Over the mantlepiece is a worn wooden sculpture of an unnamed Viking man, complete with horned helmet. It is a figurehead from a Victorian-era ship, the time period when Vikings began to be depicted as wearing horned-helmets and thus made its way into the popular imagination. One wall made entirely of red brick creates a stark contrast to the dark gray paint that coats the rest. Long wooden floorboards and wooden barrels span the entire space.
The door to the restroom features a wooden axe handle, wedged into the door’s wood. Across the place, decorative touches — horns, stretched pelts mounted on walls, and a variety of period armament and weaponry — tie together the ancient Scandinavian aesthetic. Walking into the pub, it’s not hard to feel like a Viking warrior, seeking refuge in a mead hall for refreshments with comrades.
The Viking-inspired 2,500 square foot bar with seating for 75 and restaurant is known to locals as Skål Beer Hall. This highly-awaited establishment in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood serves Nordic pub grub, and boasts the most diverse aquavit and mead selection in the area. Of course, much like many of the other bars in Ballard, Skål (meaning “cheers!”) also promises a variety of beers on tap.
According to an interview with the Seattle Times, owner Adam McQueen imports over a quarter of his beer selection straight from Scandinavia. Bar-goers can expect a range of malt-heavy lagers fit for any taste.
As of writing, the food selection is still a work in progress. But McQueen does intend to incorporate savory Scandinavian goodness. Lammkorv and Fenalår are just two of many traditional dishes the owner is planning to serve. But of course, his kitchen is still trying to perfect the recipes to guarantee customer satisfaction.
Lexi, head chef and business partner at Skål, plans to update many of the Nordic dishes on the menu to make them less intimidating. But what diners can expect the duo to maintain is the meat — lots and lots and LOTS of meat.
What won’t need any further changes is the interior. Complete with Norse art and decor, McQueen had to set aside quite a budget to get the space to look like a modern interpretation of a Viking mead hall. However it is not intended to be a kind of museum or caricature of the Viking lifestyle. According to McQueen it is a “neighborhood Scandinavian bar using our own stylistic interpretation of our Norse ancestors to honor the Scandinavian history of our neighborhood.”
The space was previously occupied by The People’s Pub which had pretty much the same aesthetic as a lot of the other bars on the Seattle scene. McQueen didn’t spare any detail with the renovations, knocking down several walls and raising the ceilings 13 feet to achieve that realistic Viking hall feel.
The decor similarly needed some thorough thought in order to convey the Viking ambiance he has created.
Large blocks of chunky wood furniture, rustic decor, and animal fur, horns, and bones litter the expansive bar, so it really feels like walking into a Viking general’s living room. To top it all off, drinks will be served in decorative mugs and glasses as well, like Viking ale horns, making the experience even more interesting and unique.
Of course, McQueen did a lot more than just invest in his chosen design. The owner said in an interview with SeattleMet that he had to do quite a bit of research to find out what people in the area wanted to see and experience when it came to resto-bars.
And that’s how he came to incorporate a family area into his establishment. An all-age dining area is available in the bar until 8 pm in order to compete with the other establishments in the area that are often kid and family friendly, or as McQueen described it in his interview with the Seattle Times, “kid tolerant.”
Correction: In the original version of the article we had a number of inaccuracies, including referring to the bar as huge, traditional and authentic. Passages about the horned Viking helmet, empty barrels used for empty glasses and beer brewed in Viking style were also inaccurate. We have corrected these to reflect the real nature of the bar. The correction was made on 4/26/19.