While many of Minnesota’s start-up breweries strive to blend modern hospitality and technology into state of the art taprooms, HammerHeart’s ambiance is fitting of the beer. From the outside, the building features hints of Viking design merged with a Northwoods getaway. Inside, rustic woodwork, carved lettering, and barrel-top tables set the tone underneath antlers on the wall and even an old sword and battle helmet. A glass wall separates bar from brewery, with a corridor of barrels both decorating the transition and storing next season’s offerings.
In conversation with the brewing team at Lino Lakes’ HammerHeart Brewing Company, they pay homage to Haand Bryggeriet of Norway. It’s where the brewery’s founder apprenticed and mastered his brewing technique. While HammerHeart is quick to give credit to others, their bold and (mostly big) beers are unlike anything else in the local beer scene.
HammerHeart’s specialty are big but nuanced beers. Their line-up is often complemented by the addition of smoked malts, sometimes aged in liquor barrels, and occasionally touched up with northern flavors like spruce tips, coriander, and even clove. They aren’t all heavy dark winter beers, though. There’s a pale ale, IPA, and lager to round out the line-up while fitting nicely into their Norse-inspired profile.
The first thing visitors will note about HammerHeart’s beers are the names, which are often in Norwegian and have many ties to the brewers’ affinity for metal. Their name comes from a 1990 album by Sweden’s Bathory. Over the dozen plus taps, there are flagships like Flaming Longship scotch ale, a less caramel take on the style that includes mild smoke and floral notes; Dublin Raid is a peat-smoked red ale, using earthy smoke flavors to counter some of the sweeter malt elements that the red style is known for. Meanwhile, British Invasion is a British-style pale ale with an earthy component countered by a hint of citrusy hops. It’s more balanced and dry than most Minnesota pales, and pours well in any weather.
Seasonals and specialties are in constant rotation. Black Cascade is a dark ale that uses resinous Cascade hops, akin to many black IPAs on the market, but less bitter and with a nicely balanced body. Hokan’s Nut Brown Ale has a silky mouthfeel and sweet
profile that complements its nutty base, while one of their more readily distributed beers, Flanary’s Brew, is a winter oatmeal stout that’s dry, mildly smoked, and perfectly in middle between easy drinking and full-flavored. Lindisfarne is a wonderful dubbel with big bold flavors where the dry smoke co-mingles with the sweeter base sugars of the Belgian style. On the more experimental side, The Baron’s Forge scotch barrel-aged imperial ESB is definitely geared toward scotch fans while Midvinter Øl is a spice-heavy winter warmer topped off and boozed up in aquavit barrels that give fennel and caraway notes to the already complex and potent dark ale.