Michael Crane takes his homebrews on the festival circuit

Homebrewer Michael Crane doesn’t dislike beer. It’s just, well …

“I’m a lightweight, I guess,” he says. “It doesn’t take much to get me quite buzzed.”

Crane likes to quote his business partner, Christopher Meyers, who gave this analogy: “He’s like the grandmother who will spend all day shopping and cooking to prepare the meal to bring his family together to enjoy each other’s company.”

The kind of grandmother who forgets to eat her own meal. But that’s the perfect description for what he’s doing with Crane Brewing Co.

So he may not drink much of his own stock, but he is causing a buzz. Crane Brewing was the toast of the Parkville Microbrew Fest. That Saturday, a steady line of people waited to taste Magenta (his beet beer), Saison Duchamp (his dry-hopped farmhouse ale) and the eight other varieties he’d brought with him. Within a few hours, his supply was tapped out.

“We gave away every drop of it,” Crane says.

And he gained some new followers. Crane spent a few minutes talking with Blind Tiger brewmaster John Dean, who he says heaped praise on Crane’s saison. Dean’s wife returned to Crane’s tent to say that her husband rarely speaks so enthusiastically of other brewers.

“I’ve just been overwhelmed for the positive response,” Crane says. “I was just nervous about people liking them.”

Not every shock that day was a good one. As the festival wound down and Crane’s team was packing up, the knob on a brand-new carbon-dioxide cylinder broke off. The escaping gas sent the cylinder spinning around before it rocketed into Crane’s arm, shattering it and leaving the bone exposed.

“I was in shock,” Crane says. Someone from the crowd grabbed him and tightened a towel against the wound as he lowered Crane to the ground. “I will be forever grateful to that guy.” (The Samaritan turned out to be an Army paramedic.) Crane was taken to St. Luke’s on the Plaza, where doctors operated the next morning. He now has a 5-inch plate in his arm.

Crane’s bad break at Parkville isn’t keeping him off the summer beer-festival circuit. Crane Brewing will be at Hopfest Saturday, where the plan is to haul a bigger stock than was at Parkville: 10 gallons of his beet beer ready as well as his Rosee Selavy (a Belgian-style framboise), Alban (Belgian Kriek), Pierrot (a Flanders-style red ale aged on fresh blackberries), and more.

Crane started brewing in his basement four years ago as something fun to do with his sons, Joey and Jonathan. It soon became an obsession. Next year, he’ll open a brewery in Raytown. He already has an 18,000-square-foot building there, home to his other business, Funblock Inc., which manufactures classroom and storage furniture.

Crane plans to make sours, saisons and farmhouse ales – from various fruits, wine grapes and, of course, beets – his specialties. “All of the beers that are the focus of the brewery are beers that I’ve won multiple awards within homebrewing throughout the years,” he says. He counts about 75 medals awarded to him in competitions across the country over the past two years. “I have that to go along with the hardware in my arm.” 

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