By Meda Kessler
Photos by Jeremy Enlow
Susan and Grant Wood have a special place for bees in their hearts — and their beer
For Grant and Susan Wood, their love bloomed in Massachusetts while Grant was working as senior brewmaster for Samuel Adams in Boston.
We’re talking about their passion for honeybees and a shared anxiety over the growing problem of colony collapse and other threats to the winged creatures. “We had two hives, but we debated over how to take care of them,” says Susan, who called hers Amazonia; Grant’s hive was named Spartaca. The bees of Amazonia eventually took over Spartaca, but Susan was humble about her victory.
The Woods returned to their home state of Texas in 2012, when Grant helped launch the newly formed Revolver Brewing in Granbury. Since the bees stayed in Massachusetts, the Woods had to start fresh with new bees.
“We went with native swarms,” says Susan, “but we still lost two hives. The first one flew off, and we think they visited a local golf course. They probably ingested some chemicals and soon died. The second hive basically starved to death. We had a really rainy spring and there wasn’t enough nectar to sustain them. It’s heartbreaking to lose them.”
This past May, the couple got a new colony and hive-keeping accessories from Texas Bee Supply near Greenville. They hope that three is their lucky number and are watching the bees carefully, as heat and lack of water can kill them.
The Woods live on acreage near Lake Granbury. They’ve situated the hive at the top of a hill and away from their residence. It’s shaded by trees, and the hive’s entrance faces a field. Susan has seeded the area with grasses and blooming plants to provide food.
When it’s time to show visitors their bees — Susan says they’re livelier in the morning before the heat sets in — the couple slip into their protective gear. These partial suits aren’t as bulky or as hot as the full-body versions; Susan dresses quickly, and she then helps her husband secure his hood to his coat. (Love means never having to worry about getting stung.)
Grant carefully lifts the lid off the hive and, even standing 10 feet away, we can see some of the 10,000 inhabitants. The Woods are calm, and so are we. Susan carefully squeezes a bee smoker, emitting white puffs that calm the bees. And then, just as carefully, they usher them back in the hive. We then talk beer, and Grant breaks out chilled bottles of Blood & Honey, an unfiltered wheat beer that was Revolver’s initial release. He talks about the role local bees played in its origins.
“I got a call from a farmer with one of those you-pick-it fruit places, and he said he had about 5 gallons of honey that he’d give to us. It was beautiful; the color looked like blood oranges. So I came up with a blend of honey, citrus peel and spices.”
When the beer was introduced in 2012 (bottles were first sold in August 2013), it caused quite a buzz. Here’s hoping there will always be local honey for local beer. And we say “Cheers!” to bees and those who protect them.
Learn more about the brewery, new releases and the reopening date at revolverbrewing.com.