Northern Kentucky’s favorite brewery is looking to expand on a massive scale.
By Kane Mitten, Cincinnati Magazine
Skyline. Graeter’s. LaRosa’s. If things keep going as well as they’re going for Jake and Evan Rouse, soon you’ll be adding a fourth name to that list of Cincinnati’s most-beloved brands: Braxton. In just a few short years, Braxton’s cofounders have notched several sports partnerships (including the Bengals, Reds, FC Cincinnati, and Indiana Pacers) and produced Garage Beer, the No. 1 craft lager in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
They’ve also spun off that same lager into its own company with upcoming nationwide distribution, created an annual beer release so big that the city of Covington has to shut down a street for it every year, opened four locations with two more on the way—and if that wasn’t enough, Jake started a collectible trading-card business with their dad on the side. Not bad for a company that started with 16-year-old Evan brewing beer in his parents’ garage.
What’s their secret? “We’re always evolving,” says Jake Rouse. Every time you visit the flagship taproom in Covington, there’s always something new—a drink, menu item, even a new place to sit. And the company is about to make its biggest leap into “new” with a building in Union that unites Braxton, Dewey’s Pizza, and Graeter’s under one roof to create the ultimate Cincinnati foodie destination. “If you know Braxton, you know we’re all about trying to learn from similar family businesses. We’ve long talked to Graeter’s about expanding our partnership beyond just producing beers, because our customers are so complimentary,” Rouse says. “And [Rich Graeter, CEO] brought up Union, Kentucky, and instantly my ears rang, because, here we are, already looking at a space just 100 yards from where Evan and I grew up [in Union] on Braxton Drive.”
He was introduced to Dewey’s founder Andrew DeWitt—the titular Dewey!—by Graeter, and Rouse brought him into the mix to share his vision for the space. He promised an opportunity to create something “truly special”: a joint location with a 20,000-square-foot beer garden in the middle. “They instantly bought in,” Rouse says. Now nearly two years into the development, Dewey’s is partnering with Braxton in a different way; a full-service restaurant will be opening next door to the main taproom in Covington, and Braxton customers can order pizza from the comfort of their barstools. It’s the first new Dewey’s location since 2017. “Jake contacted us and asked, ‘What do you guys think about doing food service? We have tried it and it’s not in our bailiwick,’ ” Dewey’s president Chuck Lipp says. “It’s a new adventure for us. We think it’s going to be a really neat integration.”
It’s not only restaurant collabs and spinoff companies in the works for Braxton, either. Later this spring, the brewer opens a location inside CVG. It’ll be a bit smaller than the usual taprooms, about 12 to 15 taps, but the popular Taco Fuerte food truck will be relocating to CVG for the ability to pair street tacos and beer to potential airport patrons.
Despite Braxton’s popularity from the word go—it hit $1 million in sales in 2015, its first year of business—it hadn’t really sunk in for Jake that he and his family had created something special until he went to Reds’ Opening Day that year and ordered a Braxton Storm. “It was a surreal moment. I mean, even to this day, going [to Great American Ball Park] and ordering one, it’s still…” Rouse pauses, taking a beat, before continuing, “You can’t rival that feeling. It’s just special. It’s been a wild ride.”