Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

15 April, 2016

What Flavor Lurks in the Hearts of Schwarzbiers?: 5 O’Clock Shadow by Grand Teton Brewing



The fine folks at Grand Teton Brewing apparently have a penchant for taking lower-alcohol German styles and turning them into mega-maxi brews. Witness how they turned the traditionally (at least in the past few decades) low-alcohol Berliner Weisse into an über-Starkbier. I was recently given a bottle of their 5 O'Clock Shadow, which the brewery describes as a "double black lager", a.k.a. - an embiggened schwarzbier. It comes in at 7.6% A.B.V. Could they have gotten away with calling it a Baltic porter? Only The Shadow knows…

5 O’Clock Shadow is part of Grand Teton's Cellar Reserve series and the tag on the bottle says "Specially designed to enjoy fresh or cellar for years to come." My bottle indicated that it was filled on 27 January of last year and I don't care how big this bier is; cellaring a lager for "years" is probably not a good idea. I had little doubt that being a year and a quarter old was pushing it. In my defense, I was only given this brew a few weeks ago so the prolonged aging isn't my fault. I swear.

Grand Teton says that they lagered 5 O’Clock Shadow for 16(?!) weeks which sounded quite tantalizing. Cleanliness is next to godliness, right?

5 O’Clock Shadow pours a very deep copper. It was almost as light-gobbling dark as Dark Something. If I held my glass up to the light just right, it appeared to be clear. I also spied some bubbles going upwards from the bottom of my glass. At the top was a loose tan head that lasted what I think of as being an average amount of time – about half a minute.

I must admit that the aroma took me off guard. I figured that a double black lager would positively reek, but in a good way, of roasted malts and of some that were extra roasted as well. Instead my nose was assailed by fruit. Sure, there was some of the expected roasted grain and a bit of grass in the background but it blatantly smelled of peach. How blatantly odd. I took this to be a bad sign thinking that oxidation had done the dastardly deed and turned the precious bier that was months in the making back into wort.

Praise be to St. Gambrinus for my fears were allayed upon tasting the brew. The darker grains had really left their mark on the flavor with a rich chocolatey goodness that was accompanied by a hint of smoke in the background. There was some roasted grain flavor as well as some malt sweetness that was part caramel and part bread dough. Hops were subdued here with only some grassy/herbal flavor behind the wall of malt. I suspect that they were more prominent when the bier was fresh.

Those hops, however, stepped up for the finish where they took on a bigger spicy/pepper flavor. Bitterness took over from the malt flavors too making for a pretty dry ending. There was Schaumhaftvermoegen aplenty with a wide ring toward the top of my glass and large splotches on down.

Opening the bottle I was slightly apprehensive as I thought that perhaps 5 O’Clock Shadow would be a big, thick brew and, consequently, a bit too much for a warm spring day. However, I was wrong. The bier had a medium body and was dangerously smooth. I thoroughly enjoyed the smoky chocolate flavors from the dark grains and also liked, not only the hop flavors, but also the level of hoppiness. They definitely took a back seat here and I can only wonder what this bier would have tasted like fresh.

Folks here in Wisconsin who missed 5 O’Clock Shadow last year can and should enjoy Capital's Fishin' in the Dark in a couple of months or so.

Junk food pairing: Should you be so lucky as to have some 5 O’Clock Shadow lying around, bust that open and grab a bag of BBQ flavored potato chips. The salt enhances the bier's overall flavor while the BBQ complements the smoky dark chocolate.

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|| Palmer, 1:49 PM

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