Posts Tagged ‘beer’

How to Drink Ale and Glare About Fiercely

Sunday, July 19th, 2020

”At the worst, the game will soon be played, and others will stand where we have stood, and strive where we have striven, and fail as we have failed, and so on, till man has worked out his doom, and the Gods cease from their wrath, or Ragnarök come upon them, and they too are lost in the jaws of grey wolf Fenrir.”

Thus spoke Eric Brighteyes to his beloved Gudruda the Fair on the gloomy and downtrodden eve of his exile from Iceland, having been unjustly declared an outlaw. A very serious man, Eric’s manner of speak resembles that of Styrbiorn the Strong, which is unsurprising since Eric Brighteyes and Styrbiorn the Strong were contemporaries; both are products of Victorian England. Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard and Styrbiorn the Strong by E.R. Eddison are both early English novels of Norse adventure and relish in the language of pomp and splendor that was popular at the time of their writing.

Check out my little blurb about Styrbiorn the Strong here if you so desire: How to Dally with Whores and Lose Kingdoms

I found an old out-of-print copy published by Zebra Books in the 70s (replete with the requisite non-sensical fantasy cover art typical of the era) and naturally snatched it up. The introduction by Lin Carter in this edition does a nice job of providing some background history to both Eric Brighteyes and Styrbiorn the Strong. Eric Brighteyes has enjoyed more popularity in general, remained in print for longer, and, basically, was written by a better-known author (Haggard also wrote King Solomon’s Mines). Lin seems to prefer Eric Brighteyes over Styrbiorn the Strong, though I personally liked Styrbiorn the Strong better. But if you like one, I think you’ll like both.

Eric Brighteyes is at its heart a romance. The entire book revolves around Eric’s love for Gudruda and her love for him, and the conniving of the evil witch Swanhild to tear them apart. Eric is essentially a noble Victorian hero full of virtue who just simply happens to be living in medieval Iceland. He is joined by his berserk friend, Skallagrim, for most of the novel, and they fare about on Viking adventures, but the Eric-Gudruda-Swanhild love triangle dominates. The tale is certainly entertaining and full of adventure, but the entire plot is revealed in a highly detailed and obvious dream sequence at the very beginning, which unfortunately detracts a bit from the book’s overall effect.

For comparison, Eddison’s Styrbiorn felt like more of an actual Norse hero who just happened to speak in Victorian Era slang, rather than being a full-blown Victorian Era hero transplanted to the ancient Northlands. And the full plot wasn’t revealed at the beginning (though if you know your sagas, you can very well guess how that book ends). For those reasons, I liked Styrbiorn the Strong better, but would still wholeheartedly recommend Eric Brighteyes to anyone looking for a classic Viking adventure novel, provided the language isn’t an impediment. For myself personally, the language is part of the pleasure. Some of my favorite little quips from the book are below.

”Skallagrim drank much ale and glared about him fiercely; for he had this fault, that at times he was drunken.”

”…and the Baresark fit came on. His eyes rolled, foam flew from his lips, his mouth grinned, and he was awesome to see.”

”Women shall bring him to his end, and he shall die a hero’s death, but not at the hand of his foes.”

”The wolf howls at thy door, Björn! The grave-worm opens his mouth! Trolls run to and fro upon thy threshold, and the ghosts of men speed Hellwards!”

”My honour shall be great for the feat, if I chance to live, and if I die—well, there is an end of troubling after maids and all other things.”

”Now dimly lighted of the rising moon by turns they bore Gudruda down the mountain side, till at length, utterly fordone, they saw the fires of Middalhof.”

”For when Love rises like the sun, wisdom melts like the mists.”

”It is a sad thing,” said Asmund, ”that so many men must die because some men are now dead.”

”It must be the Faroes,” answered Eric; ”now if we can but keep afloat for three hours more, we may yet die ashore.”

”Then Eric and Skallagrim leaned upon their weapons and mocked their foes, while these cursed and tore their beards with rage and shame.”

”Unhappy shall she live, and when she comes to die, but as a wilderness—but as a desolate winter snow, shall be the record of her days!”

”Eric comes and Whitefire is aloft, and no more shall ye stand before him whom ye have slandered than stands the birch before the lightning stroke!”

