When Crane Brewing Co. started producing beer just over a year ago in the heart of Raytown, fans would call asking about its taproom.
But the owners had put all their funds into building the brewery — nearly $1 million — and while a taproom was a goal, their immediate need was to build sales throughout the metro and in Lawrence.
“They said, ‘How can you be a brewery without a taproom?’ ” said partner Chris Meyers.
So Crane set up a makeshift taproom in a corner of the brewery where customers could have a beer after a tour. The brewery’s namesake and partner, Michael Crane, built a tiny bar and put in bright orange and green 1960s-era chairs that were once in his parents’ house in Jackson, Tenn. The tables came from Craigslist.
It’s still there. But customers are much more likely to be hanging out in Crane’s new taproom, which opened in late November.
Friends of the five brewery managing partners contributed to the decor. The 26-foot bar top is from a friend’s backyard honey locust tree, and three high-top bar tables are made from his maple tree. The beer menu boards were hand-painted by another friend, a nurse who does artwork on the side. Raytown’s Porter Furniture used reclaimed wood from a 110-year-old barn near Buckner for the table tops.
Logos from Crane’s beers are framed along one wall — a rooster for the Beet Weiss, a flower from an apricot tree for the Apricot Weiss — and beer flight paddles are from old beer barrel staves used in the partners’ home breweries, dubbed Crane’s Pilot Brewery.
The new taproom, at 6515 Railroad St., seats about 50 people. Garage doors will open up in front during warmer weather.
They had planned to serve only Crane’s beers in a dozen taps, but they put in a dozen more so they can soon offer local, national and international craft beers. They also have wine, cider, local spirits and kombucha, plus nitro cold-brew coffee from Raytown’s Benetti’s Coffee, as well as bottles and crowlers (32-ounce cans) to-go.
Tuesday night is trivia night, Wednesday is “locals” night with a dollar off Crane beers. Greg-Co BBQ food truck is on-site Tuesday through Saturday, calling Crane its winter home. Menu items include pulled pork, brisket, barbecue nachos, smoked beans and daily specials.
“We are excited to have a location to introduce more people in the metro to Raytown,” Meyers said. “It is definitely worth a visit.”
Crane Brewing is a 15-barrel production brewery specializing in farmhouse, sour and wild fermented beers. Its beers are now distributed in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
But it all started with a $15 home brewing kit.
Michael Crane wasn’t much of a beer drinker, saying he has a low alcohol tolerance. But while he was out shopping for the holidays with his wife in 2009, they found a Mr. Beer Home Brew Kit at Target. Their two sons would be home from college for winter break and it would make for a fun family activity.
But when the sons went back to school, Crane bought more and bigger brewery equipment, saying he quickly became obsessed with the process and how creative it was. He soon joined a home brewers group and began entering contests.
“That’s when I went crazy. That’s when I started getting up every morning at 5 a.m. checking on yeast starters, every Saturday brewing,” Crane said. “By the end of 2010 I was brewing 15 gallons a week, and the government only wants you to home-brew up to 200 gallons a year, per adult.”
Crane had started brewing with home brew club member Randy Strange, who was pushing him to open a brewery.
Meanwhile, home brewers Meyers and Aaron Bryant were close to signing a lease for a Lee’s Summit brewery and had brought on Steve Hood, formerly with Boulevard Brewing Co., as the head brewer. Then Meyers read about Michael Crane’s award-winning beers in a Kansas City Star story.
“They were in the styles we like to make, so we originally were talking about buying some of his recipes,” Meyers said.
But Crane also was phasing out his woodworking company, saying too much business was moving to China. When the home brewers teamed up, he converted his 18,000-square-foot Raytown building into Crane Brewing.
Crane’s certified public accountant, Jason Louk, also became a partner. Hood, who created some of Crane’s recipes and still has equity in the brewery, recently relocated to California.
Meyers manages the business side, while Bryant is in charge of operations. Strange is head brewer.
“It’s a lot of work and I don’t want to be lifting 50-pound sacks every day. The actual brewing is definitely a young man’s occupation,” Crane said. “I get to do more of the fun stuff, the sampling, the best job in the world.”
Taproom hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2 to 10 p.m. Friday, and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. It is closed Sunday and Monday. 6515 Railroad St. cranebrewing.com