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Braxton Brewing’s Evan Rouse on what it means to be names to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

COVINGTON — When he was 16, Evan Rouse took a family trip to drop his brother off at school at Indiana University.

It also happened to change his life, because it was then that Rouse went to a brewery for the first time. On the ride home, he’d made up his mind — and he told his father what he wanted to do.

Evan Rouse

“Dad,” he said, “we’re going to brew beer together.”

They went on to do just that. Rouse built a home brewery in his family’s Kentucky garage, and it became his life passion. He dropped out of college at Northern Kentucky University just a few classes short of graduation (he says he’ll finish someday) to become the assistant brewmaster at Hofbrauhaus in Newport, and in 2014, he founded (with his father, Greg, and brother, Jake) Braxton Brewing Co. in Covington.

Now, with three locations in Kentucky and one in Ohio, Braxton made $7 million in revenue in 2019.

Rouse has been named to Forbes magazine’s prestigious “30 Under 30” Food & Drink list, which for the magazine’s 10th anniversary issue recognizes distillers and food entrepreneurs from more than 600 applicants from across the country. He was the only one from the Cincinnati area to make the list.

“My mind was blown,” Rouse said about learning he’d made the list. “It definitely made my week, that’s for sure. It’s truly humbling. But this is really a group award — it pays tribute to all the people who work at Braxton. I share it with them.”

After starting out as the head brewer, Rouse is now the chief innovation officer for the company — an especially challenging position during a pandemic. But Braxton has continued to grow in a time when other similar companies have had to pull back, or even close.

Rouse, who still does not know who nominated him for the Forbes list, says you must continue to be creative during these times, to try new things and continue to grow.

“Our question was always, ‘How do we come out of this stronger?’” he said.

One of the ways was to increase their e-commerce, like having subscription services, selling alcohol online and having beers ready for pickup. Another was to increase outdoor seating (Rouse says to check out the heated Igloos on top of their roof in Covington — they seat up to eight people and provide a cozy getaway for private food and drinks). They also created a new hard seltzer line called Vive and acquired Three Points Urban Brewing in Pendleton.

But Braxton will always be a Covington company.

“The coolest part of Braxton doing well, and being named to this list, is how is represents this entire area,” Rouse said. “When we first had the idea to open up in Covington, people asked us why we’d want to start a brewery here. There were zero restaurants, no hotels or apartment complexes. Now you see the change here. We made the decision that Covington was going to be our forever home. The place just has so much personality, and we fit right in with that.”

Rouse’s father, Greg, said he always knew Evan would do something creative — but he never foresaw something like this.

Brother Jake Rouse

“The word proud probably does not do justice to the feelings that his mother and I experienced,” said Greg, Braxton’s co-founder and Chief Operating Officer. “It was incredibly overwhelming to know that he would be recognized in such a prestigious category.

“I had no idea what Evan was going to do specifically, but what I was always certain of was that it would involve creating something and making it by hand,” he continued. “In the early years of home-brewing, I certainly didn’t see him winding up in the position he’s currently in, but the more he learned and the more success he found, the more apparent it became that he needed an outlet in which to put his talent and passion for the brewing industry. When Evan started brewing professionally at 19, we saw where he was heading.”

Jake Rouse, Evan’s brother (and the most likely candidate to have nominated him for the honor), said it’s been a blast to work with his brother.

“Where I have a passion for the technology, the beer and the entrepreneurship behind Braxton, Evan brings a passion for the art behind our beer,” said Jake, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “I’ve said this before, but his ability to create new products is truly unlike anything I’ve seen in any industry, and I’m thrilled to see him be recognized for that talent. Evan’s name on the 30 Under 30 list is such a win for the Braxton Brewing Co. brand, overall. We’re so proud to be able to celebrate something like this in the midst of a year like 2020. It takes a village to make great beverages, from ideation to creation to quality control. He’s not wrong in saying this is an incredible honor for our entire team.”

So what’s next for Braxton? And what does Evan hope to have achieved when the world returns to normal?

“First we want to get through this year,” he said. “This has been the most challenging year I’ve ever experienced. I want to get back to my bar. Then we want to keep expanding and finding ways for growth. There could be expanded taprooms, expanded states for distribution.

“I think there’s going to be some really exciting stuff around the corner,” he said.

Learn more about Braxton Brewing Company here. Stay up to date with Braxton Brewing Company on Facebook @braxtonbrewingcompany and on Instagram and Twitter @braxtonbrewingco

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