Braxton Brewing’s Co-Founder on the Kentucky Craft Brewery’s Big 2019 & Fast Pivots Amid a Pandemic

May. 29, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Braxton Brewing Company finished 2019 as one of the fastest-rising craft breweries in the nation. The Covington, Kentucky-based craft brewery grew its volumes by 96%, to 23,500 barrels, elevating the company to regional brewery status -- those producing between 15,000 and 6 million barrels. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on the company’s 2020 plans. “There’s no doubt that COVID is having a massive effect on where the business is headed and frankly what we’re doing now,” co-founder and CEO Jake Rouse told Brewbound. “Overall, sales are down roughly 68%. We’re fortunate enough that we can still sell product, but I joke a lot internally that if this would have happened just four weeks after, and all of the store resets would have happened in the spring, it would have been a really different story for us. But timing is everything in life.” Those resets have not yet materialized. Even so, Rouse has remained optimistic, feeling that the future of Braxton is secure, having secured Paycheck Protection Program funding, as well as an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to rebuild this thing, but it’s really hard to look at the Brewers Association production survey and see the foundation that we laid for what was going to be our year and know that we’re going to do what we can to salvage what we can but it’s not gonna look anything like what we worked so hard for. That’s the toughest part.” In an effort to capture back some of that momentum, Braxton has embraced e-commerce sales, started a curbside pickup program, and lowered the price of its Vive Hard Seltzer brand by $1. And, as consumers have gravitated to larger pack sizes as they’ve stocked their pantries and fridges, 15-packs of Braxton’s Garage Beer lager, which retail for $15.99, have become a hot commodity. “Since the COVID shutdown, that brand is the No. 1 growth SKU in all of Cincinnati,” Rouse said. “We’re pretty excited about that and trying to champion that with as many retailers as possible.” In the video interview above, Rouse shares how working with a developer on e-commerce sales has led to steady beer-to-go business for Braxton, selling out twice-weekly releases within 11 minutes each time. He also discusses the pivots made with the Vive brand, which was built into a 50,000 case brand in six months on professional sporting events, in-store sampling and advertising, which the novel coronavirus has shut down.