Hot pink cold beer are four words that are seldom found together. When Crane Brewing Company’s Beet Weiss officially debuts next month, the shocking magenta brew will certainly catch the eyes of drinkers across the metro. But Beet Weiss is more than just a conversation starter, it’s the beer that set the Raytown brewery in motion.
Long before Michael Crane co-founded Crane Brewing (6515 Railroad Street, Raytown), he experimented with homebrewing in the basement of his Leawood home. Crane and his son Joey learned how to homebrew using a Mr. Beer kit.
“I was brewing about fifteen gallons of beer almost every weekend,” said Crane.
Unusual for a homebrewer, he rarely drank the beer. He simply enjoyed the creative process and experimental nature of brewing.
In 2012, Joey was attending college in Minnesota. During a phone conversation, Crane asked his son what he was having for dinner. “Beets and beet greens,” Joey replied. Joey, a vegetarian, jokingly suggested to his father, “Why don’t you put beets in your beer?”
“I don’t even like beets,” said Crane as he shared the anecdote. Yet, he took the suggestion to heart. “I had some cream ale ready for secondary fermentation. I bought some beets and peeled, sliced, and boiled them before putting them in the beer.”
Crane knew beets were high in sugar, but the addition of beets left no sweetness after a week of fermentation. Instead, the beer was dry with an earthy taste. The beer’s color was a brilliant magenta hue. Crane bottled the beer and entered it in a homebrewing competition.
“The comments I received from judges ranged from ‘beautiful but undrinkable’ to ‘this should be served on the Starship Enterprise,’” said Crane. The magenta-colored beer seemed otherworldly.
Later, Crane began experimenting with brewing Berliner Weiss, a style of German white beer with a slightly sour taste. Sometimes the beer is brewed with fruit at later stages or fruit syrup is added to the basic beer after filling a glass at the tap. Crane had already tried making kumquat weiss and muscat grape weiss in his home brewery.
The previous beet-based beer trial reminded Crane the cold beet borscht with sour cream made by his grandmother Ethel Gold. Borscht is a traditional sour soup popular in Eastern European cuisines. Crane knew that sour cream contained Lactobacillus, bacteria commonly used in brewing certain styles of beer. Why not try beets in a sour beer? He brewed a batch and called it Magenta after its color. Later, he changed the name to Beet Weiss.
Beet Weiss debuted at the Parkville Microbrew Festival in 2014 and the beer ran out long before the festival was over. Beet Weiss is a tart yet balanced beer with low alcohol and a touch of earthiness. The unforgettable color helped Crane Brewing to make an impression on the public and area brewers. People have regularly asked about the beer on a weekly basis since that festival and the launch of Crane Brewing.
“Two years later, we are finally releasing Beet Weiss at the Festival of the Lost Township,” said Crane. “It will be released for full distribution in bottles the following week.”
Beets tend to have more sugar content from late summer through fall. As such, producing and releasing the beer for fall made sense. Crane notes that approximately 700 pounds of peeled and sliced beets are used in each 30-barrel batch. By Crane’s rough calculations, each 750-milliliter bottle contains the juice from about one beet.
“It’s one of the most anticipated beers we’ve ever done,” says Crane. “It all began as a joke made by my son and by remembering my grandmother’s beet borscht.”
Crane Brewing’s Beet Weiss debuts at the Festival of the Lost Township on September 17th and will be stocked by area retailers in late September. [Disclosure: KCPT partner Recommended Daily is a sponsor of the Festival of the Lost Township.]
Pete Dulin writes about food trends for KCPT’s Flatland and is the author of the “KC Ale Trail.”