As someone who enjoys beer in the community atmosphere of a taproom, Bloomington resident Bob Countryman began wondering why his city didn’t have a brewery.
His curiosity took him a lot further than expected. A conversation with the city manager over four years ago to learn more about the city charter restricting the sale of alcohol in Bloomington led Countryman to become the founder and operator of Nine Mile Brewing Company—Bloomington’s first brewery opening on February 11. “I went from wanting a taproom to wanting to open it,” he says.
At the beginning of 2019, Countryman worked behind the scenes to help change language around alcohol in the city charter that prevented breweries from serving beer on-site in taprooms. By the fall, he had secured investors that live in Bloomington to help fund the brewery.
“There is over 300 years of Bloomington residency in our investor group,” Countryman says. “I think of taprooms as a community gathering space. I want our brewery to provide good beer, good service, stay engaged in the community, and value people for their uniqueness.”
Countryman kept the local focus, naming the brewery after Nine Mile Creek, a stream that runs through Bloomington about a mile from the brewery. Nine Mile beers will only be available at the taproom or in Crowlers, and a few area bars and restaurants.
When the pandemic stalled construction planned for the spring of 2020, the Nine Mile team filled some of this time with collaborations: Pig Ate My Pizza (now Novelle Brewing), Dual Citizen Brewing Company, Little Thistle Brewing, and Dangerous Man Brewing company.
“[The collaborations] were a lot of fun to set up. You learn so much talking shop,” Countryman says. “Everyone in the beer community has been helpful. Everyone wants the industry to succeed. I hope to host them here now.”
Nine Mile’s 10,500-square-foot space will include a 3,000-square-foot taproom for 200 people, a dog-friendly patio planned for the spring that will seat about 45 people, production space for a 10-barrel system, and 2,000-square-feet of event space for rental and live music. There is also space for a future kitchen.
The taproom feels rustic and cozy, with natural and reclaimed wood throughout and a large gas fireplace. There is an area with comfy couches, bean bags, and games in addition to a space with a variety of tables and a booth from the now-defunct neighboring restaurant Lyn 65.
Overhead in the taproom hangs a 20-foot cedar canoe built by Countryman along with graphic art on the walls that give a nod to Nine Mile Creek. St. Paul artist Lisa Friedrich, who uses fire, gunpowder, and smoke for her artwork, created the distinctive Nine Mile signage.
With a background in insurance, Countryman built a team around him with plenty of industry expertise: Ilan Klages-Mundt, a founding member of Insight Brewing; John Leingang, former head brewer at Dangerous Man Brewing; and Riley Yawn-White, a former brewer at Lakes & Legends Brewing Company. The taproom will be managed by Mark Mussell, a Bloomington resident with over 20 years of restaurant and bar experience.
“It’s been exciting to be part of something from the ground up and provide input throughout the process,” says Yawn-White, Nine Mile assistant brewer.
For Klages-Mundt, it’s his second time building and designing a brewery, which has helped to shape how the brewery will fit into the community.
“For Nine Mile, there is a focus on having everything here like an event space and keeping our distribution within Bloomington,” Klages-Mundt says, an investor in Nine Mile. “We want people to come here for an experience.”
As for the beer, Leingang, Nine Mile head brewer, plans to have something for everyone including a New England IPA, lager, sour, stout, and seltzer. There will initially be six to nine beers on tap with the possibility of up to 20 beers. While he likes to cast a wide net, Leingang’s favorite beers to brew and drink right now are lagers.
“It’s been a rewarding experience from setting up the production space to designing new recipes,” Leingang says. “We’ll have a lager on all the time and see what customers like as we expand our selection.”
Photos by Jordan Wipf
Opening: February 11, 2022
Head Brewer: John Leingang
Beers: Available now are Pale Ale, NE IPA, Lager, Dark Lager, Sour, and Wee Heavy. Coming soon are Saison, Espresso Double Stout.
Address: 9555 James Ave S, Suite 290, Bloomington, MN 55431
Hours: Mon–Thu: 2–10 pm; Fri: 2–11 pm; Sat: 11 am–11 pm; Sun: 11 am– 9 pm