Beer Review: New Holland Brewing’s Dragon Milk Stout

Name: Dragon’s Milk
Brewing Company: New Holland Brewing Company
Location: Holland, MI
Style: American Imperial / Double Stout
ABV: 11%

From the beer’s description on New Holland Brewing’s Web site:

Rich, Roasty, and Creamy with Heavy notes of Vanilla and just enough familiar warmth from Oak Barrels. Reminds us all that life’s events – big or small – are worth celebrating. A stout with roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath.

Few beers have as great a name as this one – Dragon’s Milk. Something magical is conjured in the mind with this name and there is a tradition to the name, too. Dragon’s Milk is a 17th century term used to describe the strong beer usually reserved for royalty. From some older information New Holland put out for this beer, “This strong ale was aged in oak for over 120 days. The aging process extracts flavors from the wood, which contribute to its complex character.”

While a great name is all well and good, the beer must live up to the name. In the case of New Holland’s best known beer, the contents of the bottle (or if you’re lucky enough, the keg) more than meet the expectations laid down by the name. Also an unplanned thing is reviewing “Dragon’s Milk” after a beer called “Skull Splitter.”

The best-known craft brewery in Michigan may be Founders, and rightly so. One of their best known and most renowned beers is Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). Again, rightly so. But for all the hype surrounding KBS, Dragon’s Milk as a Barrel Aged stout is an excellent stout and not one to be overshadowed. Also, it is far easier to find and acquire this brew, at least here in NJ. There are variants on the beer I haven’t seen and only heard about, but this fantastic brew is a wonderful barrel-aged stout.

Straight off the pour, the bourbon and vanilla aromas make their presence known. The beer pours a beautiful black that makes a statement: This Beer is Potent. I let it sit for a few minutes before giving in and having a taste drinking in the aromas for a few minutes. Yes, this beer lived up to my memory of first having it about 7 years ago. Like Backwoods Bastard, the aroma of this beer is just as good as the taste. Rather than letting it sit on the table between sips, I was holding it to bathe in the aroma.

Like a lot of bourbon barrel aged stouts, Dragon’s Milk is a beer to be enjoyed slowly. Not a beer to guzzle or drink quickly. Not just because of the 11% ABV, but also because this is a beer that you want to enjoy for all the flavors swirling in your choice of glass. I’ll beat the drum again, but like most higher ABV beers, stouts especially, Dragon’s Milk is a beer whose flavors become more pronounced (i.e. delicious) as it warms to room temperature. The beer smells so damned good it is tough to not have a sip immediately. Do that sure, but let most of the beer warm for a few minutes before drinking more than that first sip.

The first time I had this beer was on tap at a wonderful restaurant/beer bar in Pennsylvania about 45 minutes from me – Isaac Newton’s – about 6 or 7 years ago. If you live in the NJ/PA region and are close enough to Isaac Newton’s, do yourself a favor, take a drive to enjoy some great food (incredible burgers, delicious meatloaf, excellent short ribs).

Shortly thereafter, I procured a four pack and enjoyed the beer periodically, but I saved one of those four for a special occasion. At the time, I was at a career crossroads, so I figured I’d save the beer until I landed a job I really wanted. Well, that “last beer” aged about 4 years and that time in the back of my fridge did wonders. I recall loving the beer, here’s my 2011 untapped check in.

This is the 2011 bottle that aged for four years

As it so happened, my father gave me a variety of beers which amounted a half of a case of beer for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, including some Dragon’s Milk. I am also in the midst of a career upgrade right now, having started a new managerial role yesterday (November 13). I enjoyed the aged bottle from 2011 on the first day in the then new position I started in 2015 and I “closed the circle” and had the new bottle of Dragon’s Milk on the last day in that role on the Friday of my last day in that role, before assuming promotion which began yesterday.

So, that was the small history lesson of me and this beer. Clearly, it is a beer I enjoy and one that any stout lover should be getting on a regular basis. Most of my friends who enjoy stouts talk about this beer with reverence so I suspect most beer folks do know about it. I’ve seen this in four packs for about $15 or $16 near me, which isn’t cheap, but well worth it when you consider that going to a bar and having a few beers of far lower quality will cost you potentially more money.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

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