On tap: Solemn Oath's Ravaged by Vikings


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Jourdon Gulletts artwork for Ravaged by Vikings
  • Jourdon Gullett's artwork for Ravaged by Vikings
So far my beer reviews have involved me nursing a bottle of something special in my apartment, on account of it's easier that way to take notes (and serviceable pictures). But on Saturday I decided to go to Acre for lunch and see if they had anything on tap I could review—even though that meant I'd be obligated to bring a notepad and my janky old camera into a bar, since I don't own a smartphone, a laptop, or anything in between.

Luckily I found a douple IPA called Ravaged by Vikings, from a newish Naperville brewery called Solemn Oath that distributes its beer exclusively on tap. It's the big brother of Kidnapped by Vikings, one of the first Solemn Oath releases upon its opening in May 2012. Ravaged by Vikings has been around since late fall, assuming that the dates of its online reviews at Beer Advocate can be trusted.

A tulip of Ravaged by Vikings goes for seven dollars at Acre, and the beer is 7.7 percent alcohol, on the gentle side for a double IPA. According to Beer Menus, it's also available at a handful of other Chicago-area establishments, Small Bar Division among them. Acre bartender and certified cicerone Martin Langrall, cofounder of Brutally Honest Brewing, kindly informed me that he expects the bar's supply of Ravaged by Vikings to last a week or so.

So then. How's the beer? It's got a generous head of foam, fluffy and lacy, and it's a blushing amber in color. The fruity, borderline tropical aroma doesn't exactly put me in mind of Scandinavia and its evergreen forests: I get mango, peach, muscat grapes, honey, and ruby red grapefruit.

The taste includes most of those fruit flavors too, adding tangerine, pineapple, and a bit of green papaya and apricot. The malts aren't nearly as aggressive as the hops—I know they're back there or the beer wouldn't even be palatable, but I can pick up only a little buttermilk biscuit and sourdough. When Ravaged by Vikings is cold, it's explosively bright, with a clean mineral bitterness and a tight, prickly effervescence. The bitterness, as sharp as it is, doesn't have the chalky harshness or aspirin-like astringency that you sometimes get in IPAs—it's more like white grapefruit rind.

My camera doesnt focus well in the low light of a typical bar (though this is Acre, an atypical bar)
  • My camera doesn't focus well in the low light of a typical bar (though this is Acre, an atypical bar)

As the beer warms, it opens up enormously. It's hard to put words to the complex flavors that come forward, but I'd say red grape skin, dry plum wine, mellow green onion, and a curious fermented kick that I'll have to tell a little story to explain. At a fabulous Thai restaurant called Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon, you can order fruit-based "drinking vinegars" served diluted in iced soda water and slightly sweetened, and when I was there two summers ago I tried the pineapple. I really had to rack my brains to pin that one down. Comparing something to fruity vinegar might not sound like a compliment, but Pok Pok's drink is delicious. And so is Ravaged by Vikings.

This is another post where the "metal" portion all but writes itself, given that there's a subgenre called Viking metal. Let's start with a full stream of Bathory's seminal 1990 Viking metal album Hammerheart.

And let's not forget Enslaved's 1994 debut, Vikingligr Veldi.

Lastly, to bring us a little closer to the present day, here's the title track from Amon Amarth's 2008 album Twilight of the Thunder God. In spring 2011 Three Floyds brewed a smoky, honeyed Æsir porter called Ragnarök in collaboration with the band, "Æsir" being the collective term for a large group of principal gods in the Norse pantheon. Enjoy!

Philip Montoro writes about beer and metal, singly or in combination, every Monday.


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