Braxton’s Belgian-style Level Saison is out now.
It has been decades since Covingtonians have whiffed fresh malt percolating from a neighborhood brewery, but from now on when they’re near the corner of Seventh and Pike streets, this will be the norm. The family-owned and -operated Braxton Brewing Company held its grand opening on March 27, and invited the community into the 11,000-square-foot space, which features a brewhouse and taproom.
The founders behind the endeavor are brothers Jake and Evan Rouse, their dad, Greg, and brewmaster Richard Dubé (formerly of Christian Moerlein). In October, Braxton secured the title of the highest-funded brewery project ever on Kickstarter (654 backers pledged a total of $71,885), which enabled the team to finish construction, purchase a 20-barrel four-vessel brewhouse, a 40-barrel fermenter and hundreds of kegs.
“We had what we thought was a really lofty goal to raise $30,000 in 30 days, and when we surpassed that in 20 hours, it was pretty humbling,” Greg says. As a thank you to the donors, aka Braxton Builders, Covington company Grainwell laser-etched each of their names onto wood tags that were used to form and mount the brewery’s logo — an eagle with a hop-bud body — on the wall.
Until December, Jake, CEO and co-founder of Braxton, spent four years working at an Indianapolis tech company in marketing. Dad Greg’s background is in print production and advertising, and he still holds his day job as vice president for production at dunnhumby. If Jake and Greg are the business-minded brains behind the brewery, then head brewer Evan is the creative force.
Life changed for the family in 2008 when Greg and Evan dropped Jake off at Indiana University to attend college. Evan, who was only 16 at the time, and Greg stopped at Upland Brewing in Bloomington, where they discovered homebrewing. Evan went home to Union, Ky., and purchased a homebrewing kit, and Greg and Evan started brewing all types of beer in their garage, located on Braxton Drive (the brewery’s namesake). But because Evan was underage, Greg instilled some boundaries.
“You just create a controlled environment, and then you just let them follow their passion,” Greg says. “We had rules, so he got to brew and I got to taste. It’s just about getting out of his way and letting him be creative.”
Evan wasn’t allowed to drink his own beer, but that didn’t prevent him from winning medals at homebrewing competitions such as the local Bloatarian Brewing League’s Beer & Sweat keg-only homebrew competition.
When Evan finally was of age, he got a job brewing at Newport’s Hofbräuhaus, which taught him how to be consistent with flavoring. And in August of 2013, the family started brainstorming about opening their own brewery.
Jake spent a month writing a business plan and thinking of how to create a brewery that stood out, he says, which manifested in the self-proclaimed “taproom of the future.” The taproom, the epicenter of the brewery, houses two leather couches, tables with charging stations for laptops, TVs displaying social media interactions, Golden Tee and Power Putt consoles, and Cincinnati Bell-partnered gigabit Internet. (Braxton is the first craft brewery in the nation to have gigabit Internet.)
The 20-seat bar area features 20 tap handles of Braxton beers like Sparky, a hoppy wheat ale; Crank Shaft, an IPA; and Storm, a golden cream ale. Behind the bar looms a family-centric mural, created by local design company Neltner Small Batch. (Neltner also created the mural in Over-the-Rhine beerporium Halfcut.)
“If you think about historic England and Germany ... the brewery used to be the communal meeting space — legislation was signed there, it was the place where everybody met to discuss topics,” Jake says. “We’re trying to bring that back.”
Braxton is the first Covington brewery since Brew Works shuttered in 1998, and the Rouses are excited to embed themselves in the community. Currently, their beers will only be available on draft in their taproom and at Covington businesses, but they plan to expand.
“My biggest goal is that people come in here, are really blown away by the space, try the beer and ultimately begin to realize that Covington is coming back,” Jake says.
The brewery’s maxim is “Lift one to life,” and for Evan that means something special. “It’s about truly enjoying the people in the space for what they are and just celebrating the victories,” he says.
Braxton Brewing Company
Go: 27 W. Seventh St., Covington, Ky.;
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; noon-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.