New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve Vanilla Chai
New Holland Brewing
STYLE: American Double / Imperial Stout
4.5 / 5.0
Look: 4.0 | Smell: 4.5 | Taste: 4.75 | Feel: 4.75 | Overall: 4.5
Brewery at a glance: On my review of New Holland’s Ichabod Ale, I spent a great deal of time telling the story of how I first tried New Holland’s offerings. If you haven’t read that one yet, I encourage you to do so now. Go ahead. I’ll still be here when you get back.
Now that you’ve read my other New Holland review, I’d like to take a moment to talk a little more about New Holland Brewing. I’ve had a lot of New Holland’s brews and tend to find myself appreciating more of their stout offerings over their other styles. Unfortunately, Dragon’s Milk is their main stout offering and is a big beer that is only good in small doses. I couldn’t ever imagine myself finishing a four pack of this and still be capable of standing upright. The Poet, while good, has definitely depreciated in quality over the last few years. I remember it being way more rich in chocolate flavor but now the brew seems to have a watery consistency that masks what used to be a good beer. New Holland’s other offerings have mostly fallen flat with me. They are decent beers but nothing I go out of my way to try and find. Simply put, they are just average reflections of the style.
Some of their unusual seasonals, on the other hand, have really started to win me back. This line of Dragon’s Milk Reserves has been an exciting addition to their rather lackluster lineup and they have done a few limited releases that have been way above their usual average line. About a year ago, a friend of mine find a lone four pack of Bourbon Barrel Aged Pilgrim’s Dole. I hadn’t ever seen it on the shelf and was intrigued by the wheatwine style that was advertised. I don’t think I had ever had a wheatwine and told him that I was very interested in trying one. Like a good friend, he bought the four pack and shared a bottle with me. And holy cannoli, Batman! Pilgrim’s Dole is a damn good brew. If possible, I’d like to do a Brew Review on this beer sometime in the future. So if you read this and see a four pack on the shelf, let me know. I need another one of those brews in my life.
One final thought: While it may sound like I’m not the biggest fan of New Holland, I do feel like they have been around long enough that their beers have started to become less interesting than they once were when I first got into craft beer. If they continue down this path of offering up slight variations on already loved brews and styles, I think they will come back to be a brewery that I frequently buy again. These limited releases are becoming increasingly more difficult to find on the shelf which make the hunt a part of the fun in drinking them. However, I’d love to be able to regularly find some of these Dragon’s Milk variants more regularly. As you’ll find out, I’d buy Vanilla Chai on the regular and would use it as an example of just how good New Holland can be.
Look: Dragon’s Milk and all of its variants pour a dark black with thin, lightly bubbly tan head. The lacing sticks to the glass and conjures up images of frothy vanilla chai. I poured it into, you guessed it, a Spiegelau Stout Glass. I’ve suggested it now on every single Brew Review that involves stouts, you must get a set of Spiegelau Stout Glasses. Seriously, don’t delay any longer. Your beer will never look sexier. For props this time around, I used my favorite coffee mug from our local record store, Neat Neat Neat. If you are in town and haven’t been there, go check them out! They are super legit!
Smell: Bourbon and oak dominate the smell on this one. There are light vanilla hints at the finish but this ones smells exactly like every other Dragon’s Milk, regardless of its adjunct. This isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. I’m a fan of regular Dragon’s Milk and always feel slightly intimidated by its rich bourbon smell. It is a strong beer that tells you it is a strong beer even before tasting it.
Taste: Up to this point, my review of this brew has been rather brief. I’ve had regular Dragon’s Milk numerous times and have tried a few of its variants released at the end of last year. While I’ve appreciated that New Holland has literally spiced up the formula, I’ve been slightly underwhelmed by the single other variant I’ve tasted. At the end of last year, I was lucky enough to score a single bottle of the Chocolate & Coffee variant but desperately wanted to find the Raspberry, Triple Mash, and Toasted Chilies. They sold out across town very quickly and was super bummed that I couldn’t have a Dragon’s Milk variant tasting to discover which one was my favorite. The Chocolate & Coffee must have gone over well because it seems they have recently released this variant again and doesn’t seem too hard to find. Sadly, I didn’t really care for it due to having several really big, beautiful beers when I first tried it. So if someone is reading this and has a bottle, let’s get together so I can try it again and see what all the fuss is about. Also, for those that might have those other variants, let’s talk.
So how’s the Vanilla Chai variant? In short, this brew is damn good. It has all of the hallmarks of regular Dragon’s Milk. It is rich, boozy, and chocolaty. Where Dragon’s Milk provides a boozy burn at the finish, Vanilla Chai softens the blow and gives the drinker a reprieve from its firey breath by providing strong vanilla flavor that finishes on earthy cardamon and cinnamon. So how does it compare to regular Dragon’s Milk and the Chocolate & Coffee variant? My rank ordering would probably be Vanilla Chai, regular Dragon’s Milk, and Chocolate & Coffee. The overdose of vanilla really does a lot for this brew and the earthy chai helps cut the boozy finish.
Feel: In a few short words, Vanilla Chai is thick yet silky smooth. There’s a lot of boozy, chocolaty heat at first that is soon trumped by the vanilla creaminess. It finishes back on the richness of the chocolate and bourbon flavor present at start. After finishing the bottle, I feel great. It is rare that one bottle of beer gets me a little buzzed but Vanilla Chai did just that. I’m warm and fuzzy and I feel like I just drank a bourbon coffee flavored iced vanilla chai tea which I now want, so badly, to order at Starbucks. All jokes aside, this brew feels and tastes like breakfast and dessert.
Overall: If you haven’t gathered by now, I’m a big fan of this Dragon’s Milk variant. It provides a necessary softness to an already big, bold beer. Where the Chocolate & Coffee variant really only accentuated the flavors already present in Dragon’s Milk, Vanilla Chai is like a red velvet carpet leading in its firey charge. It is a soft and subtle addition that provides big, unique flavor. Up to this point, I haven’t really had a chai beer that I’ve loved. Admittedly, I haven’t had a ton but this one had me lured in from the moment I first read about the concept. Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, chai? Yes. Please. If you get a chance to try it, don’t pass it up. It is one of the surprisingly better brews I’ve reviewed on the blog from a brewery that has yet to really impress me. Good show, New Holland. Good show!
Have you had this brew? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.