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Lakes & Legends brings a bit of the farm into downtown

A Belgian Silky Stout sits atop a barnwood table.

A Belgian Silky Stout sits atop a barnwood table.

Craft brewing is everywhere now. So that may as well include a farmhouse brewery located on the first floor of a 36-story condominium tower just west of downtown. Introducing Lakes & Legends.

While the building itself is a signature of modern urbanity, the beer styles harken to the Belgian countryside. Farmhouse breweries focus on herbs, spices, and a wide range of aromatics — well beyond the citrus-pine palate of the IPA crowd.

It goes without saying that Lakes & Legends makes a saison, complemented by a full lineup of other styles less readily available around town. The restaurant's soft opening started in November and a grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5. As they get their training wheels moving, the tap list consists of five beers: Harmony Farm saison, Great Wit North, Marigold golden strong, Belgian Silky Stout, and Belgian Rauch smoked beer.

Belgian Rauch is smoky but light and easy drinking, letting the smoke lead the aroma without dominating the flavor. The Belgian Silky Stout is aptly titled, a big beer at 7.7 percent ABV with a silky texture. As milk stouts go, this one downplays sweetness for a very clean finish, with dancing dark fruits beneath the surface. These were the standouts, and both are appropriate for the coming cold; one is light, the other is dark.

Harmony Farm was middling. It has a sweeter profile with a slight hop resin to finish it off, favoring a smooth and semisweet grassiness over a peppery spice. The Great Wit North met a fair review at the table, but Marigold was too sugary with elements of honey and a low carbonation that emphasized the sweetness while marginalizing the fruitiness at its backbone.

Overall the beers are adventurous, but pay homage to tradition. There’s nothing copycat on the menu and that, alone, is worth praise in a scene where brewery opening lineups have become as predictable as a brown ale. Lakes & Legends shows some real promise. The highest IBU count on the soft opening's menu was the saison with 39 IBU, so don’t come to Lakes & Legends for the face-puckering bitterness. Come for winter warmers and a variety of uniquely designed beers that emphasize different ingredients.

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Besides the beer, there is a nitro cold press coffee and more significantly (why is nobody else doing this?), they offer small plate vittles from local businesses: chips from Eggy’s next door and a Red Table/Lone Grazer meat and cheese platter. These are small salty foods that pair well with beer and keep patrons from running outside into the cold.

The space's farmhouse vibe is a curious contrast with the surrounding glass-enclosed condominium and parking ramps (yes, they validate depending on the ramp and time). It’s an open room with an expansive, almost cavernous presence because of the exposed ceiling and minimal (but intentional) design. It feels like one of the bigger breweries in town — at least the size of Bauhaus or Insight — but more open with the brewing equipment and fermenting tanks set behind a makeshift barrier of planters.

It maintains that steady balance between brewery and hangout zone, with comforts on one side of the wall and a steamy, beery smell emanating from the brewing side of operations. It was a brew day when we visited, and the windows were coated in steam. Seating is spread out and tables feel private and quiet. The layout is designed to accommodate the busy weekend crowds but with enough seating for small groups of day drinkers.

With a patch of space dedicated to AstroTurf, Adirondack chairs, and bag games, there’s a bit of “Minnesota outdoors indoors” going on alongside the reclaimed barn wood, beams, and tiling. It’s a rustic vibe — tastefully minimalistic, simple but intentional — that connects downtown to farmstead.

With a name like Lakes & Legends, it’s no surprise they’re ambitious. What is surprising is how the contrast between urban and rural come together so successfully. Pop by for a casual, day-ending beer or make it your new trivia spot: Trivia Mafia will be running free trivia on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

Lakes & Legends is currently open and will celebrate their grand opening tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 5. 

Lakes & Legends

1368 Lasalle Ave., Minneapolis

612-999-6020

Tuesday-Thursday, 3 to 10 p.m.

Friday, 3 p.m. to midnight

Saturday, noon to midnight

Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.