As the bourbon industry continues to grow and prosper, as more and more products come out and as more and more distilleries get into the bourbon game, we are seeing companies take different angles to sell their product. Sometimes those are marketing angles, offering a product with an old-timey label or some unique back-story. Sometimes those are different angles in flavor—whatever flavored bourbon you can think of is probably out there somewhere.
New Holland Brewery took a somewhat different angle. New Holland is first and foremost a brewer, and not primarily in the distilling game. One of their more flavorful products is their Dragon's Milk Stout, a very flavorful milk stout that I've had the pleasure of enjoying in the past.
Using these barrels in which the Dragon's Milk Stout was aged, New Holland created their Beer Barrel Bourbon, a bourbon that, after aging for a few years in American Oak barrels, was finished in beer barrels. It's a marketing angle that should appeal to beer drinkers and whiskey drinkers alike, and my curiosity was piqued.
So here's the quick rundown on this one, before I get into my more detailed thoughts. I went in this not expecting to compare it to traditional bourbons. In fact, I fully expected it to be more akin to a flavored bourbon than to other finished bourbons I've had, such as Angel's Envy. I figured the stout would permeate the whiskey more than whiskeys finished in wine barrels.
On my first drink, my expectations were confirmed and more. Not only did it taste like a milk stout flavored whiskey, but the flavor of the stout dominated. It had a creamy, toasted flavor to it, with the strong flavor of the stout throughout the whiskey. In fact, I couldn't really comment on the whiskey itself, as it was very masked. It's a very sweet, and a more bitter beer might not work as well as the stout barrels do.
As the bottle sat for a while, the up front and in-your-face flavor of the stout did take somewhat of a back seat, and it took on more of a finished whiskey nature than that of a flavored whiskey. The sweetness also mellowed out, so that it was still sweet but not overly so. However, the milk stout was still not to be denied.
What it comes down to is, if you like milk stouts, or in particular, New Holland's Dragon's Milk Stout, and you're not looking to simply enjoy some bourbon, then this is absolutely worth trying. As I worked my way through the bottle, though, I also had to go pick up a bottle of traditional bourbon, because this Beer Barrel Bourbon just did not satisfy my cravings for regular bourbon.
It is a good pour, as long as you know what you're getting into and you're not expecting it to take the place of any traditional bourbons.