The 6-ounce cappuccino and latte art trend at cutting edge cafes like Kopplin’s Coffee and Black Sheep Coffee Cafe has kicked off a new culture of coffee drinkers. These coffee drinkers are seeking something deeper than caffeine; they’re looking for coffee with character — coffee that reflects origin, terroir, and processing; not just the roasting but also the harvesting of the coffee. It is these coffee drinkers who have fueled the growing trend of boutique coffee shops, cafes geared towards unique micro lot coffees grown on small farms and meticulously processed, later to be brewed with the knowledgeable and artful hand of a barista.
Many of these cafes — including Kopplin’s and Dogwood Coffee — don’t offer drip coffee on tap, but rather coffee brewed individually with a Clover, a siphon, or manual drip. These are all methods that allow the barista control over grind, brew time, temperature, and technique. For Kopplin’s, it’s a niche that goes so far as to forbid decaf as an alteration to the bean that would be distracting from the original character.
Bull Run Roasting Company (which is often confused with Dogwood; story here) has joined the boutique coffee shop movement with the opening of their first cafe, located on Lyndale Avenue in Uptown. “It’s a hybrid coffee shop,” says Brent Ringate, one of the new owners of Bull Run, which was purchased from Greg Hoyt in October of last year. Hoyt, although no longer financially tied to the business, is still consulting for the company and has vested interest in the company’s success. Ringate says: “For the slow, brew-by-the-cup, we are going to do single origin coffees similar to Dogwood, but that’s not the only way we are going to brew coffee. We are going to do automatic drip coffee featuring more of the Bull Run wholesale coffees.” Ringate, who purchased the company with his brother and one other partner, has a background in the equipment end of the industry.
Ringate and his partners have brought on Gordon Bellaver to manage and oversee the opening of the cafe. Training under the country’s first World Barista Champion (Michael Phillips), Bellaver has picked up the tricks of the craft while working at Intelligentsia in Chicago. Bellaver has four baristas training under him who are perfecting their techniques and developing signature drinks to feature at the cafe. “The baristas have been playing around with different tastes using maple syrup and honey,” he says.
The cafe features 8- and 12-ounce drinks in house and 16-ounce drinks to go, a step below the 20-ounce available at Caribou Coffee and Starbucks. Chocolate and pastries are sourced from Patisserie 46 and milk will rotate between Autumnwood, Castle Rock, and Crystal Ball farms.
A visit to the new cafe revealed a veritable oasis for a certain kind of coffee lover — moody alt hip-hop pulsed quietly over the sound system as grad students pored over their notes and laptops, which were flanked by empty beergarten-style coffee glasses (below). We tried a couple coffee drinks and enjoyed both — a Black Miel ($5, above) was a novel and surprisingly mellow combination of coffee, Ames Farm buckwheat honey (which conveyed a bit of funky sweetness), and anise flavor. And a trifecta-brewed Colombian coffee ($2) was tasty, clean, and flavorful, although a bit light on its feet — almost more like a tea than the opaque mass that we tend to expect. When we bought a pound of beans, the baristas were low-key and helpful, asking pertinent questions about our home-brewing methods. (It turns out “French press” and “We grind our own beans a little at a time” are acceptable answers to “How do you plan to brew this at home?”)
Between training baristas and getting ready for the set up at the cafe, Bellaver has been busy developing the house espresso blend known as El Matador, which features four different coffees. “After Dogwood left we had to create our own blend,” he says. “Now that we have a flavor profile that we like, we’ll work to find new coffees that fit as others go out of season.” The espresso is bright with a syrupy mouthfeel and a light breadiness.
The shop opened on April 4 with a La Marzocco GB/5, a signature piece of equipment for any cafe looking to push the cutting edge of coffee. “We will have a La Marzocco Strada as soon as it becomes available,” says Ringate, who says he’ll use his background in equipment to keep the cafe up to date.
Bull Run Coffee Bar
3346 Lyndale Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408
OWNERS: Brent Ringate, Wayne Ringate, Brandon Timlin, Gordon Bellaver
Additional reporting for this story was provided by James Norton.