The 2015 Cellar Reserve series from Grand Teton Brewing is kicking off with a re-release of a 2012 Cellar Reserve classic, 5’O Clock Shadow Double Black Lager, an Imperial Schwarzbier. I’m often a fan of Grand Teton Cellar Reserve releases and was particularly excited to find out that one of my favorites from 2012 was being re-released, especially since I recently finished my last bottle of the 2012 release. When I reached out to Brew master Rob Mullin it turned out that he has kept and is still enjoying a few bottles from the 2012 release as well. This release should be another great one that hopefully has the aging potential of the previous release.
A Schwarzbier (black beer), is a specialty style from the southern Thuringen and northern Franconia regions in Germany and is believed to have originally been developed as a local variant of a Munich Dunkel. Darker than a Munich Dunkel, a Scwarzbier is the product of darker malts and the style tends to reflect that win subtle roasted barley notes that can present themselves as chocolaty. Caramel flavors may also be in evidence depending on the recipe and preferences of the brewery. It’s probably easiest to think of a Schwarzbier as the German version of a Porter or Stout, with local brewers using the water and ingredients they had at hand to develop a darker, roasty beer to enjoy during the winter months. Unlike a Porter (aside from a Baltic Porter) or Stout, a Schwarzbier is fermented with a lager yeast, giving it a cleaner, crisper flavor with none of the fruity notes that many ale yeast strains can produce. Ideally a Schwarzbier should be served in a tall flute, or a tulip glass to show off both the color of the beer as well as its creamy off-white head.
A traditional Schwarzbier is 4.5-5% ABV, although at such a low ABV a traditional Schwarzbier would not age well. Fortunately for their Cellar Reserve release, Grand Teton bumped up the alcohol content with considerably more malt than is traditional, bringing it up to 7.6%. At 7.6% 5 O’Clock Shadow is at the lower end of what I would usually consider to be a good cellaring beer, but if the 2012 release is any indication (same ABV), the 2015 release should age well.
On to the review!
5 O’Clock Shadow Double Black Lager is brewed in the German Schwarzbier (black beer) tradition. Schwarzbier is to lager what stout or porter is to ale. Like those dark British beers, Schwarzbier has long been considered nourishing and even curative. German doctors often recommend Schwarzbier for nursing mothers. Our Brewmaster, born in Munich, was the beneficiary of just such advice.
We have taken the traditional Schwarzbier, intended to be a “session beer” with typically moderate alcohol, and almost doubled its strength to 7.6% alcohol by volume. We brewed our version with a fine balance of German crystal and roasted malts and spiced it with German Tradition hops. We fermented 5 O’Clock Shadow at cold temperatures with a select German lager yeast and cold-conditioned it for sixteen weeks to create a velvety smooth, easy drinking springtime brew.
This German lager pours a deep brown, almost black color with ruby highlights. It has soft dark chocolate notes with hints of caramel and a light roasty finish.
5 O’Clock Shadow pairs nicely with hearty, spicy foods. Try it with barbecued, roasted or blackened meats and sausages. Steaks and burgers, especially charred, will complement this beer. Recommended cheeses might be a fine Munster or even a buttery, well-aged cheese like Gouda. For dessert we suggest a raspberry tart or ginger pear cake.
Alcohol By Volume: 7.6%
Color (Lovibond): 40.0º
International Biterness Units: 38
Color (Lovibond): 40.0º
International Biterness Units: 38
5 O'Clock Shadow will be available February 15, 2015 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.
Brewmaster Rob Mullin adds:
I've been drinking our 2012 5 O'Clock Shadow every few months since its release. Our "cellar" is pretty steady 40F, and I'm liking the older version even better now than when it was fresh. I did a vertical with a class I'm teaching, and pretty much everyone there agreed, so I'd definitely recommend laying some of this down. At least at that colder temp, I don't think the '12 has peaked yet.
Imperial Schwarzbier is an ideal candidate for cellaring, since the tannins in the dark malt and the unfermented sugars both serve to protect the beer over time. The fact that it's already had twelve weeks aging in the tank before it was bottled also helps a lot. I think you've heard me say this before, but I love brewing lagers. It's what I first brewed professionally, almost a quarter century ago at Old Dominion Brewing Company in Virginia. This yeast strain, which I picked up while at Old Dominion, is probably my all-time favorite yeast. I love its clean flavors that really show off the malt, and I have great memories of visiting the monastery where it originated.
I've been looking for a while, and I finally found a local source for spicy German mustard--the kind that comes in a toothpaste tube. It's probably easy to find in Wisconsin, but was a struggle here. Now I'm using it on almost everything. One of my new favorite pairings is good bratwurst, German mustard and 5 O'Clock Shadow. The spiciness of the yeast does a great job with the bitterness from the dark malts, and the sweet maltiness of the beer accentuates the flavors of a good brat. It's particularly good if you boil the brat in 5 O'clock Shadow before grilling it.
5 O’Clock Shadow pours a deep translucent black walnut with garnet highlights when heldup to the light. A thick creamy khaki colored head with moderate rocky breakup quickly forms in the glass with a rigorous pour. The head holds good retention, lingering in the glass for a few minutes before fading to a thick, ½ inch collar around the edges and leaving behind heavy lacing in the glass. The aroma brings mellow dark chocolate on the front end with a hint of caramel. Subtle herbal and mellow piney notes linger around the edges, barely evident alongside the malts. A very slight spiciness is in evidence, which I take from Rob Mullin to be a byproduct of fermentation courtesy of the yeast. The aroma is wrapped up by notes of baker’s chocolate on the back end.
Dark chocolate and caramel malt flavors are joined by roasted barley notes on the front end. The flavor takes on a subtle spiciness which could be either the hops or the yeast, and a hint of pine. The dark malts lend a perception of smokiness to the beer, but I must be attuned to smoky flavors in beer because I pick them up in a lot of beers that contain roasted barley. There is a full maltiness with 5 O’Clock Shadow, and a moderately low level of hop bitterness, which combined with the spiciness of the yeast, and slight char from the roasted barley serves to mellow the sweetness that malts bring. Starting rich and malty, the beer has a drying finish reminiscent of eating a bar of baker’s chocolate. Medium-full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation, 5 O’Clock Shadow has the mouthfeel of a good Schwarz bier.
As with previous Cellar Reserve releases, 5 O’Clock Shadow is a pretty great beer. Rob Mullin added, up above, that he is still periodically opening the 2012 Cellar Reserve release of 5 O’Clock Shadow and does not believe the beer has peaked yet. Having opened my last bottle of the 2012 release recently I would agree with his sentiment, the beer aged remarkably well. Using the 2012 release as an example, the 2015 release should age similarly and be good for another 3+ years. I know that I am going to be on the lookout for bottles of 5 O’Clock Shadow when it hits the Milwaukee market in a few weeks! If previous release prices are any indication, you should be able to find a bottle for $7-12 depending on your liquor store of choice.
That’s all for today, check back later this week for another review! Cheers!