Biking and brews have been a perfect match since cyclists started navigating the state of Iowa some 50 years ago in the annual RAGBRAI event.
Here in Jackson County, the trek is a little shorter, but with the extension of the Rock Island Trail stretching to the Sports Complex - and directly past Crane Brewing - the owners and beer enthusiasts are taking full advantage.
Michael Crane and Christopher Meyers cut their barley-soaked teeth on the home-brew circuit before opening Crane Brewing. Members of the Kansas City Bier Meisters brew club, the duo met in 2013 and spent time doing charity events as home brewers before officially brewing their first batch in September of 2015.
Meyers said they chose Raytown since Michael Crane knew the location well (it was a business of his that had gone under). And the rest is a bubbly history. What began as a distribution brewery without a taproom grew to one with a small bottling line, then canning line and eventually a hopping joint in Raytown with a full tap rotation and Harp Barbecue on site.
Crane is known for its sours and wild fermented ales. Maybe, Meyers noted, a little too well known for them.“People say, ‘Crane Brewing, oh that’s the sour brewery,’” Christopher noted, saying they worked to broaden their selection over the last few years, especially with the arrival of the Rock Island Trail. “A good thing that came from the pandemic was more styles and lagers.”
And while they are changing with the scenery and palates of traditional and craft beer drinkers alike, their best-seller is one of the originals, the Tea Weiss - a “spritzy, sour wheat beer.” Along with broader selections, Crane is known for its unique brew monikers, like Odd Bird (a lager) and Thundergong, an American Pale.
“With the trail comes access to a lot of new faces and a lot of new visitors, and not all of them are into craft beers,” Meyers said. “Odd Bird or Thundergong are good gateway beers for those new to craft beer.” True to form, Crane Brewing also recently added Rock Island Coffee inside the brewery, which caters to the earlier biking crowd.
“It’s definitely seasonal, but we love having this Rock Island Trail extension here,” he said. “The bikers know when they can get out and use the nice weather to their advantage. We’ve never had walking or driving traffic down that road so now we have trail traffic.”
And those cyclists have embraced the brewery on the route. When Crane Brewing introduced 'beer slushies' to their rotation, a biking group soon followed named, of course, ‘Team Slushie.’
“On a nice evening you look out from the taproom and you see bikers flying by. It’s very cool.”
As a Lee’s Summit native himself - Christopher graduated Lee’s Summit West in 2008 - he said he loves seeing how the trail connects the communities. “I would not hate it at all if KC became a mega trail city,” he noted.
Best seller? Tea Weiss
Most outrageous beer? Beet Weiss (yes, beets).
Best current beer name? Trees Are 90% Air (an Arnold-Palmer-inspired sour)
Barrels produced a year? 2,000
Can’t miss event? “My Sharona” 80s block party at the taproom this summer for the 1-year anniversary of the trail opening.
CEO: Jason Louk
Head Brewer: Bryan Stewart
Crane Brewing is located at 6515 Railroad Street in Raytown. www.cranebrewing.com