Fort Worth’s newest craft brewery, Wild Acre, has big plans.
The craft beer movement means different things to different people. For the public, it widens the availability of complex, specialty brews that challenge assumptions about beer’s taste and character. For beer-lovers, it has resulted in a golden age of small breweries, each with their own unique approach, history and offerings. For brewers themselves, what in previous years would be relegated to a passion project can now become a livelihood. Mainstays like Houston’s Saint Arnold Brewing Co. have charted the course, and the breweries that follow continue to break new ground.
Wild Acre Brewing Co. represents a new vanguard among craft brewers. Headquartered near downtown Fort Worth in the historic Ranch Style Beans facility, Wild Acre Brewing Co. emerged from the inspiration of founder John Pritchett. A veteran of beverage distribution, Pritchett has brought to bear an extensive skill-set and attention to detail that beer-lovers everywhere can soon appreciate.
“I was with Ben E. Keith for 18 years, which distributes Budweiser in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” says Pritchett. “They began to acquire distributorships that sold a lot of different craft beers. I saw their growth and became a fan of the products themselves.”
Visits to breweries in Colorado and California inspired John to start a similar venture in Fort Worth. His background gave him an insider’s acumen in regards to distribution; but first he had to create a stellar product. Behind every great brewery is a master brewer, and Pritchett found Wild Acre’s in the figure of Mike Kraft. With 20 years of experience in the industry, Kraft brings a level of expertise not typically found in independent breweries. With his brewmaster in place, Pritchett was ready to get to work.
“Under Mike’s direction, we bought a pilot brewing system in May of 2015,” says Pritchett. “We started in his garage and then moved into our facility once we got the lease. We’ve worked on refining the recipes ever since.”
Rather than rely on the preferences of one individual, Pritchett and Kraft worked collaboratively with Wild Acre’s director of sales, John Healy, to decide which beers to create for the market. For its launch, Wild Acre plans to have four beers available in cans and on draft.
The Moonlight Shine, a wheat ale, is perfect for a summer afternoon, with notes of vanilla and orange zest. The well-balanced Billy Jenkins Session Bock encourages drinkability, and warms the palate with toffee undertones. Drinkers who want a truly original flavor can try the Tarantula Hawk, a red IPA with flavors of grapefruit and pine. Stout lovers can get their fix with Soul Pleasure, which benefits from the complexity of seven different premium malts.
“We should begin our first batches for commercial sale in early May, and plan to sell in June,” says Pritchett. “We’re 98 percent through with construction, and are just tying up the last loose ends.”
As for what differentiates Wild Acre from other craft breweries, Pritchett cites exceptional quality control, attention to detail and a willingness to invest.
“We are putting a lot of quality into the product from the get-go,” says Pritchett. “To make a good, consistent beer, you need world-class equipment. We stretched ourselves financially to buy great equipment with the best technology.”
A lot of Wild Acre’s investment has gone into its laboratory. Pritchett and his team have the know-how and means to assess the quality of their product on a level normally only seen in large breweries.
“The things that big breweries do to ensure that products remain exceptional and consistent, we’ll be doing that from the start,” says Pritchett. “We’ve also put a lot of work into the facility, in order to give our guests a brand experience.”
The Wild Acre experience will include a dedicated taproom open to the public, along with a beer garden where visitors can come and enjoy the verdant property just a mile from downtown.
“It’s a 20-acre property, and the whole multi-tenant fence-line was formerly the manufacturing facility for Ranch Style Beans,” says Pritchett. “For many years, as you were driving into Fort Worth, you’d see this big black tower that said ‘Ranch Style.’”
Though the tower no longer exists, the old facility will soon become linked with another iconic, Texas-based company. Wild Acre, a label that denotes excellence, will represent the finest that Fort Worth brewing has to offer.