Dragon’s Milk was first released in 2001 as a single batch annual release. Over the past nearly 15 years, Dragon’s Milk has become New Holland Brewing’s most popular offering and one of the most celebrated beers in the country. As a result, New Holland expanded its availability, making it a year-round offering.
Last year, New Holland introduced a couple variants on the classic Dragon’s Milk recipe and issued them under the label, “Dragon’s Milk Reserve.”
After experimenting with raspberries and toasted chilies in 2014, New Holland Brewing is back this year with an expanded Dragon’s Milk Reserve variant series, introducing two more variants: “Double Dragon”—a triple-mashed version—and one that’s aged with both coffee and chocolate, aptly named “Indulgence.”
“…The 2015 releases will definitely be an exciting and busy time in the brewhouse,” says Brett VanderKamp, president of New Holland Brewing. “These small runs of Dragon’s Milk are both to satisfy the creativity of our brewers, but also the palates of our fans. We think both will be happy with the results.”
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping Dragon’s Milk Reserve (“Indulgence”)—a collaboration from Holland, Michigan’s New Holland Brewing and Simpatico Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
style: Barrel-Aged Stout
ingredients: Coffee, 2 Row, Munich, Caramel, Crystal, Black, Chocolate Malt, Flaked Barley, Glacier, Nugget, American Ale
Visually, Indulgence pours midnight black into my tulip and it’s topped by a very thin mocha-brown head that dissipates to a thin ring around the glass very quickly. There is very little carbonation to be found (though I do notice some bubbling happening, which can be seen in the picture above), and not much lacing, either.
The lack of a head topping the beer, however, allows a massive aroma to come booming out of the glass. This beer smells incredible, with huge scents of chocolate and roasted coffee (obviously), toasted malts, roasted barley, caramelized brown sugar, oak, vanilla, smoke, bourbon, and an alcoholic burn.
Taking my first few (small) sips, my palate is coated by an intensely creamy, sticky, full-bodied, and flavorful beverage; a beverage that really packs a wallop on my taste buds. My goodness. This beer is so sugary sweet; if not for the bitterness that the roasted coffee and barley, and the burn that the alcohol content and bourbon barrel provided, it would probably be a little too sweet—like a cola. The major flavor notes here are the coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, oatmeal, cola, oak, and smoke. As the beer warms, the bitterness becomes more evident; the body actually thins out a bit, too, allowing for some bubbly carbonation to tickle the sides of the tongue. I recommend drinking this beer from a brandy snifter and splitting with a friend—at 11% ABV it’s quite a doozy and should be sipped slowly and intentionally. Only drinking half the beer will also better enable you to keep it chilled anyway.
However, I have to say that throughout the glass, the beer base really holds firm. This is Dragon’s Milk, through and through—the major difference, in terms of flavor, are the presence of the components listed on the label.
Full body; creamy mouthfeel; no acidity; clean finish.
Dragon’s Milk is one of my all-time favorite beers. Whenever I visit family in Holland, we go to New Holland Brewing and I make sure to have a glass. That beer tastes even better around the time of year—when a crisp chill is in the air, the leaves are changing their colors, and the witching season is upon us… Dragon’s Milk is the perfect complement to the Halloween season. When I learned that New Holland would be releasing a coffee variant just in time for Halloween, I
overcome giddy with excitement. I just knew that it would become my favorite beer of all time.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the hype that I put on it. And that was probably my own fault.
Don’t get me wrong, the “Indulgence” variant of Dragon’s Milk Reserve is a fine beer—a very tasty beer, in fact. What kills me, though, is that, as good as it is, it could have been better; and I very strongly suspect the coffee might have been to blame. Simpatico Coffee brands themselves as the no/low-acid alternative to specialty coffee but, without its acidity (and with its being so roasty), the coffee made this beer way too one-dimensional. I can appreciate that New Holland wanted to shop locally for the coffee component, but heading up to Grand Rapids and using a lighter-roasted coffee from Ferris, Madcap, or Rowster—one with lots of berry and citrus tones—could have made this beer exponentially tastier and far more interesting.
While I’m at it, my only other complaint is that I wish all four Dragon’s Milk Reserve variants were either available individually or in one mixed 4-pack so I could sample all of them without going broke. Alas.
As I said, though, “Indulgence” is very tasty and a fun twist on an old classic.
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.