Residents of south Minneapolis won’t have any trouble waking up in the morning or nodding their way through the afternoon lull any longer thanks to new neighborhood café, Blackeye Roasting Co. The Twin Cities-based beverage company brews their coffee in St. Paul, and roasts it in St. Louis Park, but Blackeye’s first storefront in the former Blue Ox building fills south Minneapolis’ coffeehouse void. They have a passion for all drinks beans and tea-based, but they specialize in unique and flavorful cold brew coffee “on nitro”—coffee that’s infused with nitrogen, resulting in a beverage that’s extra smooth and creamy with a silky texture.
Founder Matt McGinn grew up in Boston, but made the trek westward with the goal of getting and staying sober—a goal he’s achieved and continues to pursue. He found refuge at Augsburg College while participating in their StepUP program—a curriculum designed to help students receive the education they desire while being surrounded by a community founded on accountability and support. The program gave him the tools he needed to block out any outside distractions, and to focus on his love of caffeine and his studies. And after graduating with a bachelor’s in social work, he decided it was time to throw his own tea party.
McGinn is no amateur when it comes to the world of caffeine, he’s spent his entire professional life grinding beans, writing names on cups, and giving sleepy cafes a double shot and turning them into successful houses of brew. This experience was vital when he successfully concocted his first cold brew keg in the basement of his apartment. Production quickly moved to the basement of Quixotic Coffee, a cafe co-owned by Matt, and all of a sudden, Blackeye Roasting Co. was born.
Stepping inside the hip building is reminiscent of setting foot inside one of the metro’s many modern and minimalistic-feeling breweries. The 30-seat cafe features bright, clean wood tables, hardwood flooring, and tidal wave wallpaper and subway tunnel tiles cover the walls—along with the signature Blackeye sign designed by local sculpture artist, James Brenner. All of this is anchored by where the magic happens. The granite cashier’s counter touts 10 tap lines that pour out handcrafted cold brew on nitro, a library of baked goods, a state-of-the-art Clover coffee machine, and decorative growlers and merchandise available for purchase.
The 30-seat cafe at Blackeye Roasting Co.’s south Minneapolis location. Courtesy of Blackeye Roasting Co.
It’s here I found McGinn—no suit or tie in sight. His body is a canvas of artwork, and two vibrant and colorful arms stick out from his Blackeye button-up—a testament to his time spent working at a tattoo shop for a couple years. His favorite piece of ink? An “I Love Lucy” looking-woman proudly displaying a cup of coffee with the tagline, “Coffee! You can sleep when you’re dead” on his lower leg. If his business didn’t already prove his love for the caffeinated beverage, this certainly nailed it. And his short red hair crawls down his cheeks seamlessly forming his rugged beard. It’s an appearance befitting an up-and-coming beverage business that got its start in a city with deep and wide-spreading artistic roots.
He gives me a firm handshake with a smile and a friendly hello before serving a round of beverages to give me the full cold brew experience. Four variations—the Casablanca, Luchador, Bad Larry and White Lightning—are placed in front of me, and I found myself doing a double take. The dark color, avalanche of carbonation and frothy head is like a freshly poured Guinness straight from the tap, very unlike the light coffee with clouds of cream in paper cups I’m used to seeing.
I’m not a big drinker of caffeinated beverages, but do consider myself somewhat of a beer enthusiast, and the cafe’s brewpub essence is what attracted me to give this craft brew a shot. I was immediately surprised how much flavor each sample contained, and the cold and creamy liquid went down as smooth as a drink of ice water on a hot summer day—one of the benefits of infusing your beverage with nitro, McGinn explains. All four of the drinks were pleasing to my palate, but the clear winner for me was the Bad Larry with an ingredient list that includes chocolate milk, an inviting addition that allows non-coffee drinkers to get their feet wet in the world of caffeinated brew.
A freshly poured glass of Blackeye Roasting Co. brew. Courtesy of Lola Red.
In between sips, McGinn tells me the inspiration behind the shop’s name. “On the East Coast, ‘Blackeye’ means hot coffee with two shots of espresso, but I thought I’d put my spin on it,” he says. And with twice the amount of caffeine than a standard cup of coffee, it lives up to its namesake. In addition to its high-energy punch, McGinn’s cold brew has fewer calories with zero sugar, making it a healthy alternative to energy drinks.
Before grabbing another Bad Larry to go, I wonder what his plan was for getting people to choose his cold brew over the other coffee goliaths such as Starbucks. McGinn says it all comes down to one word—presentation. “Our cans look better than their bottles, and Blackeye is something that’s grown in [our customers’] own backyard. People can see our logo around town, and then walk into a store and see our product right next to Starbucks’,” he explains. “My slogan has become ‘gas station coffee doesn’t have to suck.’”
If you’re looking for an unconventional twist in your morning routine, you can find Blackeye at 3740 Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis, Quixotic Coffee in St. Paul, the refrigeration section at many gas stations, and on tap at nearly 25 restaurants and bars found throughout the metro, including Red Cow, The Happy Gnome, The Freehouse and Lucid Brewing. For those who find themselves downtown, Matt is opening a second location in the Minneapolis skyway on July 26 at 330 Second Avenue South.