Interview: Lakes & Legends

Lakes & Legends is a brewery located in Loring Park, Minneapolis born from the idea of creating a high-quality, farm-to-table beer that raises the expectations and expands the possibilities of what you could get from a beer. Co-Founders Ethan Applen and Derrick Taylor love the improvisational spirit of Belgian farmhouse beers and the experimental tradition of Trappist beers, and they couldn’t think of a better base from which to start (and to drink!). Applen and Taylor focus on quality ingredients, spotlighting their farming partners wherever possible. Their goal is to take that quality and extend it to their taproom, creating a welcoming space where communities come together, slow down, and create those experiences that last a lifetime. Always experimenting, innovating and working on new beers to surprise and excite, Lakes & Legends hopes to elevate the experience every time you raise a glass. 


Talk about the beginnings of Lakes & Legends. What inspired you to begin this endeavor?

Lakes & Legends really started from a passion for beer, and Belgian beers specifically. Ethan had been homebrewing for a number of years and was looking to move to the next level—then in looking at Minnesota, Ethan and Derrick realized there was a great opportunity to open somewhere focused on bringing Belgian and farmhouse-inspired beers, sourcing local and fresh ingredients wherever possible and tying back to the local terroir.


Where did the name come from? How about the (seriously cool) logo? 

The Lakes part of the name speaks to the provenance of the beer—it’s from Minnesota, from the ingredients to the brewing, and we wanted to pay homage to that. The Legends piece is about what we want when people drink our beer—it’s about bringing people together, and having them tell stories to each other. The Legends represent those stories that people are telling over our beer, whether its in the taproom, at home, or out at the lake or in the wilderness somewhere.

The logo to us was about creating something iconic that could represent us. When we landed on this idea of a mythical animal that was part raptor and part deer, we knew we’d found it!


Why are you passionate about being a farm to table brewery?

People continue to develop these new relationships with what they’re eating and drinking. It started back in the 80s and 90s when it was more about experimenting with food and pushing the boundaries on what was the norm. Then people like Alice Waters and others started saying that wasn’t enough, that we could also started looking DEEPER into the dish and at what was put into it. Not only the ingredients, but where they come from, and through that we can get such a deeper understanding and appreciation for those things that we’re enjoying as we consume. The idea with the beer is the same—it lets us spotlight those people who are producing incredible ingredients for our beer, lets us tell their stories, and in that way we just make our beer that much more interesting.

What does it mean to you to be able to source Minnesota ingredients in your brews? What do you love about visiting the farms you partner with?

This really echoes the farm to bottle ethos. The more we can create and foster a system, where we’re using local ingredients, brewing locally, then using our spent grains to go back to farms, the more it creates this process that fosters interconnectedness and community. On a personal level, it’s just so much more rewarding to know and be friends with the people you’re working with—we can make a beer, like our cranberry saison or our wild rice beer, and say, oh yeah, I harvested that rice with Bruce! Or I was in the cranberry bog picking cranberries with the Forsters!


"Minnesota Cranberry Company for the Cranberry Saison" 


"Spirit Lake Native Farms for the Wilde Rijst Ale"

Do you feel like brewing beer through Lakes & Legends allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?

That’s the goal—we’re only scratching the surface now, but it’s all about connectedness, with the people that work with us to make the beer, as well as with the people who are enjoying our beer.

What do you see for the future of Lakes & Legends?

The goal right now is the make the best beer we can possibly make—we want to be known nationally for quality, above all else. Beyond that, it’s going to be, what can we do to tie our beer closer to producers and to food in general? How can we keep pushing beer as something to continue to pair with food, much like you’d do with things like wine? We’re really excited for things we’re working on this year, and hopefully will have a lot of amazing partnerships and plans to announce as the year progresses.

Why is local important?  

It’s all about the ties to what's around you, and knowing intimately what’s going into your product. By knowing the people growing our ingredients, we’ve got an emotional bond, and we know exactly what they go through to make the amazing things they produce, and that love and care ends up directly in our beers.


How has living in Minnesota influenced your creative work, specifically through Lakes & Legends?

A large part has been about discovering the local ingredients, as well as local micro-cultures within the state. We hadn’t expected to be brewing a Wild Rice gear so close to open, but meeting Bruce at Spirit Lake Native Farms inspired us to do something original. We’d love to find ways to work with other groups in Minnesota—you’ve got so many cultures represented, it’s just perfect for our imaginations.

How has the journey of conceptualizing and building and sharing Lakes & Legends influenced you as a person?  

We’d always wanted our brewery to be a place that fostered community, and we’ve been able to do that—from the people that we buy from, to the people we sell to, and maybe most importantly the people we choose to work with every day. We’ve been blessed with the ability to build the perfect environment where WE want to come in and spend most of our time every day, and in that way I can’t think of anything better.