By JACK WEATHERLY
Steve Grantham Jr. has brewed up a plan to put a private-label beer in Outback Steakhouses, starting with the nine he owns and shooting for many more restaurants and other establishments.
Meanwhile, Lucas Simmons has been producing for two years at his Lucky Town Brewing Co.
Now the two Jacksonians’ paths are converging.
The result will be a new beer, Weevie Road.
And how far that will take them, they don’t know, but a map is being drawn.
It may lead to all 800 Outbacks, and 68 World of Beer craft beer taverns, not to mention other retail outlets.
The deal comes at a good time for Lucky Town, which is running at about 35 percent capacity, Simmons said.
The agreement is for a fermenting tank to be set aside for Grantham’s brand. If sales take off, Grantham would need to pay for an expansion, Simmons said.
Simmons says the brewery in the converted Greyhound Bus maintenance shop built in 1947 at 1710 N. Mill St., was designed for expansion.
Now the Lucky Town brews are sold only in cans. But Simmons said he is going to start offering them in other packaging.
Weevie Road “is a completely separate beer,” Simmons said.
With the big plans for the new beer, is Simmons excited?
“I’m going to make the best beer I possibly can for them. And if they get after it, they’ll sell the heck out of it,” said Simmons, who holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Mississippi State University and a master’s degree in industrial engineering.
“He’s got that marketing side to him. We’re a little more laid-back.”
The next step is for labeling with the logo and very specific language to be approved by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
A February launch of the new brand is realistic, Simmons said.
Steve Grantham has one tap at his Outbacks that he could fill at his discretion.
Why not a new brand?
He got together with Simmons and the result will be Weevie Road, whose motto is “All of Life’s Roads Aren’t Straight.”
The badge on the logo is an eagle with Stars-and-Stripes wings and the slogan “Honor and Loyalty.”
Grantham’s J&R Restaurant Group has a strong commitment to the military, providing free cookouts for the Mississippi National Guard.
Its bright-yellow Ford F-650 truck with big American flags flying is a “rolling advertisement for the military,” Grantham says.
The oversized pickup with enclosure makes a visual statement wherever it goes, including the Country Music Association awards show in Nashville, where he made a dry run last year.
Grantham will be back there Nov. 2, handing out 150 “bling bag takeaways” he has come up with.
The forest-camou bags can be slung over the shoulder and carried to a concert, or into the woods. It has room for beer, with a coolant to keep it it cold, a Bluetooth speaker and earpiece for music, oh, and a handy ammo belt for shotgun shells.
Grantham admits to “cause marketing,” but he professes a sincerity that goes beyond making a buck. One way or another, “we give away $200,000 a year,” he said.
Among his 800 employees in his Outbacks, are many millennials, most of whom are on their own at a tender age.
World of Beer taverns carry 550 brands of beer. Grantham got the ear of the chief executive of the company on a wolf-hunting trip in Montana.
Grantham brought two Lucky Town brews – Ballistic Blonde Ale and Pub Ale.
The CEO and another World of Beers exec tasted them and said, “Hey, this is pretty good,” Grantham said.
“These are the beer guys. They’ve been all over the world. I said – what if I told you I’m developing something similar – would you put it in your stores? They said, “‘absolutely.’”
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