The spirit of the Vikings at Nordic Brew Works

STELLA FONG Last Best Teller

The sky is the limit at Nordic Brew Works at The Market at Ferguson Farm in Bozeman. In the building, which houses a restaurant and taproom, the outside enters the high-ceilinged space through the myriad windows. Natural light and clean lines blend with wood, metal, brick and other natural materials to create a place to meet friends.

Nordic Brew Works specializes in wood-fired pizza, craft beers brewed next door at Polar Brewing, and custom cocktails.

Co-owner Matt Paine wanted to create “a restaurant with a better vibe and experience” than other pizza and burger joints in Montana. He enlisted the talents of Envi Interior Design Studio to realize his desire to create the perfect space for food and drink with Nordic and Scandinavian architectural sensibilities.

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When it came to naming the restaurant, “we evaluated a dozen names,” Paine shared. With the Scandinavian design of the building, they explored Nordic names.

“We polled 50 friends and they said, ‘How about Nordic?’ Two to one was the most popular choice.” Paine thought the name made sense because Bozeman’s latitude is 45 degrees north and Scandinavia is about 43 degrees, one and two degrees away.

As I entered the restaurant, I was lured in by an alcove with a two-sided fireplace. Upon entering the main room, my eyes were pleasantly drawn in many directions. The first thing I saw was the square bar, with a large metal rack of glassware hanging over it. Then I spied the steel tanks of Polar Brewing next door through a glass wall, only to see the flames dancing in the white-tiled wood-burning stove in the background. As I walked to our table, the view of Bozeman nearby greeted me as I slid onto the bench.

I saw guests sitting outside on the patio enjoying the sun, a couple lingering on chairs by the fireplace, and a long wide staircase flanked on one side with a mural of clouds leading to a private indoor dining area upstairs.

That day my husband and I met friends, Mitch and Rita Gallagher, for lunch. We studied the menu with the Nordic spirited stick figure bird. The offers are divided into the categories “Shared”, “Pizza”, “Soup & Salads” and “On the Bun”.

Rita opted for the Nordic burger, which featured 406 Farms grass-fed Wagyu beef, applewood bacon, white cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and arugula, while Mitch opted for the Cajun chicken sandwich with blackened chicken breasts and bacon. My husband went with the BLT and I ordered the watermelon tajin gazpacho.

A mountain mushroom pizza with bechamel, wild mushrooms, fontina, sage, scallions and truffle oil along with dirty potatoes with roast potatoes, curry spice mix, pickled beet relish and sweet chili aioli hit the table as a complimentary offering.

I ordered a pint of Polar Brewery’s Princess Unicorn, a hazy northeastern-style IPA with a creamy texture and flavors of apricot, peach, and melon. To be honest, I couldn’t resist the name. The beers brewed by Tyler Nail have names that fit the Montana vibe. The Polar 45 Lager, an American lager, is described as “perfect for a river swim or to hydrate after a bike ride,” while the Bozeman Adventure Brew outer, a mountain IPA flavored with hops and citrus, is “an ideal session IPA.” for your next outdoor adventure. Other options include: Devil’s Slide, a sour red ale, and Flathead Cherry Cider made with locally sourced cherries.

Tyler Nail, Head Brewery at Polar Brewery, said of the making of his beer: “My philosophy about brewing beer is that it really is a craft and a work of art. Putting in the extra work, sourcing local and imported ingredients, and always striving to learn and improve takes the craft to the next level.”

“We work closely together,” Paine said of working with Nail Next Door. A full spirits license allows Nordic Brew Works to remain open beyond the 8pm legal limit, preventing breweries from serving beer.

“When we first opened, we didn’t think we would sell 67% food,” Paine shared, surprised when he thought sales of beer and cocktails would surpass food.

With Beaumont Fry, who recently joined Denver-based Nordic Brew Works, as bar manager, the cocktail menu takes on a bold and enticing aura. The seasonal menu offers a “BIFRÖST” of Icelandic gin, snow peas and sage honey and lemon; and “Grizzly’s Tracks” with blueberry vodka and homemade lavender lemonade. The signature cocktail “Skål” is prepared with a Campari ice cube.

Mitch said of his Cajun chicken sandwich, “It was excellent because everything was really fresh. The chicken had just the right amount of seasoning. The black garlic aioli was outstanding.” Rita shared. “My burger was perfectly cooked and flavorful.” For Joe, the rye bread for his BLT made it unique, while my soup was lovely and refreshing.

The pizza came out with a crust that was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The mushrooms had a nice smoky flavor with an essence of truffle. The dirty potatoes were the biggest surprise with crispy potato wedges smothered in cheese that oozed turmeric and cumin, topped with a colorful sweet and sour beet relish.

Gather with friends at Nordic Brew Works to experience the spirit and flavors of Montana and Scandinavia.

Stella Fong, author of Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food, hosts Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region for Yellowstone Public Radio.

TheLastBestPlates.com is a digital destination serving Montana’s delicious food, travel and culture stories… one bite at a time.

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