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Wisconsin beer and breweries: News and reviews
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Viking Brewpub prepares to set sail in Stoughton
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Viking Brewpub will pay homage to the Norwegian heritage of Stoughton.
Credit:Robin Shepard

Stoughton is getting ready to welcome Dane County's newest brewery. The Viking Brewpub, in the works over the last year, is getting ready to open in early August. Owner Vik Malling, 68, says renovations are nearly complete on the building at 211 E. Main St. that locals may remember as the Stationery House.

"We're doing a Nordic spin on things," says Malling about Viking Brewpub, which also highlights his first name. Inside, the actual serving bar takes the shape of a viking ship, complete with a fire-breathing dragon head that gazes out over the hostess stand. This bar is constructed with reclaimed silo-wood sourced from a farm near Stevens Point that dates back more than 100 years.

Viking Brewpub will open initially as a taphouse, and serve three of its own branded beers that will be made by Page Buchanan, owner and brewmaster of Madison's House of Brews. Malling will also offer nine other tap beers, mostly from southern Wisconsin breweries, along with a selection of bottled beers and ciders. "We'll serve regional craft beer, and all my favorite beers will be on tap," quips Malling. His eventual goal is to serve six or seven of Viking's own brews all the time.

For the debut Viking brews, Malling is looking to Buchanan to help establish a following among local craft beer enthusiasts. One will be a light lager named Nordic Blonde that finishes around 4% ABV and 10 ABUs, while another is a cream ale called Midnight Sun that ends up at 5.9% ABV and 8 IBUs. The third is expected to become Viking's flagship, a black IPA (also called a Black India Ale) to be named Soot in My Eye, that will be strong at 7.5% ABV and 70 IBUs.

These initial styles –- a light lager, cream ale and black IPA -- Malling says, were selected because they represent a broad range of beer flavors to attract a customer base and build a following of regulars.

Malling was hoping to open by May so he could serve the black IPA for Syttende Mai. Celebrating Stoughton's Norwegian heritage, this three-day annual festival is billed as the largest event of its type in the U.S.

"I have a hard time spelling Syttende Mai, so I called this black IPA 'Soot in My Eye,'" notes Malling with a laugh. "We have a huge family; they've tasted all of the beers and really like them, especially Soot in My Eye," he says about early test batches.

Malling's extended family has done more than just drink beer in helping him to open the brewpub. His brother-in-law, Mitch Brickson, did much of the wood-working, including carving the large dragon head atop the ship bar. His father-in-law, Duane Brickson, also helped with interior design and layout for the brewpub.

Malling hopes to have a 3.5 barrel brewing system up and running later this fall, at which point the brewpub will start making its beers in-house. He's ordered fermentation and bright tanks from Quality Tank Solutions of Oconomowoc; this equipment is scheduled for delivery in late August. He's also hired former Next Door Brewing principal Keith Symonds as a consultant to help him set up the brew house. In this role, Symonds will likely help Malling with the initial phase of brewing; over the long-term, Viking intends to bring on a full-time brewmaster. Malling has also hired chef Lisa Bote of Bistro 101 in Mount Horeb to help plan the brewpub's food menu.

The brewpub will open in three phases. First, around the beginning of August, the bar will open and serve the initial three Viking beers made by House of Brews alongside select Wisconsin micros. By late September, Malling hopes to have the brewpub's kitchen up and running. And not long after that, he hopes to get on-site brewing started. (Viking Brewpub is not connected to Valkyrie Brewing, the Dallas, Wisconsin-based brewery that was formerly named Viking Brewing.)

Malling previously sought to open his brewpub last fall in Stoughton's old Tobacco Junction Warehouse building, just a few blocks east of it ultimate location. He couldn't reach an agreement on a lease, though, and started looking elsewhere last February. That's when he discovered the present location in the heart of community's small downtown, which is near such landmarks as the local post office and Stoughton Opera House.

"I think this is an even better location," says Malling. "We'll get a lot of foot traffic and tourism here."

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