Brewery: HammerHeart Brewing Company (Lino Lales, MN)
Style: Smoked Beer
7% ABV / N/A IBU
Our HammerHeart friends are in transition right now. Brothers-in-law Nathaniel Chapman and Austin Lunn shut down their brewery’s taproom in late June 2021 and plan to transition into a contract brewing operation before opening a smaller, more tightly-focused operating elsewhere in Minnesota. Contract brewing could actually be a wonderful development for an operation like Hammerheart, especially if it leads to expanded visibility and availability. Decibel readers know that Lunn is pretty occupied with writing and recording, but some of these HammerHeart brews deserve to be scrutinized and celebrated like a Panopticon album.
Case in point: Stjørdal, a smoked farmhouse ale that encapsulates everything that HammerHeart is all about. Stjørdal is a representation of one an old-world beer style, Stjørdalsøl, that’s so rare that it’s only produced in rural communities in Norway. The key is the malt—in this case, barley—and the smoke imparted from the alderwood. It’s a mistake to assume that all smoked beers taste the same. The wood is what gives the smoked malt its character; alderwood is like a young pine, so it is radically different from a German style rauchbier.
How much of a difference does the wood make? I’d say it’s pretty substantial. The reason a lot of rauchbiers taste like bacon/sausages is that they incorporate applewood or hickory smoke. The alderwood is a softer wood, and the smoke is a little more subtle and sweeter. Stjørdal smells like a campfire, but there’s this beautiful undercurrent of spiciness and pine-y flavor from HammerHeart’s technique of passing the beer through juniper boughs. When you take a sip of Stjørdal, then breathe in through your nose and open your mouth, it’s an incredible experience. This is more than just a feast for all the senses, it’s elemental—HammerHeart is connecting Earth, air, fire and water to help us all ascend to a plane of higher existence.
For more info, check out HammerHeart here.