6/11/20: New Holland Brewing's Dragon's Milk Reserve: Scotch Barrel-Aged Stout with Marshmallow & Dark Chocolate

3:13 PM

Today I'm taking a break from my COVID-induced Tales from the Cellar series. I know I only have one of those left and, well, that'll just have to be for my next post. Because today--well, today I have something special.


Last weekend I was at my local bottleshop and lucked out. After a week of searching for the latest Dragon's Milk Reserve, I finally found some in the wild. Scotch Barrel-Aged Stout with Marshmallow & Dark Chocolate. Usually I'm not big on beers that feature marshmallow (there's only one s'mores beer I've had that I enjoy), but the Scotch barrel-aging had me intrigued and, come on, it's Dragon's Milk. Why wouldn't I give it a go?

Here's hoping you're willing to follow me along for the ride on this one.

Dragon's Milk is a product of New Holland (which is based in Holland, MI). The brewery was founded by Brett VanderKamp in 1997. In the 23 years since its inception, the place has gone on to achieve wide acclaim. Dragon's Milk itself is a special brew that highlights the best the brewery has to offer. Check out New Holland's "Our Journey" page and Dragon Milk's "About Dragon's Milk" page for the finer details.

Dragon's Milk Reserve: Scotch Barrel-Aged Stout with Marshmallows & Dark Chocolate is currently featured on the Dragon's Milk Reserve page. However, since this is likely to change with the next Reserve announcement, I'm including a screenshot of the official writeup below, for posterity's sake. Also, since this is the second Reserve release of the year, I'll be following New Holland's example and shortening its name to 2020 Reserve 2 from here on out.

Image source: https://dragonsmilk.com/dragons-milk-reserve, retrieved 6/11/2020
This is an 11% ABV behemoth of a stout that features, you guessed it, marshmallow and dark chocolate. When coupled with the peatiness from the Scotch barrels, it's meant to induce summertime memories of s'mores around a campfire (which is something that Dragon's Milk Reserve has actually tackled previously). This is a limited time and distro brew so if you want, track some down now.

I'm finding both chocolate and marshmallow on the stout's nose. The dark chocolate isn't as deep as I thought it would be. In fact, the combination of the two provides an almost milk chocolate character. There's some mossy wood there, too, definitely attributable to the time 2020 Reserve 2 sat in Scotch barrels. I also get some general vegetative aromatics present in the stout that lend to images I'm conjuring of deep, summery woodlands. There are two distinct aromas that I had expected to find in this bottle that are (currently) absent: smoke and booze. I'll double back if they rise up as my bottle warms. Doubling back before publishing the post: Still no smoke or booze. Purrl's not as impressed with the bouquet as I am, seeing as how she only gave my bottle seven whiffs.



2020 Reserve 2's flavor profile is a lot bigger than the sum of its parts; if this is what New Holland thinks s'mores taste like, I'd want to try some of their other campfire treats! First off, the booze is present in spades. This absolutely smacks like an 11% stout. The marshmallow and chocolate are both here--uncombined--but the earthiness of the stout keep them from being overpowering. While bourbon barrel-aged beers have a definite oaky vanillaness to them, Scotch barrel-aged beers, it seems, are rooted in the earth. Woody, mossy, charcoal-y. It's a welcome dampness that keeps the sweet flavors that usually make s'mores stouts too sweet from overwhelming the beer. While I can't find any smokiness in the flavor profile, either, I don't mind. This stout tastes incredible.

The stout boasts a robust and creamy mouthfeel. Like the first gooey bite of a fire-roasted s'more. It fits the liquid in the bottle perfectly.

Okay, I need to confess something to you guys. I've had this beer before. I bought my four-pack of it on Sunday and, well, I drank my first bottle that evening. I couldn't help myself and, you know what? I don't even feel bad about it.

See, when I drink a beer and it's not for the blog (or some other review-related purpose), I don't drink it to review it. I drink it to simply enjoy it. That's exactly what I did with 2020 Reserve 2 just before the sun set on Sunday night.

I grabbed the one bottle I had placed in my fridge earlier that day, went out onto the front porch and cracked it open. I found some music to listen to (Borg's The Triumph of Spring which I hadn't heard before that evening) and gazed out at the lake across the way while slowly nursing my beer. The breeze was cool, the birds and insects in the woods beside me were singing in harmony, and it all just clicked. It was a perfect beer drinking experience. I'd be lying if I told you it's not one I'm attempting to replicate right now.

New Holland's Dragon's Milk Reserve: Scotch Barrel-Aged Stout with Marshmallows & Dark Chocolate is the single best beer I've had thus far in 2020. And, although this year has been a shitstorm, I've been lucky enough to enjoy a ton of great beer. So, when I say this stout is the best of all of those, I'm really saying something. It's a 10/10, and one of those beers I'd rate higher if I could. I sincerely hope you manage to track some down for yourself.

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