Casual Animal brings a taste of Latvia to Kansas City

Casual Animal brewer-owner Kyle Gray’s India pale lagers were inspired by a visit to Riga, Latvia.

Drinking lager at a wedding in the small Eastern European country captivated him.

“During summer, there’s roughly 18 hours of daylight, which inspires you to stay outside longer and enjoy life at a slower pace,” Gray says. “Something about drinking crisp lagers in a beer garden at 11 pm while the sun is still shining was a unique experience.”

Back in Kansas City, Gray sought “to capture a little bit of that magic — summer in a glass no matter what time of year it is.”

He succeeded. Climbing Wolf is one of the best hoppy lagers we’ve ever had. It’s inspired by European lagers, and Gray uses New Zealand and German hops for specific aroma and flavor characteristics. The goal is to produce clean lagers for drinkers “with an appetite for hops.”

Gray uses premium Pilsner and Munich malts. He experiments with a variety of lager yeast strains from different regions to see how they transform the flavors of the grains and hops in his IPL variants, which include Hop the Fence, Humpback Comeback and Climbing Wolf.

“We like the drinkability of these IPLs,’ Gray says. “They provide a hop aroma punch but with a light bitter touch and a clean lager finish. We enjoy pushing the envelope of what craft drinkers are expecting from independent breweries.”

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