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Friday, January 30, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 22.0° F  
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Stoughton echoes with cries of 'Skol!' as Viking Brewpub opens its doors
Viking Brewpub adds to an increasingly lively scene on Stoughton's main drag.
Credit:Julia Burke

Given its popular Syttende Mai festival and accompanying road race, an increasingly prominent live music venue, and a location well within the orbit of Madison's blossoming craft beer community, Stoughton has long been ripe for a brewpub. Vik Malling has remedied this need with his new Viking Brewpub. Located at 211 E. Main St, this beautiful pub is poised to quench the appetite of locals and tourists alike with its Norse-inspired beers and food.

"This is my joy -- listening to the taps. It's like a xylophone," grins Malling as he shows off his current seven-keg lineup inside the brewpub's newly installed basement walk-in cooler. "There goes Soot in My Eye, then there goes Nordic Blonde -- with every pint that gets poured, someone’s trying our beers."

A lifelong beer enthusiast, Malling's clearly in his element in his new brewpub, which opened on August 14. "My father-in-law and I used to drive out to Mount Horeb and get a flight at Grumpy Troll," Vik recalls. "He said, 'One day someone in Stoughton will open up a brewpub and we won't have to come all the way out here.'"

As predicted, Viking came to be as a family affair. Malling's father-in-law worked on the brewpub's interior design, and his brother-in-law built the striking wooden ship -- complete with a dragon's head prow belching intermittent puffs of smoke -- that forms the bar. His wife and co-owner, Lori, used her eye to decorate the space with homey touches that complement the sturdy wooden tables in the bar's dining area and "speakeasy" room with its sofas and banquet tables.

Just as eye-catching as the nautical bar setup is Viking's logo, designed by local artist Aaron Howard when he was a student at Stoughton High School in 1993. Malling found the image at Aaron's father's blacksmith shop, the Howard Academy for the Metal Arts, and knew right away it was perfect for the brewery.

Viking's three debut beers, all made by Page Buchanan of House of Brews according to Malling's recipes, do not disappoint. Midnight Sun, a cream ale with flaked maize, has a bready nose and light, clean, refreshingly crisp finish. Nordic Blonde has a beautiful hop and tangy Clementine nose -- a revitalizing light lager for cyclists and runners on a hot day. The well-named Soot In My Eye, Malling's cheeky take on Syttende Mai, is a malty and robust black IPA that's so balanced it almost comes off as a hoppy porter.

Along with these initial house brews, Viking also currently offers taps featuring beers from House of Brews, Karben4, and Lake Louie, among others.

Malling plans to hire a brewmaster from the Madison area, but currently has Keith Symonds, formerly of Next Door Brewing, consulting on the brewhouse planning and build-out. The space will host a 3.5 barrel system that includes three fermentation tanks and one bright tank, all located just behind the dining area and visible to patrons.

Next up on Viking’s brew schedule? Malling plans a strong ale, which will be named "Chaos" in a nod to Nordic symbolism for the concept in the brewpub's logo. "We'll be serving it in goblets, since it'll be around 10% ABV," he adds.

Viking is currently serving pizzas from nearby Famous Yeti's Pizza. When the kitchen opens, which Malling predicts for sometime in September, the pub will build on its Norse theme with a menu offering Scandinavian spins on American pub favorites like quesadillas and wraps, which will be made with lefse, a soft Norwegian potato flatbread.

Stoughton's growing arts offerings and restaurant scene make the brewpub a part of an exciting transformation in the classically quaint small town. "We're really in a renaissance," says Malling.

In that spirit, support for local businesses can be seen throughout the brewpub: the dragon tap handles are made by local artist Glenn Prescott, and the tanks come from Quality Tank Solutions of Oconomowoc. "We liked One Barrel's idea -- a simple concept using local vendors," says Malling.

So far, Malling says it's working. "Nordic Blonde is our top seller, but Soot In My Eye sure is catching up!" he reports.

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