Back in 2010 Viking Brewing
up in Dallas ran into hard time and closed
. However, Fate has other plans. Owners Randy and Ann Lee found a buyer for the Viking name, an Icelandic company looking to enter the U.S. beer market. With an influx of cash, the Lees were able to resurrect the venture as Valkyrie Brewing
It seems that many of the Viking brews were carried over and given new names. Such is the case with Night Wolf
, a schwarzbier
, which was formerly known as Mørketid.
I poured my Night Wolf into a fancy 3 Sheeps pint glass which I won in the bean bag toss at The Great Taste last month
. True to its name, the elixir was dark - black when not held up to the light but a clear and very, very dark amber when given a brief exposure to the sun. I was a bit surprised that there was virtually no head. There was also very little Schaumhaftvermoegen
. After taking a swig, the bubbles could get no traction on the side of the glass and gently fell into the beer.
Night Wolf smells fantastic. Most prominent was roasted grain but the yeast was not far off. There was also a faint bit of herbal hop aroma in there as well. Those wonderful scents came through in the taste. Being a lager, it's about letting the grains shine through. The coffee and chocolate flavors of the dark malt lead the way and they are the reason why the schwarzbier is at or near the top of my pyramid of beer tastiness, depending on the day. I am not an expert on German bier styles but it is my understanding that a Munich dunkles is fairly sweet in contrast to the schwarzbier which is more dry and that the dunkels north of Bavaria are noted for being much hoppier than their Bavarian brethren. Having said this, Night Wolf seems to fit the schwarzbier style pretty well although you do get a bit of toffee sweetness just before the finish that leans a few arc second towards a fruity, plum-like flavor.
The finish is where the hops come in with a mild herbal/grassy taste that provides a dry end to your sip. Mouthfeel is smooth and fairly light. People familiar with Sprecher's Black Bavarian, the only other Wisconsin schwarzbier I can think of, will note that Night Wolf has a cleaner taste and feels less syrupy on the tongue. Also, Black Bavarian is a bit shy of 6% ABV while Night Wolf is a much more sessionable 4%.
Viking had some issues with consistency so I was really hoping that this take on one of my favorite styles and my first taste of the brewery's new incarnation wouldn't let me down. And it didn't. To my palate, Randy Lee nailed the dark malt flavors and has made a great session beer for those of us who prefer to avoid the emerging "session IPA" trend. Too bad this stuff is only available in northwestern Wisconsin because I'd love to be taken to the Valhalla of this dark malt goodness more often.
Junk food pairing: Night Wolf goes well with Ritz crackers adorned with a generous serving of bacon-horseradish dip.
Since Valkyrie doesn't distribute anywhere near Madison, I ended up buying my six-pack in Eau Claire at the wonderful Just Local Food Co-op
. The prices are eminently reasonable and I was also able to grab brews from Lucette and Lazy Monk, which like Valkyrie, are not available in Madison.
Labels: Beer, Schwarzbier, Valkyrie Brewing Company