Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Holland - Dragon's Milk Oak Aged Stout Review

New Holland Dragon's Milk Stout

Brewery: New Holland (MI)
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10%
Grade: B+

You know what would be great? I'll tell you what would be great: a really solid bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout that's affordable and easy to pick up at the store without having to sic your bears on competing customers. Barrel-aged imperial stouts are easily one of the most hyped styles out there today — just look which beers get the wildest release days: CBS, Dark Lord, Surly Darkness, Black Tuesday, etc. I've read a lot of backlash against these beers — or more specifically, against their hype and the people who wait in line for them. Is the hype a bit much, at times? Yes. But the suggestion that these beers are popular without merit — that almost any similar beer will do — is kind of insulting too.

Case in point: New Holland's Dragon's Milk bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. It's a very nice, very tasty oak-aged imperial stout that I'm pleased as a pickle to have on the shelves in New York now. No stress, no price-gouging, just a pleasantly bourbony stout. It's hard to call a 10% bourbon-soaked imperial stout mild, but compared to others of the style, it kind of is. What it lacks in huge, memorable flavors, it makes up for by being surprisingly drinkable with very little alcohol heat. The nose is boozier than it tastes, and the bourbon and oak come through most clearly here, with a reminder that this is going to be sweet. And it is — sweet enough to actually undercut (or balance, depending how you look at it) the bourbon. Syrupy malts roll into a candy-like vanilla flavor, and the finish is sweet as well.

If Dragon's Milk has one significant shortcoming, for me, it's that the malt flavors are too generically sweet and syrupy, and lacking in the dark roast quality that might balance them out. The sweetness rolls out front, disappears under the oak and vanilla, and then surges back to create a long, sticky finish. It makes for a drinkable behemoth, sure, but also a beer that lacks depth. Don't get me wrong, I still like this a lot — it's better than some other bourbon barrel aged stouts that I've sampled lately. While overly-sweet, it's still reasonably balanced; it doesn't grate on you the more you drink. I'm happy to have this on the shelves.

Availability: Rotating release. Both 22 and 12 ounce bottles.


  1. How old was yours? I had one of these last month, but I had purchased at Bruisin' Ales in Asheville NC in December 2010. I found it to be super robust and balanced.

    1. I'd guess a couple months old at most. They just entered the NY market last fall and I picked this bottle up then, so it was probably pretty fresh. I might have to grab another one and put it away for a few years, I bet it's nice.


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