Grant Wood of Blood and Honey Fame on His New Gig and Swinging for the Fences

The former Revolver brewer has come out of retirement.
The former Revolver brewer has come out of retirement. Courtesy of Grant Wood
Grant Wood's brewing portfolio spans many decades and miles. After graduating from Texas A&M, he started his brewing career at Pearl Brewing Company in San Antonio, then moved across town to Lone Star before heading east to Samuel Adams in Boston.

He returned to Texas in 2012 and joined the local craft beer surge at Revolver Brewing, makers of Blood and Honey. That one beer — with a touch of citrus and warm spices with specks of sediment floating at the bottom — along with a few other local beers helped convert legions of local craft beer drinkers.

Wood retired in 2020, but was recently lured into a new gig at Wild Acre Brewing in Fort Worth, which was bought by Joel Malone of Bishop Cider Company in May of this year. His new assignment is to elevate Wild Acre's beers.

But the world of craft beer differs a bit from the last time Wood was part of it. In just two years, the industry has taken some thumps from COVID and the rise in popularity of seltzers. According to Information Resources Inc., craft beer sales were down 4.6% in 2021 over the previous year.

Below we chat about his ideas for Wild Acre, where the industry is going and his reflections on his pride and joy.

What brought you out of retirement?
It was a little bit of boredom. I quit working back at the end of 2020 and left Revolver and did some retiree kind of things, a little traveling and home projects.

I’d known Joel (Malone) at Bishop Cider. I met him years ago and he called me up and said, 'Hey, would you be interested in sort of coming off the bench?' He’d purchased Wild Acre and the assets at Legal Draft and had some big plans to take his business to the next level by expanding the cider business and revamping Wild Acre and going after some co-packing stuff.

What will your role be at Wild Acre?
My primary focus with Joel is to work with Wild Acre. He doesn't know that much about making beer. The goal is to look at Wild Acre, what they have done well, where they need help, and what opportunities are there to revamp.

What could a revamp look like?
To compete in today’s market you have to a variety of products. You have to appeal to as many folks as you can. The fun and exciting part is to take a look at Wild Acre: the beer is good, there’s nothing intrinsically problematic with the beer, but they haven’t seemed to catch on. They haven’t found their niche yet. So the challenge is to take a brand where there aren’t any real negatives and try to find a way to make it more successful.

How do you boost a lagging brand?
In my opinion, we streamline some things and optimize some recipes and make the beers the best they can be and probably also change some exteriors and revise the branding a little bit. Update it. And let’s swing for the fence, let’s try something different.

What’s different in the craft beer industry this time around?
This is my third craft beer cycle. [Laughs] I started brewing in 1985. I was at Pearl out of Texas A&M and started my career there while it was a brewery not a hotel. I moved across town to Lone Star, was there for six years and then in 1995 moved to Boston and went to work for Sam Adams. It was catching — it was that first wave and craft was on fire. Sam [Adams] had just gone completely national so it was the rise of the nation’s crafts.

Then we hit a trough in 2003 and everything kind of flattened out and there was a lot of head-scratching. Then a couple of years after that, things picked up again, great growth through the mid-2000s. It started hitting some challenges nationally, but then the regional thing finally made it to Texas, and that’s when I made the move to Texas in 2012 to start Revolver and we hit that almost perfectly.

We caught that wave, brought out Blood and Honey and got great positioning in the greater DFW area. We were in a group with those first six craft breweries here. Everyone got their spot on the wall.

Then COVID hit …
And then, sort of coming into COVID, we hit a wall again, craft beer hit a wall. It wasn’t just COVID; it was seltzer, there were all kinds of things, market pressures that stood in the way of local and craft and we’re probably just coming out of a trough.

We’re at a low point right now for craft. I think they’re again trying to find the right formula to reach the consumer. It’s probably going be another two or three more years before craft gets going again but I do think we will.

Somebody will figure out the combination or the formula to reach the consumer to say ‘Hey, beer is cool and you have some people right here in your neighborhood who are making great, drinkable, flavorful beers that have a story right here in your neighborhood.’ I think that’s gonna come. I think we're in the sleeping period. Craft is sort of in hibernation right now. I think as things do, they cycle back. People are going to start discovering it in the next year or two … they’ll discover local craft and those breweries that found their way, found a product, or found their message and held on through those years are going to be stronger for it.

Do you have a timeline on your rollouts for Wild Acre beer?
No, net yet. I’m working with James Edford at Wild Acre. Even though my old boss Jim Koch used to like to say “Ready, fire, aim,” I’d like to aim a little more.

Finally, do you consider Blood and Honey your pride and joy?
Yes, yeah I do. That was a … what’s the right word? [Long pause.] Yes, it is my pride and joy. It’s probably my most successful brewing achievement. I think it’s rare for folks to get almost everything right when you introduce a new product, and when we rolled with Blood and Honey the timing was perfect, the beer was good and the messaging was correct and the branding was good. I can absolutely take pride in the beer that we made but I'm also proud of the work that the entire company did at Revolver at getting that beer in front of people.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.