Crane made its name with a Berliner Weisse brewed with beets and since then they serve a number of different lacto-fermented sours, either Berliner Weisse or Gose showcasing various fruits. I came for the sours and would suggest that you do too, provided you can stomach the intense tartness that comes from a lot of lacto-sour character. Though they appear to be a far distance from downtown Kansas City on a map, it isn’t that much of a drive and they are near most of the big BBQ spots.
I started my tasting flight with the farmhouse IPA. It was bitter and resinous with notes of grapefruit and a light-malt base. The trailsmith farmhouse ale had strong ester and alcohol notes with flavors resembling dry white-wine. I didn’t care for this one myself. The azaca session farmhouse was crisp and dry with strong herbal hop notes and a bitter finish. I don’t care for azaca much and on its own the herbal notes were too much for me. Both the azaca session and farmhouse IPA were on the bitter side, a bit more than I am used to these days.
The apricot weiss had intense lacto-tartness with some prominent apricot notes that balanced it out. The orange gose was tart and puckering with notes of lemon, bitter orange-peel and reminded me of a lemon-drop candy. I didn’t care for this one as much. The kumquat weiss was the most tart of the bunch with tons of citrus character. The tea weiss had fruity notes resembling berries from the tea and a nice balance of tartness. I left with crowlers of the tea weiss, kumquat weiss, and apricot weiss. Though I enjoyed them on a flight I have a hard time drinking more than a pint of either of them with the intense acidity they present.
Crane is the only brewery in my visit that had any sours besides a couple at Boulevard. Though I generally prefer barrel-aged sours, there is something about the intense lacto-tartness in their beers that I enjoy.
I won’t be too harsh in my review of Cinder Block because I heard they tend to have some delicious sours or barrel aged beers and when I visited they only had a few of their core beers available. The pale ale was balanced and lightly bitter with notes of citrus and pine. The porter was smooth and roasty with a bitter chocolate finish. The IPA was soft and mildly bitter with notes of tropical fruit and lychee. The three beers I tasted were all done well but didn’t blow me away. Because I only had a few tasters, I ended up nearby at Calibration next.
I almost skipped calibration but I would not recommend you skip it. I was impressed by the various beers I had when I visited. The IPA had a nice caramel malt base with a mild bitterness and notes of citrus and floral hops. The black IPA was roasty and bitter with hops more for bitterness than aroma. I enjoyed how it didn’t try to showcase aroma because it works nicely with the style.
The bartleywine was delicious with no bitterness and flavors of caramel, toffee, and light cherry. The beer hid its alcohol really nicely and had a solid sweetness. The coconut brown was smooth with notes of caramel and mild coconut. The flavors were all quite subtle. The coffee porter was a delicious mix of notes of marshmallow and caramel and light coffee on the finish. There is something about the quality of the malt character in all the beers I tried at calibration that was very impressive and made it stick out. Sadly they didn’t have bottles of the barleywine for me to bring home.