Homegrown brewery coming to Rondo

Rondo resident sets sights on opening first Black women-founded brewery in Minnesota

Rondo resident Brittney Mikell aims to open the first Black woman-founded brewery in the state of Minnesota. And she wants to do it in her own neighborhood.
So, she’s working with the Rondo Community Land Trust to find the location on Selby Ave. that will be just right, and she launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to fund the launch of Bubble Line Brewing Company with $500,000.
Mikell worked as a pharmacist before pivoting to making beer during the pandemic. 
She enjoyed her work in healthcare. “I’ve always been the kind of person that needed to be contributing to something bigger than myself in my career,” she explained. In that way, she fit right in. She had struggled academically while earning a degree in chemistry at Carleton College, but around the end of her four years, everything began to click. “I learned how to study and what worked for my learning style, and I started doing better,” Mikell remarked. “That grew my confidence a ton. So I didn’t actually struggle at all during my doctorate studies. I knew how to put in the work to learn, I did well, and it paid off.” She received her doctor of pharmacy at the University of Minnesota in 2020.
But once she began working as a pharmacist, she found herself struggling again. “My empathy was huge, so it was hard for me to be in traditional hospital or clinical settings where people were really sick,” she explained. “Then I went corporate, gave my all, and burned out. It took a lot of therapy for me to understand that I wasn’t a failure or that I ‘couldn’t hack it’.”
The lessons she learned through that period are helping her now. “Deep into this business venture, I know when I’m headed in the direction of burnout. I also have an amazing partner who sees when I’m not doing well and helps me slow down. Starting a business is a ton of work, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Historically, I’ve been a sprinter. I’m so much better now at pacing myself, and ultimately I trust that it will lead to happiness and success in this venture.”
Mikell has always been a science girl. Growing up, she used to mix household chemicals in her parents’ basement when they weren’t around. So the switch from pharmacy to beer wasn’t hard.
“All of the medicinal chemistry that I learned is directly related to the chemical reactions of yeast, the science of hops and bittering, and the acid-base chemistry of IPAs. A friend of mine said that there is a pharmacist to brewer pipeline, and that’s super true,” said Mikell. “Several pop brands were created by pharmacists, and pharmacies used to be the only place that a person could buy a fountain drink. So when I was looking for hobbies during lockdown in the pandemic, a lot of folks made bread, and I made beer. I wanted to engage that creative, science-y side.”
Mikell has tapped into countless resources. She got books and equipment secondhand on Facebook Marketplace to start. She joined the Brewing Change Collaborative, where she met other folks of color interested in beer, and/or working in the beer industry. She completed the St. Thomas Community Entrepreneurship Program, which provided her with mentors, student consultants, and step-by-step actions needed to start a business. They gave her a micro-grant, and connected her with the folks over at Rondo Community Land Trust. “That has been invaluable,” said Mikell. “We’ve been working together to secure a location, and overall they’ve provided resources to ensure that I’m set up for success. I can’t speak highly enough of those folks. Plus, they’re right up the street from my house.”
She has worked part-time at La Dona Cervaceria in Minneapolis to hone her skills.
There are many individuals who have helped along the way. “I’ve also got great advice from Elle at MetroNOME, Mahad and Kevin at Dual Citizen, Dicky at La Dona (another huge mentor), Shaunte at Wooden Ship, Dan Beaubien, Bri and Sophia at Modist, Jill and Deb at Urban Growler, Dan at Lift Bridge, George at Augsburg, Matt at Wandering Leaf, several folks at Waldmann, and so many more,” said Mikell.
The Brewing Change Collaborative (BCC) was a place of refuge for Mikell.
“They care about the same things that I do – beverages as a vehicle for good. The group really embodies that. It’s no secret the craft beer industry lacks diversity, but BCC is doing real work to change that,” said Mikell. The group is always looking for more members, and she encourages others to join. They’ll be at Pride in June and All Pints North in July.
When she was working in healthcare, Mikell and her partner were able to save enough to buy a house. “Our realtor asked what we wanted and my response was ‘I want to be around people that look like me, and I want to be able to walk to a lot of different amenities,’” she said. After seeing many homes, none that felt right, their realtor found a spot in Rondo in 2021. They immediately fell in love.
“The energy was exactly what we were looking for. There’s a really positive community spirit here in Rondo,” stated Mikell. “Everyone knows each other, and I feel lucky every time I meet someone that’s been here for decades or more.”
She added, “I’m from the South Side of Chicago, and I connect so deeply to the history of what folks have experienced here with the installation of I-94, redlining, racial covenants, and other methods of systemic disinvestment. I’d always heard about the history of Rondo, but it’s another experience to actually be here, hear people’s stories, and literally see the impact with your own eyes. By opening this brewery, If I can help promote some of the vibrancy that I see in the people here, I’ve succeeded. 
“I can clearly see a picture in my mind of community members working and hanging out in the brewery and I can’t help but smile. That’d be the ultimate win for me.”
The vision for BLBC includes not just lagers and IPAs, but nonalcoholic lemonade and espresso drinks, kid-friendly spaces, apprenticeships for brewers of color, a home brew library corner, and community events – in short, all the makings of a “vital third place.”
The overarching mission of Bubble Line Brewing Company is to make a positive impact by centering their three pillars of business: innovation, putting people first, and environmental sustainability. With these pillars in mind, BLBC will offer community beer-making workshops, brewing apprenticeships for brewers of color, and exceptional employee compensation/benefits.
BLBC has already raised over $25,000 through an initial campaign. Their current crowdfunding campaign at www.indiegogo.com is for:
• Purchase of brewing equipment (existing purchase agreement)
• Design of greenhouse storefront
• Investment in sustainable brewing practices
“It’s quite the challenge figuring out the capital aspect of funding the brewery,” acknowledged Mikell. “It can cost $850,000 plus to start a brewery and I don’t come from a ton of money! So right now, I’m spending lots of time working on the crowdfunding campaign, valuating the business so I can approach investors, preparing to approach banks, and all the while just trying to stay true to myself.”
She’s grateful for the small team working with her, and says they feed off of each other’s positive energy. 
“I’m having a ton of fun, and learning a lot, too. My heart is really full with support from folks around me,” stated Mikell.
She aims to open the brewery in early 2025.
“My dream is to build a ‘nature house’ for the brewery,” said Mikell. “Since we live in Minnesota, it would be a beautiful, warm refuge for folks when the temps hit -20º, as they tend to do. It would be really good for all of our mental health during the part of winter when we only have a few hours of sun everyday. Plus, I think it’d be a lovely way to honor Rondo and its descendants. Sure, this brewery is for me and my love of beer, but more-so it’s for them. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to honor their legacy.”


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