Schell’s Cave-Aged, Barrel-Aged Lager

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

When you hear the word “lager,” you think immediately of pale lagers, the most commercially plentiful and widely available beers in the world. But dark lagers (think of the smooth, malty Dunkels) have their place at the table, and they bring mellow comfort to those who imbibe.

For Schell’s ninth edition of its Stag Series, the brewery throws back to the origin of lagers, which are fermented and conditioned at low temperatures — such as those you might find underground, in caves. Schell’s Cave-Aged Barrel-Aged Lager was stored in the brewery’s restored original lagering caves, and as such it has taken on a pleasing complexity.

As you’d hope from a beer that has been aged in whiskey barrels underground, Schell’s Cave-Aged wears layers of flavor that deepen as it comes up to room temperature. Depth and sweetness, as conveyed by flavors of coffee and toffee, dominate — this would be a fine after-dinner beer. And at 7.7 percent ABV, it’s a beer that you can happily split with a friend and sip slowly from a snifter. Cave-Aged is defined by its mellow malty complexity. The hops are just a brief squeak amid the low, rumbling tumble of woody, chocolate, and caramel flavors.

By James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.