Waking Up The Nation With a Blackeye

Waking Up The Nation With a Blackeye

From new products to new markets, the St. Paul roasting company is on track for an explosive year.

After spending 12 years working in coffee shops, Matt McGinn not only knows his coffee, but he knows the business. So when he figured out how to keg cold-brew coffee in his apartment—at a time when cold brew was starting to heat up—he knew he was on to something. Three and a half years after opening his own coffee shop, McGinn is getting ready to make waves with another breakthrough.

Designed much like a taproom, Blackeye Roasting Co., which now operates two café locations in Minneapolis, offers cold brew on tap, growlers and flights, plus a selection of espresso-based beverages, kombucha and iced tea. Despite its microbrewery-inspired aura, none of the beverages contain alcohol. In fact, cold brew, also known as cold-press coffee, is merely steeped in cold water for several hours, creating a naturally sweeter flavor than traditional hot-brew coffee.

Through its office distribution, Blackeye provides cold-brew taps and cans to 31 Minnesota companies. It recently added Target’s corporate campus to its distribution list, and is in the process of rolling out the service nationwide. Blackeye’s coffee is also sold on tap and in cans at more than 1,000 locations throughout the Midwest, including Super America, Holiday and Lunds & Byerlys.

While Blackeye’s cafés are in Minneapolis, its coffee is roasted in St. Louis Park and brewed in St. Paul. To celebrate the grand opening of its nearly 30,000-square-foot St. Paul manufacturing facility this month, Blackeye is launching three new flavors of cold brew, with a fourth expected by November.

“The biggest challenge of cold distribution is shelf-stability—it has to be refrigerated,” McGinn told TCB in January. To solve that issue, Blackeye COO Ryan Bachman, a former 3M chemist, and McGinn have worked to create a shelf-stable cold brew with no preservatives. After two years of research and trials, the company will launch the product in September. Once released, Blackeye is slated to launch in Hy-Vee stores nationwide, as well as in nine states, including Texas, Ohio and Illinois.

Blackeye also recently partnered with Minneapolis-based Bad Larry’s, the producer of the first-ever boozy cold-press coffee, which launched in late May. Bad Larry’s blends an infusion of malt with cold-brew coffee from Blackeye.

Last year, Blackeye’s revenue exceeded $500,000, and this year it’s expected to top $1 million. The company now employs 15, and has equity in numerous small companies. “We co-pack for several customers, and since many can’t afford to pay us, they give us equity in their companies,” says McGinn, co-founder and CEO.

Ultimately, “the goal is to be national,” says Dante DeSerrano, Blackeye’s managing partner.

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