”Eric stared and said, ’By Odin! I see a shape of light like to the shape of a woman; it walks upon the waters towards us and the mist melts before it, and the sea grows calm beneath its feet.’”

”In the rosy glow there sat three giant forms of fire, and their shapes were the shapes of women. Before them was a loom of blackness that stretched from earth to sky, and they wove at it with threads of flame. They were splendid and terrible to see. Their hair streamed behind them like meteor flames, their eyes shone like lightning, and their breasts gleamed like the polished bucklers of the gods. They wove fiercely at the loom of blackness, and as they wove they sang.”

”Last night as we sat on Mosfell we saw the Norns weave our web of fate upon their loom of darkness. They sat on Hecla’s dome and wove their pictures in living flame, then rent the web and flew upward and southward and westward, crying our doom to sky and earth and sea.”

Norumbegan Takeover at Idle Hands

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

CANCELLED!!!!!

You only need one guess as to the reason why. When/if this is rescheduled, the update will be posted here. Until then, tusen tack och lycka till.

On March 29th, Matt Smith and I will be commiserating, consuming beer, and listening to ambient Norse music at Idle Hands Craft Ales in Malden, Mass. We’ll also be peddling our wares (because that’s the kind of people we are).

So, if you’re in the area, and fancy listening to the likes of Wardruna and talking about Egill Skallagrímsson’s horse-head-skewered nithing pole over a pint of Honeyball New England IPA or Check Raise American Stout, please do join us!

The Norumbegan non-tap takeover starts at noon, right when when the pilates/yoga class is ending. Here’s the official event page:

Raise a pint to the old gods at Idle Hands

Taste the Sampo

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Life somehow just feels a little less trite and meaningless when you discover that an entire series of Finnish beers based on The Kalevala exists. Of course, we may be all speeding headlong towards a final destination six feet below ground (and many Finnish bands do their best to remind us of this) and it may feel like Ragnarök just keeps getting closer and closer (and many Swedish bands do their best to remind us of this), but until our personal or collective worlds are torn asunder, we at least have actual, genuine, Ostrobothnian-brewed Kalevalian beer! And proper graphic design to accompany it! Which is what this disgrace of a rambling post is mostly about.

This is partly because Ylikylä Olut Oy is a small brewery, and thus they don’t distribute to Vinland, and thus consuming their glorious nectar is something of a frustrating impossibility unless you live near their home. However, admiring their beer labels from afar is much easier.

And so praise be to Asko Leinonen for creating these works of mythological alcoholic art! Several of his badass label designs are shown below, and more may be viewed on his portfolio here, which is definitely worth checking out.

And I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to visually admire or taste those extra special bitters of Ilmarinen or Väinämöinen?

And hey! If you actually read this far, then maybe check out Corwin Ericson’s book Swell. It presents a new, interesting interpretation of the sampo. And we all need new, interesting interpretations of the sampo.

Bifrost Doth Beckon

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Bifrost works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it reveals itself after a rain shower, leading to a place where gold may be plundered and leprechauns captured to be sold into slavery. Other times it takes the form of a stone cold rainbow bridge. But perhaps best of all is when it appears in the form of a beer bottle to soothe our weary souls on these cold winter nights.

I’ve actually been aware of this version of Bifrost’s existence for about a decade now, but this is the first time that I’ve ever actually encountered it in person, which for a sad individual who gets off on the combination of Norse anything with alcohol anything makes it a very special moment.

This liquid Bifrost is brought to us by those fine brewers at Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle (click the “seasonal” tab on their page if you want to read their official blurb about Bifrost). It’s a pale ale brewed for the grim and frostbitten season with some hints of spice and a nice medium level of bitterness, and really good. I enjoyed drinking it even more than I enjoyed taking the picture above to preserve its unadulterated glory for all digital prosperity. And no, I didn’t drink it straight out of the bottle, but rather poured it into my horn, as one should.

Norumbega Blót

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

In the shadow of Leif Eriksson’s Tower at Norumbega, Vinland

Lo there did we honor the Leif the Lucky at the sacred site of his Vinland colony! Indeed, a make-shift blót was recently held to honor the colonizer of Norumbega with mead and metal along the banks of the not-so-swiftly moving Charles River. And though we made no actual sacrifices (unless the contents of a ceramic bottle of Dansk Mjød Viking Blod qualifies), Leif nonetheless did smile upon us by granting passage to the top of his tower, which is usually barred off because that is the era in which we live. Needless to say, the make-shift blót was a huge success and surely a bountiful harvest is in store for the coming year.*

The open-handed proginetor of barbaric nobility performed skaldic arts and generously bequeathed idols of Odin, Thor, and Tyr for alcoholic worship upon the altar of erroneous history

Hail Tyr! And how appropriate that this is being posted on a Tuesday—is this coincidence, or fate?

