Crane Brewing’s Township 49 is totally wild

When Jackson County was purchased from the Osage and Kansas Native American tribes in 1825, one parcel was not included in the sale. Township 49 was known as the “lost township” for more than 15 years before eventually becoming Raytown.

Crane Brewing pays tribute to that history with an annual beer festival and with this spontaneously fermented wild ale (see page 62 for a primer on wild ales), whose mild tartness and complex acidity underscore layered notes of apricot, pear and white wine. Subtle woodiness from the beer’s spending 15 months in oak barrels before being bottle-conditioned leads to a satisfying finish.

The brewery is known for its popular line of fruited sour goses and weiss beers. A barrel-aged wild like Township 49 reflects the brewery’s commitment to experimentation and craftsmanship.

To make this beer, which was fermented with ambient yeast, Crane left the brewhouse windows open overnight. The brewery used reverse pressure to pull in the night air from its little parcel of land on a gravel road near the railroad tracks in downtown Raytown. The air went “down the stack and over our boil kettle to inoculate the wort,” co-owner Chris Meyers says.

It’s an ancient technique — until Louis Pasteur, no one knew how yeast turned fresh grapes or grain into alcohol — and one still practiced in places like Belgium, where brewers rely on wild bacteria to make sought-after sours. As with great Belgian wilds, after being exposed to wild yeast, Township 49 was transferred to barrels for fermentation.

“Our brewery is inspired by great Belgian breweries — not just with our farmhouse ales but also with spontaneous fermentation like Township 49 and Boysen Bramble, and wild-harvested yeast in beers like Nostalgia,” Meyers says.

After all that, Township 49 ends up tasting, well, like Township 49. Raytown’s terroir transformed the beer into what Meyers describes as “a living expression of time and place.” – PETE DULIN

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