Alumna draws from pharmacy background to found MN’s first Black woman-owned brewery

Brittney Mikell

Brittney Mikell graduated from the 2020 PharmD cohort into a global pandemic. While she began homebrewing beer as a COVID-era hobby, it’s now blossoming into a much larger project; she’s opening Bubble Line Brewing Company, Minnesota’s first Black woman-owned brewery, in the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul. 

“I've always kind of been a beer person, I studied at breweries in school…But every time I looked around, there was no one who really looked like me,” Mikell said. In a state with over 200 breweries, only two are currently Black-owned, she added. “There were very few women and very few, if any, Black folks around and that always really confused me because brewery culture for me had always been really open.”

Bubble Line Brewing is named for both the chemistry concept and as an homage to a mentor from Mikell’s undergraduate years. Her passion for chemistry is rooted in her brewing and she credits the College of Pharmacy for preparing her for this new business journey through teaching her how to build her own practice. She was also able to take a course in the Carlson School of Management as a PharmD student.

“I get the unique perspective of being able to evaluate the types of grain and the chemical reactions that happen when you’re browning something because I took a medicinal chemistry class,” Mikell said. “Pretty much anyone who taught me something at the college has helped contribute to this, so it's been really cool to use those skills. And honestly, it's been a ton of biochemistry and food chemistry that I didn't realize I was being exposed to at the College of Pharmacy until now.”

Mikell is originally from the South Side of Chicago and said she chose Rondo because it feels like home in a way no other place in the Twin Cities does. 

“What drew me to Rondo, to live there specifically, is that it reminded me a lot of home. There’s a lot of systemic disinvestment and challenges brought on from external factors into that community that folks had no control over and that's something I'm really familiar with and grew up with,” she said. “As a kid, I had no ability to control that or help remedy that, but now I feel like living in Rondo and actively choosing it, I get to engage in that type of change.”

Bubble Line Brewing will transcend the boundaries of a typical brewery. Rather, Mikell wants it to be a “third space.” It will not just be a place for beer, but one with apprenticeships for brewers of color, a library corner, community events, and more. She also wants to help break down barriers to brewing and eliminate intimidating jargon to welcome people who have not traditionally been interested in or had access to brewing. 

“That's what I'm here for, to kind of be a conduit for the community,” she said. “I would love to just be a community destination for folks. They deserve it. I deserve it. We deserve it. I plan on just creating such a beautiful space.”

She said the community response from Rondo has been very positive so far. One community member even reached out to discuss reopening a local homebrew supply store and selling supplies in the brewery.  

“I had sent out a direct mailer to the community letting them know that the brewery was coming… Someone I know recently told me that their grandma saw the postcard and was really excited. It just melted my heart, you know?” Mikell said. “I really hope we can keep this momentum going and I hope people know that this is for them.”

Mikell operates her business under the principle of “using beverages for good.” To her, this means not only providing the space, but also providing community members with a living wage and an accessible place of employment. 

“Being able to use beverages as a vehicle to give both myself and the people who work with me a good life is really the ultimate goal,” she said. “I just want to make an impact…and that's why I ended up in health care in the first place. I don't think it's a far cry to end up opening a brewery that's more than just a brewery.”

Bubble Line Brewing Company is now gearing up for a crowdfunding campaign beginning May 24, which will help them purchase brewing equipment, design the greenhouse storefront, and invest in sustainable brewing practices. They are targeting an early 2025 opening.