We also perfected the magical “Skull Splitter” disappearing trick

And what would a Norumbega blót be without a thematically appropriate song sung in Swedish but transcribed only in runes?

*Leif’s tower bears a striking resemblance to Frey’s most distinctive feature, so the fact that we intruded into what was supposed to be an “impregnable” stone shaft is ripe with all sorts of symbolic meaning.

True Corporate Black Metal

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

It’s 2017 now and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, which means it’s high time to address the crucial and critically important question: what would happen if you combined a corporate office environment with a diehard black metal dude? The topic is a mystery for the ages and a clear deviation from my usual, unhealthy obsession with Vikings, but it’s one that’s still aggressive and still Scandinavian. Read more about it here on McSweeney’s:

I Bring the Soul-Defiling Spirit of True Norwegian Black Metal to Our Corporate Office Environment

And while we’re on the topic of true metal, I recently had the chance to visit Trve Brewing in Denver, where they combine tasty craft brews with the ambience and ethos of metal. What’s not to like about that? Check out the photo that I took of their beer menu and the two graphic images of their labels that I pilfered off their own website:

Live Free and Drink Hard

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

One of the few redeeming qualities about this obscure, little website is its dedication to the discovery and promotion of Viking-themed alcoholic beverages. Despite being the hardest drinkers known to both human history and Eddic poetry, Norsemen that actually grace the labels of bottles of booze are unfortunately fairly hard to come by in the 21st century. It’s usually a pretty rare occasion when I stumble upon a new specimen worthy of photographing (poorly) and then uploading into the great black abyss of cyberspace. It’s even more rare when said specimen hails from the shores of Norumbega, so naturally I felt that special rush of excitement that only the Vikings/alcohol combo-pack can deliver when I discovered Kelsen Brewing Company’s fine line of Norse/Tolkien/medieval inspired brewskies.

The Battle-Axe IPA is shown here, but they also have a Draken Robust Porter, a Vendel Imperial Stout, a Vinatta Russian Imperial Stout (‘Vinatta’ being the Norse word for friendship), and a Paradigm Brown Ale (for those who prefer doing their drinking with the dwarves). Not all their styles feature a Norse or medieval theme, but they’re on the right track. On a more serious note, they’re basically just a solid, little craft brewery doing good work from their home base in the state with the most Viking motto of the entire nation.

Brewsky of the North

Monday, September 21st, 2015

There’s no better way to start the week off right than by rolling out of bed Monday morning and popping open a cold, refreshing Icelandic craft brew courtesy of the Einstök Beer Company. Located in Akureyri, along the island’s north shore near the Arctic Circle, Einstök brews a variety of beer styles that are gradually making their presence felt over here in Vinland. With any luck, Einstök will be luckier than Leif the Lucky was in his day and remain here in Vinland for many years to come. I was personally lucky enough to recently find a batch and enjoy its clean, glacially-derived alcoholic contents. There’s just something about drinking a well-crafted beer from the land of fire and ice that helps you get by. And the logo is pretty damn badass, too.

Keeping It Real at Aifur

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Stockholm is a magical place where they have a Viking restaurant and bar that actually strives for authenticity. Normally this kind of thing would be totally gimmicky and feel like a themed version of a Chuck E. Cheese; anyone over age 10 would stand out in a sad way if they weren’t there with a younger family member. Not so at Aifur. At Aifur it’s different. They’ve done their research to make the setting cozy and believable. The staff dress in garb appropriate to the setting and time period. The menu is based on archaeological records regarding the types of animals the Norse ate, and the types of spices they used to make those animals taste better. The drink menu consists of an extensive list of Nordic beers and meads, which alone is enough to make me excited. Throw in everything else I just mentioned, and it’s like Aifur goes to 11 when everyone else only goes to 10.

Check out their “about” page in English for more info:
http://www.aifur.se/en_about.

And below is their booze menu!

