isn’t super complex – it’s boozy, oaky, malty bourbon, with a hint of vanilla. It was one of the earliest bourbon beers of it’s ilk. Since then there have been a few great variations, and a few not so great. This is the latter. However, it is far from a bad beer. Give it a try.
BEER-DRINKERS TIP OF THE WEEK: The price isn’t always what matters in a great beer – if you have a favorite style go with it. Enjoy what you enjoy. It’s just beer guys.
Are you looking to dive into the magical world of microbrews but need a place to start? Want to talk beer? Want to tell me I have terrible taste in beer? Follow me @billcanzoneri and let’s beer-nerd it up.