Meet the Founders

Bryon Tonnis

Co-Founder / CEO + Director of Brewing Operations

Bryon is originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Bryon attended UMD, where he met his wife and fellow co-founder Karen in 1996. Bryon brewed professionally for 13 years prior to opening Bent Paddle. He started his brewing career in the Twin Ports area at Twin Ports Brewing Co. (now Thirsty Pagan). In 2004 he received his International Diploma in Brewing Technology from the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy, a combination program out of Chicago, Illinois and Munich, Germany. In 2005 he entered the Head Brewers Apprenticeship Program at the Rock Bottom Brewery in Portland, Oregon for training to become a Head Brewer at Rock Bottom Brewery in Minneapolis. He held this position for 7 years, and won a GABF silver medal for his Bastogne Blond Ale in the French/Belgian Ale category.

Bryon manages all aspects of day to day brewing operations at Bent Paddle to ensure optimal efficiency, profitability and production management. He is in charge of raw material contracts and inventory, equipment acquisition and installation, production scheduling, recipe development, financial forecasting and sales strategy. Bryon also assists Karen with the company's social media and photography. Bryon has been actively involved in the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild since 2005 where he served on the board of directors as well as acted as festival committee chair. Bryon's two greatest passions; paddling in the BWCAW and brewing, is how Bent Paddle got it's name. Bryon also enjoys hiking, biking and anything in the fresh air of the great outdoors.

Colin Mullen

Co-Founder / President + Director of Brewery Communications

Brewer and co-founder Colin Mullen is originally from St. Louis Park, Minnesota. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota where he graduated with a dual degree in Orchestral Music Performance and Psychology. Colin’s began homebrewing in college and got a job at Midwest Homebrewing Supply in St. Louis Park, Minnesota from 2002 to 2008 focusing on new product development and technology support. In 2004 Colin began brewing professionally part-time alongside brewmaster and mentor John Moore at Barley John’s Brew Pub in New Brighton, Minnesota which has a cult-like patron following for their scratch-made food and inventive and award-winning big beers. Colin transitioned into head brewer at Barley John’s until he left to focus on the start-up of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.® in early 2012.

Colin was also actively involved in the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild since 2005 where he served on the board of directors alongside Bryon, acted as marketing committee chairperson and worked closely on the Guild’s craft beer festivals - Autumn Brew Review, Winterfest and the inaugural year of Duluth’s All Pints North Summer Brew Fest alongside his wife and Bent Paddle co-founder Laura who produced the festivals for the Guild from 2007 through 2012. Colin is versed in artisan recipe development and barrel aging big beers. His passion is blending music with his love of beer.

Karen Tonnis

Co-Founder / Vice President of Operations

Karen brings years of Human Resource, Operations and Logistics Management to the team from her experience working in those positions at Sysco Asian Foods in St Paul for nearly 15 years prior to opening Bent Paddle. Karen is responsible for all things Human Resources at Bent Paddle, including recruiting awesome paddler's, benefits management, safety and overall leadership organization and communication. She is also in charge of all social media platforms and does all the professional photography used in the company's marketing materials. Karen & Laura work closely to manage the day to day office operations, accounting and community partnerships and events. Karen is married to fellow co-founder, Bryon Tonnis. They met in 1996 at UMD. They are the proud parents of Liam, born in 2012. Together they owned Tonnis Photography, a professional lifestyle photography company for 2 years until BP opened. Karen loves traveling and new adventures; local food, craft beer and also a great glass of wine. She enjoys spending time in the great outdoors; hiking, paddling and camping with Bryon and Liam, especially in the BWCAW.

Laura Mullen

Co-Founder / Vice President Outreach + Events

Laura (Salyards-Fryberger) Mullen, is a born & raised Duluthian with deep family ties to the area. She graduated highschool from the Marshall School in Duluth and college at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2001 with a BA in Behavioral Science & Law. She focuses on the brewery’s charitable efforts, marketing, media and community relations, events and facility rental coordination, legal and sustainability initiatives, as well as general high level administration. Laura is married to fellow Bent Paddle Brewing Co. co-founder/owner Colin Mullen and they have a daughter, Adella, born in 2012 plus many beloved pets.

Prior to opening the brewery in 2013 Laura started a career in event design in the events department of the Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, GA. After moving to Minneapolis in 2004 to be closer to family and colder weather she started her first company, Laura Mullen Event Design at the age of 25, where she also acted as Guild Coordinator for her largest client, the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild. Laura has a long history of volunteerism and board leadership primarily in the areas of environmental stewardship, reproductive healthcare, the arts and business organizations and is currently the board President of the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild and Vice President of the Lincoln Park Business Group board of directors. She enjoys Minnesota craft beer history as well as speculating about it’s future, the camaraderie of the local craft brewing industry and especially adores the 14° ESB. Karen and Laura are passionate about yoga, so integration of DYP Brewasana Yoga was an important part of the brewery wellness program. Laura & Karen are also incredibly proud that Bent Paddle Brewing Co. is 50% female owned!