Icelandic Lava Beer

Friday, June 28th, 2013

 photo lavabeer_zps01b3df40.png Finally! The Icelanders have begun smoking their beer (in addition to smoking their whales and their puffins). I personally can’t think of a more befitting national, Viking-appropriate meal for Iceland than one composed of smoked endangered animal, smoked cute little penguin-type thing, and smoked beer inspired by volcanic eruptions. How could you possibly go wrong with all those items sitting on your table all at the same time? The answer is: you can’t.

Plus it’s 9.4%, so knock yourself out with many and then go break down a door in a drunken rage. Odds are, you’ll only regret the monetary expenses, because Lava ain’t cheap.

Glory in a Bottle

Friday, May 27th, 2011

The Norsky brewers up at HaandBryggeriet are clearly modern day recipients of Odin’s wisdom and have held a cherished spot on my Viking Barley Brew list ever since I first compiled it. But they wanted to outdo themselves and so they started to age some of their brew in aquavit barrels, and the result is this Barrel-Aged Porter, complete with Norse carving decor on the label. Midgård would be a better place if there were more people like these guys out there, so skål to them!

Then on a more somber and unrelated note, the online literary magazine Bananafish recently suicided itself. This saddens me because Bananafish was one of those few sites that actually acknowledged the importance of writing about drunken leprechauns being held hostage in Viking dungeons, which is not a topic that most literary venues value. (And also the guy who ran the site seemed like a nice fellow). So, anyway, since Bananafish is now down for the count, I’ve reposted the content of my story that had been published there, and it can be found on the Encounter with a Miscreant page.

Lastly, a few parting words for the fallen Bananafish, plundered verbatim from the mighty Ville Laihiala (formerly of Sentenced):

“The shadows growing deep
We’ll be gone eternally
Our stars have fallen from the sky
Our dreams have faded into the night
No tomorrow
Not for us
Death and sorrow
Dust to dust
Dust to dust.”

Barley Wine Fit for Valhalla

Friday, October 29th, 2010
Thereupon stood the enemy host. It was a fine day with blue sky overhead. Then the two forces joined in battle and fought fiercely, nor was there need to goad them on. Much shouting followed, and a furious blowing of trumpets.

As dawn approached, Andhrimnir Barley Wine Ale said: “It seems to me this battle did not go my way.” And then slumped down and died from its wounds. Andhrimnir Barley Wine Ale is now out of this story.

So this brave warrior was crafted by Nøgne Ø, a brewery in Norway. Their site does not have any information about this particular brew, but check out some of their others. They pack a mean punch. Oh, and the name of the brew refers to Valhalla’s chef for anyone who might be wondering, so I suspect Andhrimnir Barley Wine Ale probably goes really well with resurrected roast boar.

Viking Booze Burial Mound

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Hail and skål! A substantial update to the Viking Brews and Booze directory has been made, and just in time for Friday night and Midsommar, no less. Besides the two new sub-directories of Fruity Booze (wines and ciders) and the Viking Booze Burial Mound (which celebrates the Einherjar of Viking beverages), the other sub-categories have been updated in recent weeks to include: Herslev Bryghus, Odin’s Brewing Company, Olvishult Brugghus’ Freyja Wheat Ale, Midnight Sun’s Viking Dark Strong Ale, Heidrun’s Meadery, Clontarf Whiskey, and more.

In other update news, Modern Viking Job Interview #5 ought to be going up in the next week or so. Yeah, I know. Pretty damn thrilling.

Happy midsummer!

A Short History of the Norse Founding of Russia for Bostonians

Friday, June 4th, 2010

A Short History of the Norse Founding of Russia for Bostonians

And just in time for the annual June 6th celebrations, too!

Irish Glory

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Normally I don’t condone Viking defeats, but I’m always willing to make an exception when it involves beer, especially when it involves Irish beer during this particular time of year!

Legbiter Ale is brewed by Strangford Lough Brewing Company and is dedicated to King Magnus Barefoot of Norway, who sailed to Ireland to monger war, conquer, pillage, and die in battle (click the photo to go to the brewery’s website). He is said to be buried near Saint Patrick in County Down, Northern Ireland.

More information about Viking history in Ireland (particularly as it relates to Bostonians) shall be posted here on Wednesday the 17th if all goes according to plan.

Sláinte/skål!