Kansas City’s best-known home brewer is making the leap. Michael Crane is at the head of a new group that intends to open the Crane Brewing Company in Raytown in 2015.
“We’re going to focus on farmhouse ales, sours and saisons,” Crane says. “We’ll do all those beers with different fruits and wine grapes.”
If he was looking for validation of the concept, Parkville’s Microbrew Festival provided it at the end of April. The team from Crane Brewing tapped out in just under two hours, pouring 50 gallons of their beer.
“I was overwhelmed with the response,” Crane says. “I’ve put so much effort into brewing and experimenting. The response was amazing.”
Crane had been happily engaged in the furniture manufacturing business for the past 20 years, designing custom products for retail stores and closets. But a shift in his business — a large client made the decision to outsource manufacturing to China — and the response to a profile last October in The Kansas City Star about his homebrewing efforts, made him look at his hobby in a new light.
“A couple of years earlier, I was taking a tour of Tallgrass and [founder] Jeff Gill was talking about time when he was trying to find some Citra hops, but none were available,” Crane says. “So, he called John McDonald at Boulevard and John said to come pick up whatever you need. I just thought, ‘what other industry is like that?'”
For the new venture, Crane’s partnership group includes biologist Christopher Myers and brewer Steve Hood, who currently works at the Boulevard Brewing Company.
“I’ll be the namesake of the brewery, but with the help of everyone, we’re going to make this a reality,” Crane says.
The brewery will be located in a Raytown building that Crane owns. He is in talks with Raytown officials to broaden the language for light industrial zoning to allow for a microbrewery to open in the city limits. Crane currently rents out approximately half of the 18,000 square feet to the Kansas City Closet Company (6513 Railroad Street). They’re looking for a new space with a showroom. After they move out, he’ll begin construction on the brewery.
Crane Brewing Company will have a 15-barrel brewhouse with a horizontal line of tanks and 120 wine barrels for aging sours. As a homebrewer Crane hasn’t been afraid to experiment — harvesting his own yeast and fermenting beer solely by adding fresh picked blueberries. He’s worked with Muscat wine grapes, black currants and kumquats. And in beer circles, he’s known for his pink-hued brews made with beets.
“I did a beet Berliner Weisse named Magenta. It was insanely popular. People that don’t like beets like it. People that don’t like beer like it,” Crane says.
That same curiosity will drive the brewery. Crane is currently working on a collaboration with Hugo Tea, adding Tyler Beckett’s True-Jasmine to a saison.
The Crane Brewing Company will be pouring beer at this weekend’s Hopfest and the Westport Beer Festival. When the brewery comes online in 2015, Crane expects their brews to be in 750ml bottles and distributed locally in kegs.
“We’ll just continue to perfect our beers and fine tune our focus,” Crane says.