Most of my life has been filled with bad decisions, a habit that’s only gotten worse with age. During the spring of 2014 though, I bought tickets to see Agalloch, a really good decision…for two reasons. The first was that tonight was an evening I didn’t think would happen, so when signer John Haughm confirmed it was the first time Agalloch had played in Minneapolis, (noting that it was a “fucking mistake” to have waited so long), the evening promptly went from live music to a near out-of-body experience. The second reason was a beer entitled Serpensblot, brewed specifically for this show by The HammerHeart Brewing Company. This area is home to an explosion of craft breweries, but this was the first brew I’d tasted from HammerHeart (let alone the first time I’d heard of them, sadly). I was deeply intrigued after only a few sips, realizing there was a journey before me. I knew on this day that I would eventually travel to the city of Lino Lakes to visit the taproom of The HammerHeart Brewing, Co.
A few months had passed and I had yet to make the trek to HammerHeart. I did though, find myself at something called The Beer Dabbler. It’s a gathering of 100+ craft breweries pouring beer over the course of 4 hours, all of which were contained within a minor league baseball field (insert Field of Dreams pun). As the evening progressed and my sobriety dissipated, I had the pleasure of chatting with Austin Lunn, HammerHeart’s Brewmaster and co-founder. It was one of those moments when your drunkenness is at a level that requires a crippling amount of effort and focus simply to construct complete and meaningful sentences. Regardless of my stupidity, Austin was great. Hearing about his experiences brewing in Norway, along with his migration to Minnesota, left me feeling grateful for the opportunity to chat. The rest of the night was a blur though. It was the weekend before I got married, and “moderation” wasn’t a word my cohorts were using. The next morning, as I laid on a bed in urgent care (reasons not relating to the previous evening), the nurse asked me if I wanted Novocain for the incision she was about to make in my arm. I passed, letting her know that the pain of the blade cutting open my skin was the only hope of distraction I had from the repeating sledge hammer throb in my frontal lobe, something I woke up with. Clearly the sign of a good night.
Over a year had passed since I met Austin that night, and we had yet to venture north to the brewery. I was having a hard time looking at myself in the mirror. Plagued by the increasing self-hatred as a result, Aaron and I finally made our way north. Upon entering the taproom, we were greeted with the sounds of death metal. After an almost 2 year wait, we were finally home. The taproom was reminiscent of a Northwoods lodge, adorned with Norse-inspired artwork complimented with multiple sets of antlers hanging from the ceiling. People filled the tables, bar stools and other various seating options throughout the space. The first word that came to mind was cozy. I quickly realized that I didn’t just want to drink…I wanted to move in. After grabbing a seat and starting to sample a flight, it was clear that the founders of HammerHeart did the world a favor the moment the embarked on this journey. Their beer possess an intense richness and complex depth, distinguishing itself from the countless peers. This is perhaps a reflection of the Nordic and Celtic cultures they’ve built their brewery on. Of the 4 beers in my flight, Valkyrie Tears, a double IPA, garnished the most favor with my inner-Norse demons. Measuring up at an impressive 13% ABV, I understood why my gums were starting to tingle. My flight was rounded out with Black Cascade (Black Pale Ale), British Invasion (British Style Pale Ale) and the Barrel Aged Flanary’s Brew (Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout), all of which were distinct yet delicious. I finished the evening with a pint of Bergtatt, a Juniper Pale Ale, equally pleasing. As we headed south, clearly only having scratched the surface of Hammerheart (and wondering what an apartment goes for in Lino Lakes), it was unspoken yet assumed we would return, not just to experience more of their beer, but rather to continue the journey that we started…the journey that is their beer. Kemst þó hægt fari.