The Evan and Jake Rouse are very busy guys. Just one year after the brothers opened up their taproom in the heart of old Covington, they’re bringing their brand of craft brews to Cincinnati Kroger customers.
It all started when Evan rode with his family to drop Jake off at Indiana University. After getting Jake settled in his dorm, the family went to lunch at Bloomington’s Upland Brewery. Sixteen-year-old Evan,a lifetime hobbyist and science lover, was fascinated to learn that you could brew your own beer. On the way home, he ordered a home brewing kit and an obsession begun.
The boys’ father, 84.51 exec Greg Rouse encouraged the unconventional hobby and toiled with Evan in the garage of the family’s home on Braxton Drive in Union, Kentucky. Evan says the first few batches weren’t great but he and Greg kept at it. The pair joined local home brewing clubs for support and feedback. All that hard work paid off when 18-year-old Evan entered and won his first ever competition, the historic Bockfest. Jake says that was the turning point. After that win, Greg and Evan began entering and winning more competitions. Evan has more than 50 home brewing medals in his trophy case.
Evan went to work, spending two years as a brewer for Hofbrauhaus but he was ready to scale up and he had the perfect family for the job. Jake had studied entrepreneurship at Indiana University and after graduation, spent a few years developing digital strategies for major brands.
He would serve as Braxton Brewing’s CEO and their father, Greg, would be COO. They worked hard to develop the brewery’s unique and beautiful brand and began touring locations. Evan says they knew from the start that they wanted to be on the Kentucky side of the river and they set their sights on Covington.
“There’s renaissance happening here,” Jake said. “There’s a lot of redevelopment, there’s a lot projects and community-based things that we could play a vital role in.”
They chose the old Sears building on 7th street and began work transforming the space into the co-working, highly connected brew-lovers dreamland it is today. Evan says scaling up the brewing was the easy part, thanks to Richard Dubé, Braxton’s Brewmaster and fourth co-founder. Richard brought 35 years of big time brewing experience to Braxton.
Braxton was happening but Jake, a self-confessed nerd, was dying to do a Kickstarter. The stylish and clever crusade made a huge splash. The 30 day campaign to raise $30,71, was fully funded in just 30 hours. They went on to raise $71, 000 total during the Kickstarter campaign, earning them the honor of being the highest funded brewery project in the history of the platform.
The taproom opened in March of 2015 and its success was instant. Jake says Braxton exceeded the goals of their 2 year plan in just 9 months. Braxton was on tap at Great American Ball Park during the 2015 season and cans of Storm, Braxton’s flagship ale, hit stores on the Kentucky side in November. Braxton Brewing is now 23 employees strong and growing.
Eight years after that first batch, the Rouse brothers haven’t forgotten where they came from. The garage on Braxton still belongs to the elder Rouses and for the first time in many moons, they can park in there again. They are working hard to increase their visibility, maintain quality and continue to be a place people love to work.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of “NKY Business Journal.”