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Local Tap Talk: LynLake Brewery

Over the last five years, the craft brewery movement has grown exponentially in Minnesota. The Associated Press says licensing records show two-thirds of Minnesota breweries have opened just since 2010. So, we decided to help you – and your livers – keep up with the taproom trend by stopping by some of these Twin Cities brewhouses. This week's Local Tap Talk features LynLake Brewery.

After what seems like forever, the Lyndale Theater's empty, barren space is leased and is now home to a new brewery. LynLake Brewery opened to the thirsty, hip masses in Uptown on Oct. 10, 2014 just in time to the last bit of warm sunshine on its rooftop.

Most breweries/taphouses begin with home brewing and a dream, but not most owners also have a background building high-rises. Turns out it's a great background to get things up and running.

LynLake's co-founders Mark Anderson and Paul Cassette met while building what's now known as the Wells Fargo Center and continued working together while constructing other high-rises around the Twin Cities. Recently over a few Surlys, however, a new interest arose.

"Independently, we got into the craft brew experience just as a consumer … we'd get together periodically and talk about craft beer and what we like about it, and we starting thinking, 'we should get into this business,'" Anderson said.

So, in anything, connections matter and Anderson happened to be friends with a couple big wigs in the local beer scene.

"I'm a friend with Omar (Ansari) over at Surly, so I talked to him a little bit and one of the owners over at Excelsior Brewing, a friend of mine, and kind of began to understand the business side of things," Anderson said.

After receiving some counsel, it was time to find a space.

"Looked in Wayzata, St. Louis Park, northeast (Minneapolis) just like everybody else, and then stumbled upon – literally I was driving by with my wife – and saw this empty building (Lyndale Theater) and tracked down the realtor and saw it was available," Anderson said. "So, got inside and spent a weekend just with a sledgehammer kind of beating down the walls to see what it looked like and realized it could work, so I made a deal with the landlord and we started."

What completed the entire equation, however, was the finding of their head brewer, Joel Carlson, who happened to share similar backgrounds with the founders.

"I'm from northern Minnesota originally and Paul is from North Dakota, and we found a brewer who grew up in northern Minnesota, too, and went to school in North Dakota, so it was a perfect sequence of events," Anderson said.

Now, the still-young taphouse is reopening its rooftop just in time for the amazing warmth Minnesota is having. You can find them at 2934 Lyndale Ave. S.

For more on what the rooftop features, how it was like converting a theater and, of course, their beer, check out my interview with Mark Anderson below!

Paul Cassette & Mark Anderson
Paul & Mark (credit: Kristin Schultes)

When the inspiration hit, was there a certain vision in mind with the type of beer you wanted to provide to the masses?

We aren't cutting corners. We want the best product. So, we don't worry about pushing the yeast for one more generation … and we want a nice variety. We want good, solid beer. We don't want the tricked-up beer, but periodically we want to test something weird. We had a milk stout with raspberry and coconut just for fun – we made a couple firkins of that. We want to have a big variety of beers besides our flagships. And every once and a while we'll shoot off and do something "weird."

Both founders have a background in constructing high-rises around the Twin Cities – how has that background helped your creation of this brewery? And do you two have complimentary skills?

It helped during the construction part of it and it helps because construction is about teamwork. This operation is a brewhouse and taproom. There are teams in both, so they both need to work together. We like to work with people and like to put teams together so I think that helps translate into providing a good experience, in terms of a good product and taproom experience.

I'm probably more of the numbers guy. I follow the daily reports more often and look at the retail side of things. Paul is more of the people side of things, seeing how the brewer's doing, the taproom manager, hiring, and stuff like that.

What was it like converting the theater into a brewhouse? (listen to audio below)

Mark Anderson Talks About Converting Theater

What's it like having this Uptown location?

It's just so great. Lynlake is such a neighborhood.. We have all these apartments and then we have all these single-family homes just in the area … so it's great to have that walk-in client. Earlier in the day it tends to be on the older side – they're the people who probably have their houses right around the corner, I spend a lot of time talking to these guys. Then, right around 7 o'clock it kind of transitions to the younger crowd coming from the apartments. They're a blast. In the summer it'll be even better because the Greenway is just a block away. So, I love being in this hub of a neighborhood.

Can you tell me about the rooftop?

It's about the same size as the taproom – 2500 square feet. And there's a bar up there of course. It's built like your outdoor wood deck, along with picnic tables and a drink railing, and then you have recycled wood and barn siding for the bar. Then, there's two firepits with fireballs on it, and what they are is old marine buoys that used to live out in the ocean, so we're talking a 40-inch diameter steel ball. And an artist that's a friend of Joel's named Adam, took a plasma cutter and cut it all out with some geometric patterns (pictured below). So, those cover the fire pit.

LynLake Rooftop Fireball
(credit: Peter Heidorn)

On to the main event, beer: What would you suggest for the novice beer drinker/the pro?

The first place to start is Pony Boy. That's our golden ale that starting next week (Feb. 2) will be our Pony Boy Lager. Then, you go to an amber ale. Stay away from the hops at first. Then you can try the IPA, because then you can start envisioning all that hop stuff. I don't think our IPA is overly hoppy – the IBUs are only 78, 79 so it doesn't blow you away (with the hops).

For the pro, I'd suggest our Rye Guy Saison, it's a unique flavored beer. If an amateur comes in and orders one of those, they'll usually go "this is weird" and it's supposed to be a bit different tasting … But I'd also think the experts should try the Take 6 IPA, because that's the flagship of Minnesota. Then they can compare us. They'll know everyone else's IPA so that's the first one they should try and determine, 'hey these guys are pretty good,' or 'I don't like them' or whatever (laughs).

Lastly, any future goals/ambitions for LynLake Brewing?

No, we want to be the neighborhood spot. What we are today is pretty much what we want to be. We could build a production brewery, like Fulton because they want to get into distribution, (but) we don't want to distribute. We're going to make or break it here in LynLake.

ONE LAST NOTE: LynLake's Mark Anderson is huge into music, so the taphouse will have music every Wednesday night. So, check it out, listen to some music or walk up to the rooftop!

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