About the Shieldmaiden - Herja Name Change

Sam Trathen
5 minute read

Hey, It's Sam! I wanted to share a little behind-the-scenes with you about how and why we changed the name from Shieldmaiden to Herja.

Let's Start with the Recipe

Yes, we made a big change to the Shieldmaiden recipe. The one big change was the yeast. Simply put, the yeast we used for the initial batch of Shieldmaiden didn't always represent the taste that we were thinking of.

I'll let Ricky say it though:

"When we made Shieldmaiden, we were experimenting with a new combination of yeast strains to help bring out the subtle flavors of the oak. It ended up having an almost bread-like character that got solidly mixed reviews. Thank you so much to all of you who wrote to us with your thoughts, especially our Early Reviewers!

For this batch, we brought back the recipe we used for Oak-aged Valkyrie’s Choice and the results were… incredible! All of the toasty, vanilla, honey flavors that we loved are back and better than ever! The new, slightly darker honey we’re using accentuates the overall oaky character."

The Inbox

Around the same time we were hearing your feedback about the original Shieldmaiden recipe, I got another email in our company inbox. It was a very polite email from Steve Ausband, who owns and operates the fantastic Atheling Meadworks in Virginia. Steve was informing us that Atheling owns a trademark on the name Shield Maiden Mead, for their delicious blackberry and floral mead. (And yes, they do ship!)

I forwarded it over to our owners, Ricky the Meadmaker and CEO Kelly. We do trademark research before we officially name a new mead just to make sure we aren't treading on anyone's toes, and we had with Shieldmaiden, too. We found many shieldmaiden beers in our search, but somehow, Atheling did not make an appearance. 

Regardless, these things happen and we appreciate Atheling and Steve giving us the chance to make things right. We decided that this gave us the perfect opportunity to rework Shieldmaiden with a completely new name to match its updated recipe.

The Name Change 

We set about attempting to find a new name for Shieldmaiden in the Groennfell Slack right away. We wanted to keep the great artwork and the homage to the women warriors of Norse mythology for sure. I think it was our own shieldmaiden Autumn who suggested we look up the names of famous shieldmaidens and Valkyries.

We found a pretty substantial list quickly and started to whittle them down. We wanted something that represented Norse culture but wasn't too hard for someone to order in a bar. Which sadly took names like Þrúðr off our list.

Sigrun was one of the first big contenders, but Herja was up there from early on, too, along with Eir and Gunnr and a handful of others.

We picked a handful of our favorites and sent them over to the Grimfrost squad, who made the final choice.

Not too long after that, we were swapping the labels over to Herja.

Who is Herja?

Where did Herja come from?

Herja is a valkyrie. She is named in the Prose Edda, in the Nafnaþulur lists, which is kind of like a who's who of Norse mythology. Unfortunately, that's about all that we know of her in her life as a valkyrie: she existed. 

The name itself comes from the Old High Germanic word herjón, which means 'to devastate.' There are some scholars who think that Herja was originally a war goddess of the North Germanic people. But we like this lady to have a little bit of mystery about her.

How do you pronounce Herja?

Because the name comes from several different languages (Old Norse, Old High Germanic, Icelandic, Swedish, etc.), it seems there are different ways to pronounce it. We say, 'hair-yuh,' with an equal emphasis on each syllable. But we have also found records of some folks pronouncing it, 'her-juh,' and 'heard-yuh.'

And we talked about this a bunch while we were deciding on the name. We wanted to make sure that people knew exactly what was being asked for, whether they were contacting our customer service or ordering us at a local bar. During this discussion, I brought up the fact that my favorite IPA, Jai Alai from Cigar City Brewing, has a name many Americans would likely not know how to pronounce, and yet bartenders who serve Jai Alai know that if you ask for a JA-aye-ah-lay or a high-ah-lie, you mean the same thing.

Ricky also made some good goofs about, "I want to try a mead." "Yup, heard-yah."

So what about you? What do you think about the new name? Have you tried the new recipe?

Herja Oak-Aged Wildflower Honey Mead by Grimfrost

Herja Oak-Aged Wildflower Honey Mead by Grimfrost


Grimfrost is a Swedish company and a global community that builds a bridge between the past and the present. With this mead, Grimfrost continues this mission by venturing back to the world of our Viking forebears, when mead was considered to… read more

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About Sam the Author
Hi, it's Sam. You may know me from Certified Meadiacs, or one of our livestreams. Or maybe you have emailed our customer service team before and gotten an email from me in return. I'm Groennfell's Marketing Bard, or rather, I am the voice of our customers (you) to the rest of the Meadery, and the voice of the Meadery to you, our customers.

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