For this edition of Tasting Notes, we close out the week by sampling a new spin on an old classic: Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut from New Holland Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan).
Earlier this month, New Holland Brewing Company unveiled a refreshed look for its fan-favorite Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout. As one might expect, this re-brand also applies to the brewery’s Dragon’s Milk Reserve Series, a Limited Release line of Dragon’s Milk variants that feature complementary ingredients to “showcase the dimension of Dragon’s Milk“. Surfacing as the first Reserve offering to wear the new look, Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut (11% ABV) takes the “traditional roasted, malty and smooth characteristics of Dragon’s Milk” and infuses it with “hints of real banana, plantain and coconut.”
Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut debuted in mid-September and will be available as long as supplies last. You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located within New Holland’s distribution footprint.
With all that background information now out of the way, what you say we take this new Dragon’s Milk snifter out for a test drive and get into some Tasting Notes?
Tasting Notes for Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut from New Holland Brewing Company
Appearance: A gentle pour fills the glass with a deep, glossy black Imperial Stout wearing two fingers of creamy, brown sugar-colored foam that easily extends well above the brim. When held to direct light, the darkness holds and the beer remains completely opaque. The head shows decent retention, falling slowly down to a frothy half finger that lasts throughout the experience. Each jostle of the glass traces a gorgeous line of lace, but the beer’s slick nature causes most of the foam to slide back down to reunite with the top cap.
Aroma: The aromatics open with a big surge of banana in various forms: fresh banana, sweetened dried banana, banana ice cream, and banana candies (think Runts). The character of the original Dragon’s Milk then rises to unleash notes bourbon, vanilla, and roasted grain. The coconut is light, but it does lend a slight tropical note that pulls the banana to forefront once more. This beer is incredibly banana-heavy in the aroma department and we ain’t mad at that.
Taste: Banana takes the lead here as well by laying down sweet notes of fresh banana, banana candies, and earthy plantain. The coconut is more confident as a flavor as it surfaces with the barrel character of the base beer. Vanilla, bourbon, toasted coconut, and a gentle nuttiness collide with that substantial banana presence to create what can only be described as a boozy banana cream pie-like quality. Just as you think this stout is getting too sweet, the heavily roasted grains finally slip through with notes of dark chocolate and dark roast coffee to offer just the right amount of balancing bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Teetering a bit toward the medium side of full-bodied with a medium carbonation level, this big ol’ Imperial Stout drinks much lighter than one might expect from an 11% ABV brew. It is mostly sweet on the palate, but it does not get anywhere near Pastry Stout levels of cloying. This thing actually still has a bit of balance. The previously mentioned ABV does creep up on you, settling into the throat with a gentle warmth. The aftertaste is all banana and vanilla.
Final Thoughts: Full disclosure – Most of the participants on this tasting panel are longtime fans of the classic Dragon’s Milk. Since that beer has been around for over 20 years and was one of the first easily obtainable Bourbon Barrel-aged Stouts on the market, it served as an introduction to barrel-aged beers for many of us.
That level of nostalgia had us going into this tasting of Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut thinking there is no way that it could be better than the original . . . but then we were reminded of the fact that the beers of the Dragon’s Milk Reserve Series are not meant to “improve” upon the original. They are here to make you think about Dragon’s Milk in new and inventive ways, and Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut does just that by taking the Dragon’s Milk experience into the realm of dessert beers. The sweetness of the banana and coconut tames the roasted and boozy character of the original, and then beautifully melds with those notes to create a sinfully decadent treat. Every aspect of Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut – from the familiar notes of the base beer to the newly added banana and coconut – effortlessly finds a meaningful place and leaves you craving more the second your glass goes dry.
Sure, it is not better than the original Dragon’s Milk, but nothing is going to be. That’s why it has been around for two decades and is still going strong. Even with that being the case, it still does not take away from the fact that Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut is a damn tasty Imperial Stout that left each and every one of us thoroughly impressed. Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut proudly stands on its own while still respecting the beer that made its creation possible, and that’s always going to earn high marks from us. Be sure to check out Dragon’s Milk Reserve – Banana Coconut before its limited-time run comes to an end. Prost!