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A New CEO Is on Tap at Rhinegeist

The region's largest craft brewery heads into 2024 with a new leader and a new product focus.

by Elizabeth Miller Wood

Adam Bankovich has loved craft beer since the movement’s infancy. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, he cut his teeth in the industry as the manager of UC’s on-campus pub, which led to a craft beer distributor role at Cavalier Distributing and then a lead sales position with San Diego-based Stone Brewing. Craft beer was exploding all the while, he says, “and I was an avid consumer.”

Having lived in Cincinnati since college, Bankovich had long been familiar with the Rhinegeist brand when he was approached for the role of Chief Commercial Officer in October 2022. His deep respect for cofounders Bob Bonder and Bryant Goulding, who remain active on Rhinegeist’s board, made it a difficult offer to refuse. “Having the opportunity to help them evolve into the next phase of growth as a company was really exciting for me,” Bankovich says.

Six months into his role, he was tapped again for interim CEO. Over the course of a nationwide search with more than 250 applicants for the permanent position, Bankovich’s track record spoke loudest. He assumed the role of permanent CEO in October 2023.

For him, Rhinegeist’s allure has always been the total package—not just the quality of the products but “the people, their grit, their determination, their abilities,” he says. It’s the three private event spaces, the comprehensive marketing, the 125,000-square-foot pre-Prohibition taproom experience, and even the company’s private trucking division, Freight Geist. “It’s incredible how everything is done in-house,” he says.

While some new CEOs arrive from the outside like bulldozers, Bankovich’s leadership style has been more like a scaffold: respecting and upholding the integrity of the company’s culture. He’s quick to listen, slow to voice opinions, and assumes the best of his team’s intent. Even conflict, he says, can be framed as “healthy tension” when everyone’s pulling in the same direction. It’s a posture he models from the top.

In an increasingly saturated market—there were 3,500 craft breweries in the U.S. when Rhinegeist opened in 2013, now there are nearly 10,000—Bankovich’s challenge will be to maintain Rhinegeist’s momentum without spreading too thin. “The craft beer consumer is promiscuous and always looking for what’s new and what’s next,” he says. “It’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of innovate, innovate, innovate.” The art is knowing when to say no and when to double down.

With that mantra in mind, Rhinegeist plans to scale back its family of RG Bevs, a flavored malt beverage originally intended to compete in the beer cooler market, and recommit to the Bubbles hard seltzer line with new flavors. The company will continue to push Cincy Light, which launched in June, as well as Juicy Truth, an extension of the brewery’s flagship Truth beer. The Hop Box will also be getting attention, with new exclusive hop-forward beers being added to the revolving variety pack.

As for Bankovich’s favorite Rhinegeist beverage, his answer is expectedly coy: “The beer that fits whatever I’m doing.” It may be diplomatic, but like the rest of the brand it’s rooted in Truth.