Bringing Valhalla Closer to Home

Brooklyn Di Raffaele

Setting sail on the high seas, looking for fertile lands and riches to plunder, the Vikings were on a mission and would bring back honor and valuables to their homeland. Returning from their voyages Vikings celebrated with feasts fit for the gods.

Too bad they didn’t have craft beer to accent their success.

Fortunately for the modern Viking, or beer enthusiast, Drekker Brewing Company in Fargo, North Dakota, has just what they’re looking for.

The guys of Drekker Brewing don’t have a fancy or tear-jerking story of establishing their homestead. It was just the crazy dream of four guys who love to make beer. A simplistic and truthful story not too far from their Viking influence.

Mark, Darin, Jesse and Mason are a group of friends that brewed beer in a garage and shared a love of beer. They worked hard to make their dream come true and opened Drekker Brewing. There is nothing ornate or cosmopolitan here. The Drekker guys want to bring a part of ancient Scandinavia to current society with their brewery. Bringing in the old tradition of large-hall feasts filled with meat, ale and camaraderie.

Their brewery’s namesake comes with as rich a history as the Nordic explorers, even though it started out in frustration among the Drekker guys. Mark, Darin, Jesse and Mason knew they were going to establish a Viking theme to connect them to their town’s settlement so they looked to the ancient Norse language for inspiration. Unfortunately much of the language is hard to read as well as pronounce. After going through all the ancient words they found Drakkar: the carved dragon on the front of feared Viking ships going into battle. A pretty badass concept. Beyond the mighty connotation of a Drakkar, the guys knew this had to be the name of their brewery because the root words “drykker” means draft ale and “drekk” is the verb to drink.

Drekker opened its taproom and brewery in October 2014, then by December they could hardly keep up with demand for their beer. Since opening, the brewery has established 10 tap accounts with local bars and restaurants. The amount of business is impressive from a fiscal standpoint but most importantly for the guys of Drekker it is impressive from a community standpoint.

The brewery itself and the business were designed for the Fargo community. At Drekker it is not just about the beer: it is what happens when the pints are poured. “All of us are from here and we all came back here, so we wanted to make something cool for the community that we love,” said Mark Bjornstad, the leader of the Drekker crew. Fargo is gaining more of a craft beer culture and these Vikings are more than happy to share their love of local beer and give back to the community.

Drekker is one of three breweries open in Fargo that are fostering the local brewery scene. Instead of competition between all the breweries in town they all foster the local beer scene and want to see each other succeed. As Mark prides himself in saying “we work together and succeed individually.” The guys of Drekker want to make up for the pillaging and plundering of the earlier Vikings and are doing good. The brewery hosts multiple events for local charities and welcomes the community to volunteer with the brewery in community projects. They call this their UnPillage Project and so far it has brought in people interested in community service and craft beer.

Viking themes and good deeds do their part for bringing people into Drekker but they stay and return because of the most important factor: the beer.

Drekker has nine brews in their line-up with year-round and seasonal beers. All of their beer is made in-house using local ingredients and keep the theme of Nordic naming. Some on the tap list are Igor’s Horn Black IPA, the Pillage Porter, Burn the Boats IPA, Azacca Attacka Pale Ale and Drekker’s best seller the Broken Rudder Irish Red Ale.

Each beer has its own story and set of unique ingredients that give the beers a taste profile all their own. The Broken Rudder has ancient Irish and Scandinavian brewing influences, with the use of honey in the fermentation process. Since honey is easily fermentable the sugars from the yeast and the honey don’t overpower the finished beer instead giving the brew a clean finish that anyone can enjoy. They also incorporate locally roasted coffee beans in their seasonal beers and try to co-brand with other local companies with ingredients.

Even though the guys of Drekker wanted to bring in the Scandinavian history and camaraderie of the Vikings with their brewery they didn’t skimp on creating their beer. They have gotten inspiration from ancient brewing but they use modern and artisanal Portland Kettle Works Equipment. The brewing equipment is state-of-the-art (even though the welders do look like strong Vikings) and with the best craft equipment the Drekker brewers can bring the taste of Valhalla to mortals.

Everything about Drekker was thought out and carefully planned and that includes the brewing equipment. Drekker Brewing Company chose to partner with Portland Kettle Works because the systems are made with American steel in Portland, Ore. and continue to support their clients after delivery.

“We were looking for the highest quality American steel equipment designed and optimized for craft breweries,” Mark said. “Its a full-circle relationship. The guys at Portland Kettle Works give good advice, are accountable, friendly and they care about the brewers.”

Beer is Drekker’s craft but it is about more than the contents of a glass. “We’re not just giving people local beer, we want people to come together.”