Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Skål! Scandinavian Spirits at Heritage Hall in Moorhead

by Chris Larson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Beer Snob | August 15th, 2018

Ale bowls - photograph by Chris Larson

When I was first introduced to the traditional spirit of my ancestors, Akvavit (or aquavit), I never thought I’d ever find myself standing next to a giant “Viking” ship while comparing different brands of the “water of life” but there I was, on a Tuesday night at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead for the opening reception of “Skål! Scandinavian Spirits”.

The exhibit is presented by the Historical and Cultural society of Clay County and is currently running through October 8th at the Hjemkomst Center, which is also the home of its namesake Viking ship, a sight every local or visitor to the area should experience at least once. On this particular night, we were guided through the exhibit by curator Tova Brandt, who explained that while the project began as a Danish spirits exhibit the idea was quickly realized that it should be about the shared cultural traditions of Denmark, Sweden and Norway and thus, “Skål! Scandinavian Spirits” born. It is an exploration of the rich culture behind the survival of a single but powerful word that has somehow survived a century of migration to a new country while the vast majority of the rest of the language has disappeared.

One of the first panels of the exhibit mentions the legend of Odin transforming himself into an eagle and flying over the pots containing the recent grain harvests. After he sprinkles the pots with a magic dust (wild yeast) it rains and shortly after, the gift of beer arrives, as if by magic. There are many other such legends and songs that bring to life the depth of which traditional and regional spirits of Scandinavian people were a part of both daily life as well as special celebrations. The combination of the artifacts displayed in the exhibit cases included both small simple single family sized drinking bowls and somewhat ornate larger vessels inscribed or engraved with wedding poems or told this story well. The fact that such large and often fragile items were transported across long journeys to this country does a lot to state how dear and important these non-essential items were to the Scandinavians who migrated to America.

As you continue through the exhibit, you will find some of the stories of early distillation of aquavit, a heritage spirit made from grain and potatoes and seasoned with caraway and dill, as well as other botanicals and spices, depending on availability. Alongside some information about aquavit history you will find a variety of brands of aquavit, including those available nationwide and regionally, including Fargo’s own version by Proof Artisan Distillers. The exhibit also does not neglect to mention both European and American attempts at prohibition and in some ways connects the dots between both industrialization and the efforts to either temper or remove the influence of alcohol on Scandinavian culture to the near disappearance of aquavit in the States. It wasn’t more than a decade ago that it was all but impossible to find a bottle of aquavit on your local liquor shelves. Today, the growth of the craft spirits industry has brought it back in a big way, with little pockets of production coming to life across the country. It isn’t at all surprising that many of the distilleries delving into the production of this dill and/or caraway infused spirit, like Tattersall in Minneapolis or Fargo’s distillery, Proof, are located amongst populations known for Scandinavian heritage.

Though we don’t see a whole lot of Scandinavian beer in our local market, the exhibit does display some beer bottles promo materials from worldwide brands like the Danish breweries Carlsberg and Tuborg. This is most likely because while aquavit moved away from homemade production to commercial availability, beer brewing remained very much a homemade beverage, with many Norwegian families still holding on to a yeast log that was handed down from generation to generation. This practice of saving and keeping alive the Kveik (farmhouse yeast) on a paddle used to stir the beer, mixed with flour into a flat cake, or saved wet in a bottle was still going so strong that all across Norway you could find ancient yeasts used for homebrewing or baking until just a few years ago.

Even though many of the traditions and tales regarding Scandinavian drinking culture have fallen by the wayside and need to be relearned or revisited through exhibits and displays such as this, the traditional drinking toast of “Skål!” or “Skol!” is still shouted boisterously and proudly every time our regional favorite purple and gold football warriors take the field and almost always with a nice cold beer or cocktail in hand. I encourage you to dig deeper into the history of this word, its multiple meanings, and its connections to the Scandinavian cultures of celebration, family and storytelling. “Skål! Scandinavian Spirits: The heritage of beer and aquavit through stories, traditions, and recipes” is the perfect opportunity to do just that and runs through October 8th. 

Recently in:

After nearly two and a half years since the people of North Dakota voted to pass the Compassionate Care Act into law in the state, medical marijuana is finally available to patients. Only one dispensary is open right now, but seven…

It was an, “aha,” moment, said Jeremy Jensen. A woman had her vehicle towed into the Fix It Forward Auto Care shop in Moorhead. Jensen and fellow Fix It Forward Auto Care co-founder Matt Carlson had the vehicle on a hoist…

Thursday, April 18, 5-9 p.m.Drekker Brewing Company, 1666 1st Ave N, FargoThe folks at Drekker have partnered with a handful of area artists and the Lend A Hand Up program. A program providing help and hope to families facing…

In 2016, the Rand Corportation’s National Defense Research Institute published a year-long study looking at potential consequences for transgender members to serve within the U.S Military. This study looked at seven different…

The Nordic ModelDr. Thea Hunter, a graduate of Columbia University and an adjunct professor of history at a number of elite colleges and universities, recently died at age 63 of extreme capitalism—and asthma—because of lack of…

Cocktail Showdown

​Yo ho ho!

by Sabrina Hornung

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

After three years Jon Beyer aka “Jonny B” has become the face and the beard behind Jonny B’s Brickhouse in Jamestown North Dakota. Besides the largest selection of craft beers between here and Bismarck, wood-fired pizzas and…

By Gary Usseryusseryg@gmail.comFYB. Three letters, three words, well known by the guys who make up Cascades, and anyone who is a fan of the five-man band. When asked what genre best describes their sound, I was bombarded with at…

Harmony Korine keeps a tight grip on his title as one of the most critic/critique-proof filmmakers of recent times with “The Beach Bum,” a sultry companion piece to 2012’s memorable “Spring Breakers.” Not without its own…

Arts

​Hold your head high

by Sabrina Hornung

“I started to look around at state arts council positions because I felt that even though I had never done that, I felt like it would be a really good blend of skills, so I started to look around in 2016. A few jobs came up but I…

Countless examples can be found throughout the history of great art that was only recognized as such after the life of the artist that created it. Such is true of Georges Bizet’s opera "Carmen."  While its reception during his…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

It seems like the threats to North Dakota’s Badlands never cease. Let’s go back and revisit Wylie Bice. He’s the rogue, rich, rancher up in Dunn County, on the eastern edge of the Badlands, who’s built himself a private…