Thursday, April 21, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One By One #25: Lakes & Legends, Minneapolis, with Bitter Farmhand Belgian IPA

And, lo, there came a day, Wednesday, March 30, at around 5 o'clock p.m., to be exact, when our hero had grown weary of remaining indoors, taking comfort from the cold and the dark of the season, and strode forth into the wider world, in search of beer and adventures in the far-off land of Loring Park, or at least  LaSalle Avenue, a few blocks away. For the 25th installment of this series, we (me) went to Lakes & Legends.

Lakes and Legends Brewery opened last November, with a week or two of "soft openings", and a hard open in early December. I stopped in once on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, sampling a few, and taking home a growler of the cranberry saison to bring to the family dinner. I didn't take notes on any them, but did check in on Untappd. I was satisfied, but not sated, and intended to return to give them further review. Why, then, did it take me almost 4 months to re-visit this new brewery that's not very far away? Winter is why. And whenever I was going to be in that neighborhood, I tended to want to go to Sisyphus, where I know I already like the beers, and I know the people behind the bar. (Hey, maybe there's a song, or a sitcom in that?)

At long last, I stepped in for the second time when biking became more bearable. (Yeah, all that garbledy-goo up there? My attempt at a "legendary" storytelling style. I gave up on it pretty quick.) The brewery takes up part of the bottom of a very new condominium tower at 13th and LaSalle, 1368, to be precise. When I went in the first time, I had never seen this building before. Putting a craft brewery on the street level of a condo in a hip and trendy neighborhood has got to be a sure path to success, right? So, how's the beer, and will the quality matter?

What they're trying to do here is a fairly unusual and admirable goal, creating a space and a line of beers that pays homage to the rustic Belgian tradition, while remaining firmly inside an urban environment. There's no patio, nor, it seems, any chance for one, but they use the taproom to give the feeling of hanging out on the lake. Patio furniture, bean bag toss, hammerschlagen, etc. The walls are decorated with photos of farm scenes, and the back of the bar is similarly appointed with wooden frames and old style farm ephemera.

Wilde Rist wild rice brown ale.
There are different sizes available, 4 ounce pours or 12, with the price adjusted based on the beer. I'd tried many of the staple beers at the top of the menu the last time, and decided to start at the bottom, and the Farm to Glass series, a line of beers using unusual added ingredients. (Kind of happy for the lack of alliteration here. So tired of "plow to pint" and "garden to growler.") Went with the smaller option to maximize my drinking, and picked the Wilde Rijst, or "wild rice." 5.9%, 42 IBU. Brown ale with wild rice, malty and musty, slightly sweet, just a touch rustic and funk. I liked this, and would definitely
have another.

Agredoux sour brown with maple syrup.
Tripel with plums.
On to the next one, and again I chose a 4 ounce pour. My friendly server asked if I just wanted the one, or maybe two at once, this time. Just one I told her, and it only later dawned on me what a dope I was being. It's a long bar, and she's got other customers to attend to. Is it really cool to ask her to run down to my end of the bar every time I drink four ounces of beer? I could have asked for two at a time, but with the next order, I went with the 12 ounce pour to get to know it a little better.

But getting back to the beer, number two was called Agredoux, for reasons I've never figured out. A sour brown ale with maple syrup, 5.4%ABV, lightly sour, discernibly sweet, well-balanced, not too anything, with an increasing sourness in the flavor. Another good one. We're doing great so far.

Beer #3 was the final Farm to Glass, merely called Tripel, but referred to as Tripel with plums elsewhere. Had a soft, shy nose, with slowly unfolding fruit. Bolder flavors in the mouth, bright, smooth and delightful. Little bit of the old bubblegum, with subtle, delicate plum notes. Very nice. Another winner. 7.8% ABV.

I wasn't quite finished and chose as my fourth, their Belgian-style strong golden ale, Marigold. Belgian yeast notes abound, more "Bubble-gummy", fruity, spicy, and lightly bitter. This comes close to what I really want to taste in this style, but not quite there. Good balance, light body, crisp malt. Just need a little something....else. Something untouchable, unnameable....missing magic. 7.7% ABV, 25 IBU. I would drink it again, but I wouldn't rave about it. Here's the website gobbledygook: A beer to savor, this beer’s apple-like smell combined with its easy drinkability belie the higher alcohol content. Soothe your mind and warm your nights with this signature Belgian ale.

That was it for my drinks at the taproom. There were other options, such as some bottled offerings that I may return for, but I elected to have my empty growler refilled with one of the regular beers, and the notes follow:
Bitter Farmhand. Belgian IPA. 6.9% ABV. 71 IBU.

Lightly hazed, golden hued, slim, but lasting, white head.

Aroma: Pop goes the bubblegum. Oozing Belgian yeast. Fruity, spicy, hoppy, but ultimately sweet with a funky twist.

In the mouth: malty sweet. low bitterness. low hops, really A funky Belgian-esque pale ale, but I'm not getting much "I.P.A." out of this. Some minor bitterness, some little bit of funk, but not really registering what you looking for when you hear IPA. I'm going to keep drinking and see if this changes at all. Still, so far, it's lacking the spark and the buzz, the bitter kick I'd want from an IPA, Belgian-style or otherwise.
I recognized the fellow in blue, and he remembered me,
from years back, at the Blue Nile. Said I poured him a lot
of Delirium Tremens. That takes me back.
The official description: A peace-offering to the hop heads – a strong hop flavor upfront is rounded out with the characteristic Belgian yeast flavors and hefty malt bill.

Oddly enough, I don't recall being disappointed when I had it back in November. Don't know if it changed, or have I. Or was it just how my palate was feeling that night? I'm going to give this one another chance.

All in all, I think I'll be back to Lakes & Legends again and again, and give more of their beers more chances. I like what they're trying to do, and more often than not, I like how they do it. Look for more reviews from growlers, now and then.

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