By Kara Larson
Lakes & Legends Brewing Company prides itself on brewing Belgian farmhouse beers that epitomize quality, authenticity, and integrity. The goal is for every sip to inspire us to find our roots and seek connections to the land in which we live. For Derrick Taylor and Ethan Applen, the Co-Founders of Lakes & Legends, these aspirations are best emphasized in bringing the farm that much closer to the glass. The first farm-to-bottle beer, the Cranberry Saison, was brewed fall 2015, and now, 2016 welcomes the Wilde Rijst Ale.
The infusion of Minnesota sourced wild rice perfectly illustrates the brewery’s commitment to utilizing the finest local ingredients in innovative ways. In an effort to get closer to their ingredients, Lakes & Legends opted to learn firsthand the time consuming and delicate process of harvesting wild rice, so they traveled all the way to Spirit Lake Native Farms of Northern Minnesota. With the help of Bruce Savage, the owner of the farms, the brewery team dove in, canoe first.
“We were so excited to be able to spend the day learning about the harvesting and finishing of the rice and, at the same time, finding inspiration in how we could use the rice in our own beers,” recalls Applen. “It’s been such a great experience working with Bruce and his team and it really speaks to the core of who we are. We can’t wait to find another opportunity to work with Spirit Lake Native Farms and others in the region.”
Lakes & Legends is a relatively young brewery. However, they don’t let their novelty hold them back from challenging the craft beer norm, meeting local farmers, and experimenting in original ways. Part of their eagerness to try new things is tied to what Minnesota has to offer.
Still, they hadn’t expected to be brewing a Wild Rice beer so early after opening their Loring Park taproom. But once they met Bruce at Spirit Lake Native Farms, they felt inspired to do something original. “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.” Taylor adds, “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 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 of Minnesota Cranberry Co.!”
With ties to the community, its farmers, and our Minnesota land, Applen and Taylor are happy to share the stories behind the brews they’re so proud to craft. Taylor shares, “We feel privileged to make beer in a location that has such strong ties to agriculture and ingredients with great flavors. Farm-to-bottle brewing 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.”
This close connection to and appreciation for the ingredients certainly pays off. The Wilde Rijst has a depth and backstory rich with humble care, honest quality, quiet integrity. The love and thoughtfulness shown in harvesting the rice shines as this smooth Belgian is full, earthy, and with the sweetness of wild rice, distinctly Minnesotan.
January 14th marked the anticipated release of Wilde Rijst, an event that encouraged local craft brew lovers to gather and enjoy the unique farm-to-table ale. To enhance the complex flavors within the beer, the event also featured a unique food pairing of two delicious appetizers—maple roasted squash bites and hominy cakes prepared by The Sioux Chef, a catering service and food truck headed by Chef Sean Sherman.
In addition to these tasty food pairings, Bruce of Spirit Lake Native Farms, along with his son, made the trip to Lakes & Legends to sell bags of their fresh, premium wild rice—the same wild rice harvested to brew the Wilde Rijst.
“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,” offers Applen. “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.”
For Lakes & Legends, the goal is simple: brew quality, delicious beer with locally sourced ingredients. However, it is their approach to achieving this goal that is unique. Because everyone at Lakes & Legends is not only working to brew the best beer possible, but they also value the story behind the brew—the story whose opening lines begin in the soil, well before the smooth pour from the tap.