6/14/21: New Holland Brewing's Dragon's Share

2:26 PM

Today'll be a doozy for me. I have slated to present four different cans in this post. My plan is to drink them over the course of the day, taking a break from choring to sit and focus on each one. Then, when I'm all done, I'll edit this post and get it up for your reading enjoyment.

The good news is that none of the cans I'm drinking aren't particularly heavy. No, they're each downright sessionable. See, I'm doing a hard seltzer variety pack today. But, the pack doesn't hold just any hard seltzer; it holds New Holland's Dragon's Share.

New Holland (I'm pulling this bit from memory since I've written about the brewery so often recently), was founded by Brett VanderKamp in 1997. Brett opened the brewery in his hometown of Holland, MI, believing he could bring something new to the beer industry. Since New Holland's founding, they've moved on from just making world-class craft beer: They now proudly distill craft liquor and, with the addition of Dragon's Share to their lineup, have recently moved into the craft hard seltzer territory.

Okay, here's their "Our Journey" page. How'd I do? 

Dragon's Share is, as written partly down this page, is made by aging water in freshly-emptied bourbon barrels before being turned into hard seltzer. That means that each can has flavors of oak, spice, and vanilla without any harsh alcohol bite.

That same page linked above happens to be the one for Dragon's Share Original. I figured I'd start with this for today's post in order to have a baseline to which I can compare the rest of the flavors. This seltzer, like the rest of the varieties I'll be enjoying today, clocks in at a modest 4.6% ABV. As of the time of my drinking this can, it's currently nine o'clock in the morning. I just finished up chore number one: Dropping my car off at the shop for some body work, followed by a nice three mile run home.

The nose on Original is all bourbon and seltzer. By that, I mean it's warm vanilla, aged oak, rich caramel, light almond, and, of course, some boozy warmth. Then there's a hint of that gassy, almost salty seltzer aroma. Overall, the bouquet on this can makes it seem like the seltzer'll pack a sizable wallop. I'm just happy to know--going into it--that I'm approaching something sessionable, not something heavy. Purrl gave my can five whiffs. I think the bourbon notes put her off a bit.

Original tastes impressive. The water used for the seltzer really took in all that bourbon barrel flavor. Those notes I picked up on in the bouquet? That vanilla, the oak, caramel, and almond? They're all here in abundance. There's a definite seltzer taste to the whole affair but this is a seltzer. It's not not going to have that. What's missing is a boozy bite. In its place, in the finish, all those warm, delicious bourbon flavors linger.

I'll touch on the mouthfeel here with Original and, unless one of the variants feels differently, I won't go over it again. Because this is a seltzer. It's bubbly to a fault--making me think of a whisky and Coke. It's pleasant, it's light, and it's pretty much the exact kind of thing I'll want to be drinking through my chores today. 

Before moving onto my next chore (and the next seltzer), I'll give a quick rating for Original: 9.0/10. I don't know if I'll ever come across a seltzer as fine as this outside of today's samplings. It really nails what it's set out to do; all the goodness of bourbon without any of the headache.

Next up is Dragon's Share Cherry. Again, this is a 4.6% ABV seltzer that carries on the flavors of Dragon's Share Original, but with a cherry flourish. I'm cracking into this can at eleven in the morning, after having tackled the weeding of our flowerbeds and garden (the garden's doing well! The pumpkins are flowering and the sunflowers are reaching towering heights).

I find a touch of Original's bourbon in Cherry's nose, but none of the seltzer. The meat of the bouquet is cherry, sweet and cool like a late-July popsicle. There's also a floral aspect to it, akin to the aroma of those flowerbeds I just weeded in early May when everything's blossoming. Purrl seems to agree with this can a lot more than the previous one, giving it nine whiffs.

The cherry is much more subdued in the seltzer's flavor. It's here, just neither as bright nor as sweet as it was on the nose. The seltzer water flavor looms large, but that bourbon quality still shines (albeit not as brightly as in Original). That vanilla oakiness mingles nicely with the cherry in the finish, a killer end to my first swig, turning that cherry popsicle comparison I made above into a cherry creamsicle one.

I have to say, I'm impressed with Dragon's Share Cherry. Granted, it doesn't quite have the wow factor Original had (that much bourbon flavor in a seltzer is something special), but it's incredibly quaffable. I'm giving my can an 8.5/10.  This is making me super excited to see how the remaining two cans drink. See you after I cut, edge, and rake up the grass.

Today's third seltzer is Dragon's Share Blackberry. This 4.6% seltzer should keep the oaky, vanillay, and spicy flavors of Original and add some blackberry goodness into the mix. I'm drinking this at 2:30 (to give you just a short idea of how much work goes into maintaining my yard) (although some of that time was spent marveling the Brood X cicadas which peak here this week).

Blackberry has the same aroma as a blackberry-flavored hard candy. It's blackberry and vanilla, with some slight oakiness, in that exact order. That's it. I don't find any bourbon booziness nor any seltzer here. This would be one hell of a Halloween drink. Purrl refused to put her nose anywhere near my can; this seltzer isn't for her.

I wish I could adequately describe to you how much she did not even register this.

My first swig nets me some mild blackberry and a wallop of that good old seltzer water flavor. A second presents that vanilla oakiness, but just ever so much. Really, the blackberry and seltzer water flavors are the most prominent here. Even in the finish, I find blackberry and seltzer kicking around.

Rating Dragon's Share Blackberry, I have to give it a 7.0/10. It's still drinkable and flavorful, but the blackberry overwhelms all of the bourbon. Now, if you don't mind me, I have to get to washing my house's siding. 

Phew. The siding's as clean as I can get it. Now, finally, we come to Dragon's Share Orange. Take that 4.6% ABV goodness of Original and throw in some orange flavor. Let's see how this drinks at five o'clock in the evening on a chore-filled, day-off Monday.

Orange has all the aromas of a straight-up orange creamsicle. Heavy on the orange and the vanilla (thanks to the bourbon), this is the bouquet I wanted this variant to have. I'm amazed at how aptly the nose is here is pulled off. Purrl's not as impressed--she gave my can two whiffs (I've documented many times on the blog how she doesn't appreciate orange. This is just more evidence showing as much).

Flavor-wise, this final seltzer tastes just like orange soda. That's it. I mean, sure, there's a little bourbony bite just before the finish that brings orange creamsicle back to my mind. Okay, it drinks just like orange soda and orange creamsicle. This is a killer summer beverage.

Compared to the rest of today's offerings (and to other hard seltzers I've had) Dragon's Share Orange is worth a 9.0/10. This is exactly what I'd hoped the seltzer would be. It stands just as tall as Original--they both write new books on what hard seltzer can be.

Overall, I'd give New Holland's Dragon's Share Variety Pack at a solid 8.5/10 (big thanks to my dad for grabbing this pack for me!). Some of the seltzers are absolute bangers. Others are just pretty damn okay. Original and Orange are both must-tries, whether your a hard seltzer fan or not.

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