Fruited sours are worth seeking year-round, but there’s something about seeing actual blossoms on fruit trees that creates a Pavlovian signal to reach for fruit beers in springtime. Since its beers first rolled out in December 2015, Crane Brewing has offered a handful of sweet-tart sippers that should intrigue fans of fruited sours from Side Project, Crooked Stave, Wicked Weed and Almanac. This will be the brewery’s first summer on shelves and taps, offering another chance to provide the liquid soundtrack to your warm-weather months.
Based in the Kansas City, Missouri suburb of Raytown, Crane was that burg’s first brewery; its distribution lands throughout the K.C. metro area, St. Louis and into Springfield and southern Missouri. The brewery pulls together a group of former homebrewers and professional brewers, including Boulevard vet Steve Hood. A few members of the team have backgrounds in science (one in biology, one in chemical engineering, one in geology), so perhaps it’s natural that their beers focus on souring bacteria and yeast strains, some of which are harvested in-house. Co-founder Chris Meyers describes the beers loosely as farmhouse ales; the lineup includes a saison and a farmhouse IPA in addition to seasonal fruited goses and Berliner weisses. They produce those latter two styles with actual fruit, which they soon hope to source closer to home.
The distinctive origami logo is the work of two Kansas City-area designers, Tony Quinn and Shannon Maltbie-Davis. Meyers says origami has parallels to brewing: “Origami deals with a lot of sharp edges and creases and detail-oriented work that also goes into brewing. Origami was also traditionally used as an icebreaker; people would meet and teach each other different ways of folding. Obviously beer is a great icebreaker.”
Below are a few of Crane’s beers to try this spring, with an eye toward the Beet Weisse (a Berliner weisse brewed with red beets) that will return this fall. Wait, a Beet Weisse? “Not everyone likes beets,” says Meyers, “But when they’re fermented out, the beer’s tartness cuts through the earthiness of the beet. And beets have so much sugar that they almost add a bit of deep berry sweetness to the beer. Plus it adds a gorgeous magenta color.”
Crane Grapefruit Gose: This pleasantly earthy-citric beer offers up a big nose of not-yet-ripe grapefruit skin and some wet grassy aromas ringed by white winelike minerality. Big grapefruit tartness opens the sip, but an onslaught of zippy carbonation glides in quickly to whisk away the acidity, leaving light salinity and citrus flesh on the tongue after the swallow.
Crane Orange Gose: This version of the gose opens with a more markedly salty nose, almost like a minerally sea breeze mingling with orange zest. Citrus and lactobacillus tag-team to create sharply tart initial orange and lemon flavors, but sweeter tangerine juice provides a counterpoint and needed sweetness a beat later. The swallow is super clean, leaving only crisp saltiness and lemon on the palate.
Farmhouse IPA: A botanical, sagelike aroma bounces off honey and crackery malts, with a tickling, peppery nose reminiscent of a saison. Those same sweet malt flavors help support pearlike sweetness and juicy orange hops before herbal hop bitterness concludes the swallow. A bit more carbonation would help this beer sing.
Crane Apricot Berliner Weisse (this will transition to a kumquat Berliner Weisse for summer): Funky wheat underscores peach, apricot and lemon custard scents; on the tongue, straight-forward lactic lemon notes receive just a dab of apricot cushion. Drink this on a warm evening with a rich, berry dessert.
DRINK AT THE SOURCE: Watch for Crane’s taproom to debut inside the 17,000 square-foot brewery in a few months.