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Bent Paddle rolling out Viking ship-inspired beer

Workers with Viant Crane use ropes to guide the Leif Erikson Viking ship onto a flatbed parked on the bridge connecting Leif Erikson Park to Superior Street in July 2013, as it was taken to a new site to be restored. (News Tribune file photo)

One Viking ship's change of plans will be another Viking ship's gain, as Duluth's Bent Paddle Brewing Co. rolls out a new beer in conjunction with the Tall Ships Duluth festival.

Bent Paddle's "Drakenvit" — "our flagship Venture Pils infused with Norwegian aquavit inspired spices including caraway, fennel, cardamom, pink peppercorn, and citrus peel," the brewery reported — will debut this week, with sales to benefit the restoration of the Leif Erikson Viking ship in Duluth.

Drakenvit logo, courtesy of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.But the new beer was inspired by a different Viking ship — the Draken Harald Hårfagre, a replica Viking vessel that opted to skip the Duluth festival because of its concerns about pilotage fees it has had to pay while on the Great Lakes.

The crew of the Draken had contacted the brewery several months ago to inquire about a special Viking-inspired beer for the festival, which starts Thursday. Bent Paddle and brewer Bjorn Erickson decided to take on the challenge.

"I come from a very Norwegian family," Erickson said in a news release. "My brother's name is actually Leif Erickson. Family gatherings are always filled with cured or pickled fish and aquavit. It was cool for me to be able to translate this part of my heritage into a beer."

After the Draken's crew announced earlier this month that the ship would not appear in Duluth, the brewery decided to team up with Pier B Resort to host a celebration to benefit the local Viking ship, which is undergoing restoration.

From 6-9 p.m. Friday, the resort on the Duluth harborfront will host a party featuring artifacts and historical images of the Leif Erikson ship, live music, views of the tall ships in the harbor and, of course, pints of Drakenvit for sale. A dollar from every pint sold will be donated toward the ship restoration and construction of a new display.

"Hopefully, it'll be a good event where we can raise some awareness for our ship," said Neill Atkins, a member of the Save Our Ship restoration committee.

Drakenvit also will be on tap at other bars and restaurants in the Duluth area this weekend, as well as at the Bent Paddle taproom, 1912 W. Michigan St., where growlers will be available. An additional donation to the restoration project will be made based on Drakenvit sales for the weekend.

The 42-foot-long Leif Erikson ship has been a longtime Duluth fixture. Built in Norway, a four-man crew sailed the ship from Bergen, Norway, on May 23, 1926. After stops in the Shetland and Faroe islands, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland and Boston, the ship arrived in Duluth on June 23, 1927. Bert Enger (of Enger Tower fame) and his partner in the furniture business, Emil Olson, purchased the boat for $5,000 and donated it to the city to be placed on public display.

After years of neglect, some restoration of the vessel took place in the late 1980s and 1990s. But the boat remained sitting in a somewhat secluded location along the Lakewalk at Leif Erikson Park, hidden under shrink wrap and at risk of vandalism.

It was removed from the site with the help of cranes and trailers in 2013, and has been undergoing restoration with an aim to return it to the park in a new, more-secure display.

Atkins said the restoration committee has raised $70,000 so far and the city of Duluth has committed $60,000, in addition to donated labor from businesses working on the project. He said the committee still needs to raise about $100,000 before it can begin the process to move the vessel out of storage and back to Leif Erikson Park.

Atkins said the committee is hoping to begin construction of the display in the park next year, but won't begin until all of the required money has been raised.

It's great to have fundraising events like Bent Paddle's Drakenvit, Atkins said.

"It gives us a shot in the arm in identity in the community, that we're still plugging away at this project," he said. "It's unfortunate that the ship from Norway wasn't able to come to town, but we've got Duluth's own little ship from Norway."

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