Jason Roeper, 33
CEO and brewmaster, The Rivertown Brewing Company
Why We Love Him: He has a passion for making great beer, and we have a passion for drinking great beer.
As Rivertown Brewing Company CEO and brewmaster, Jason Roeper spends most of his time on the road in the company’s four main sales territories: Northern Ohio, Michigan, Chicago and Tennessee (where the brewery just signed on with the Publix grocery chain).
But home is where his heart is. “You go to all these different cities and you meet all these different people and it’s a great time, great experience, but I can’t wait to see the lights of Cincinnati when I come down 75 or 71,” he says.
Roeper and his business partner Randy Schlitz opened the Rivertown Brewing Company’s Lockland brewery in 2009 and their taproom in 2012, but Roeper has been exposed to the art of brewing since long before then.
“My uncle has been part of a local [home brewing] club called the Bloatarians since the late ’80s,” he says. “So I kind of grew up around it a little bit. … I just thought it was the coolest thing. Like, ‘You have to show me how to do this.’ So when I graduated and moved back up here, that was the first thing I did — knocked on his door and said, ‘Show me how to do this.’ ” And in the late ‘90s, Roeper began his own home brewing experiments.
“I used to enter into competitions because I live in Amelia,” he says.
“In Amelia if you take a beer to your neighbor and say, ‘Hey, tell me what you think of this beer,’ they’re going to say, ‘Oh yeah dude, that’s awesome.’ Then I’ll say, ‘Yeah, but what did you really think?’ and they’ll say, ‘I don’t care, just give me another one.’ ”
So Roeper entered the Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest in 2007, dropped some beers off at the Liberty Street brewery and thought nothing more of it. Then he got a call saying he had won the competition.
He was flown to the Great American Beer Festival in Boston, met Samuel Adams owner Jim Koch and other craft brewers, and that’s when brewing beer seemed like a possible career move.
“It just kind of seemed feasible after talking to these guys that, ‘Hey, I could take this dream and this passion and turn it into something and actually make money out of it,’ ” he says.
How do you define passion? What are you most passionate about?
I used to be that guy that worked day-to-day and hated to get out of bed. And now I’m up before my alarm goes off. I think that’s an example of passion. …The thing I am most passionate about is the sour stuff that we do. We’re only one of a handful of breweries in the United States that do it, and then there’s only a few that do them right. They ranked the top 50 in the United States last year and Rivertown was No. 7. It’s all about the art that goes into the final beer.
If you had to pick several characteristics about yourself that you love, what would they be and why?
I love being a father because I have two kids, and my wife is pregnant now, so our third is on the way. I love myself, my life. And, I tell you what, I love where I’m at in life.
What do you love about Cincinnati?
I love some of the older communities. One of my good friends owns Arthur’s in Hyde Park. I went into the place and I was talking with the guy and, you know, my grandparents ate there, my mom ate there, my dad ate there, my dad’s dad ate there and now they’re supporting our brewery. It’s generations on generations.
Name someone you love: role model, best friend, inspiration, etc.
Jim Koch. This guy is worth billions of dollars and one of the top three craft breweries in the United States. But yet the same guy will go to the restroom with you and remember your name from two years earlier. I’ll talk to him and be like, ‘Hey, I know you don’t remember me, but…’ and he’ll say, ‘Yeah, how are things going on Shepherd?’ He just remembers everything.
What phrase or motto do you live your life by?
“Good people. Good food. Good brews.”