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Thirsty Thursday: Solemn Oath Brewery’s Ravaged By Vikings

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Photo by Ed Miller

Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.

To be completely honest, I picked this week’s selection because of the art on the can.  It was just sitting on the shelf at my local beer store, the last of this particular 16-ounce effort, and since I wasn’t familiar with Solemn Oath Brewery, I figured I would grab it along with my other beers. And, as you might expect, the artwork on the outside of a beer called Ravaged By Vikings is be pretty intense and eye-catching but I wondered just how good the liquid was on the inside of the can.

Founded in 2012 in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, Solemn Oath was the brainchild of John and Joe Barley who began to create the concept of the brewery after a trip to San Diego.  Setting up shop just outside of Chicago, in an area that had very little craft beer offerings at that time, proved to be valuable, as locals embraced the brewery and others began to make the trek.  Fast forward upwards of a decade and Solemn Oath is producing about 8,500 barrels per year – close to 6,500 barrels more than when Joe and Joe launched the company.  Along the way there’s been some accolades, including a bronze medal in the German-Style Kolsch category at GABF in 2016 and medals at the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer.

Ravaged by Vikings is one of countless beers from Solemn Oath, which appears to focus on a rotating, limited release business model with several more regular offerings. But the company’s website shows off a ton of options.  And, trust me, some of the other names are just as badass, like Snaggletooth Bandana, Nightmare Cyclist and Punk Rock for Rich Kids. Ravaged By Vikings is an 8.0 percent ABV Double India Pale Ale that features a rich caramel sweetness and – well, I’ll just let the explanation on the label tell you:

“Rich caramel sweetness beaten over the head with resinous, piney, grapefruit citrus hop presence and a medium body.  Unfiltered. Unpasteurized. Keep Cold. Drink Fresh.”

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Bonus points for explaining the contents on the packaging because, as I say each week, almost ad nasuem, the drinker should always be aware of the specific contents when checking out the label.  But this particular label, and many of Solemn Oath’s labels, is more than just the description of the beer. Created by midwest artist Jourdon Gullett, the mastermind behind many of the brewery’s looks and its theme, Ravaged by Vikings features a black and white style with a viking carrying a person over his shoulder and letting go of a monstrous-looking axe, all while bright red blood spews from his mouth.

A beer label is only as good as what’s inside though, right? Let’s get down to it.

When I cracked open Ravaged by Vikings, I immediately noticed the caramel.  That’s the overall theme with this one – that I noticed a strong caramel smell and a strong caramel taste.  Besides the caramel, I noticed slight aromas of both pine and a juicy hoppy smell that mimicked fruit. It had a pretty good pour to it as well, with a hazy bronze color that was more cloudy than I anticipated, and a beautifully accentuated off-white head.  There was plenty of carbonation and the lacing was superb as I drank.

The mouthfeel was medium-bodied and while the first sip proved to put the caramel flavor on full display, after several sips I started to notice the other flavors peering through, including a pine and grapefruit combination on the back-end, which was complemented by a decent, pungent bitterness.  I would say the flavor isn’t what I was expecting, relying more on the caramel from the malts than the hop flavor, unlike a more traditional DIPA – it took a few sips but I enjoyed it. When it comes to drinkability, I’m not sure Ravaged by Vikings is an effort I could drink more than one or two of in a sitting, though it’s a nice sipper beer.  It would be good with a fine cigar.

I bought just one can and it was $5.65, which might have been a smidge higher than other efforts I buy at my beer store, though those are typically more localized to the northeast, so that’s kind of a reach.  Ravaged by Vikings has a BeerAdvocate score of 89 and an average score of 4.0, based on 181 ratings.  That might be just a little higher than where I would put it, as I’d give it a 7.4 out of 10.  It had the badass name, it had the badass look, I just thought the beer leaned a little too heavily on the caramel flavor from the malt, despite coming to appreciate it the longer I sipped it. I would’ve liked a little more hop flavor brought to the surface.  Having said that, I wouldn’t mind grabbing another beer by Solemn Oath because I’d love to further examine if this brewery can make stuff as awesome as the labels – and I have a feeling it can.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.