He’s the man responsible for the nice image on your can, the poster on your wall, and the t-shirt on your back. He’s also the guy who will be at the taproom at 6am setting up for an event, and the same guy that will be there until 1am tearing it down. He’s Walt Keys, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Land-Grant Brewing Company… and he’s this month’s Person Behind the Pint!
Name: Walt Keys
Position: Co-Founder / Creative Director
You’re one of the Co-Founders of Land-Grant… how long has LG been a part of your life?:
Land-Grant really started for me in 2010. My college roommate and Best Man at my wedding, Adam Benner, started home-brewing in the basement of his apartment in Chicago and looped me in to design labels for his new brews. I was working at a design agency in Cincinnati at the time, and so his hobby of brewing beer on the weekends became my hobby of designing brands and labels after work. In 2012, we decided to really make a run at opening a commercial brewery, and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to get the idea off the runway.
What is it you do here day-to-day?
I’m the Creative Director here at Land-Grant, which essentially means I’m in charge of creating and executing everything visual that we need to move beer. Here’s an incomplete list of the things I design from week to week: beer labels, trading cards, posters, event brands, ads, social graphics, photography, video, website updates, menus, taproom materials, tap handles, and sales materials. We did 35 different beers in package last year, and we’re already at 32 this year, so I stay pretty busy.
On September 29, you’re celebrating Four Years of Beers. Congrats! As LG graduates from a small, young business to a more mature operation with over 40 employees, what advice would you give to other creatives and/or entrepreneurs that may need a push?
Just keep at it, and don’t be stubborn. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a strong plan and a fully formed idea, but you should definitely remain flexible and open-minded. That–and, be prepared to put in A LOT of hours.
You’ve been working towards your vision of LG for over 8 years. That must come with some high highs and low lows. Looking back, what were some of those defining moments?
I’ll start with the low-point, which was when we lost our original Grandview building in October 2013. We’d been working so hard on this concept… we’d quit our jobs, relocated and it was starting to finally come together, when suddenly the rug was pulled out from under us. We had to essentially start back at zero. But to the team’s credit, we stuck together, held steady, and were able to land on our feet in Franklinton (albeit a full year later than we expected).
Highlights are a lot more fun to look back on, and there have been a lot! Every time we throw a big event like the Anniversary Parties, Backyard Barbecue, or Strawberry Jam, I’m still overwhelmed when people show up to this thing we made. We’ve been fortunate enough to celebrate a lot of cool milestones: Opening Day, canning beer for the first time (what a mess that was), and being able to enjoy a Land-Grant beer at Ohio Stadium. But, I think the most amazing thing about Land-Grant is the incredible family of people we’ve been able to assemble. It’s obviously apparent in happy times like when one of our people welcomes a new baby or ties the knot, but it was especially humbling to see the team rally around one another when tragedy struck and we lost one of our friends and brothers. It’s something I think about every day.
What is your favorite day of the week at the brewery?
Friday. There’s a palpable buzz in the building; the doors open earlier for Ray Ray’s and the room starts to fill up around noon. If it’s a Friday before a big event, everyone will be running around working on this or that–there’s a lot of excitement, and generally folks from the neighborhood, old friends, and family start to drop in around happy hour, making it tempting to pop out an hour early to have a beer in the Beer Garden.
Want to catch up on our previous ‘People behind the Pint’ entries? You can do just that right here.