The evolution of Camas, Washington, from a working-class mill town into a destination spot for foodies—and beer drinkers!—is best exemplified by the recent arrival of Grains of Wrath Brewing to the area’s downtown core. Situated between the nearly 80-year-old post office and the soon-to-be-shuttered Georgia-Pacific paper mill, the brewery and restaurant is something of a sign of the town’s potential future.
Opened in March, Grains of Wrath is the next leap forward for brewmaster Mike Hunsaker. The affable, punk- and metal-loving 47-year-old cut his teeth as a homebrewer and by working for breweries in Chicago and Cleveland, before relocating to Portland in 2014 to help oversee operations at the recently closed Fat Head’s Brewery. But before long, he was ready to strike out on his own, emboldened by the support of fellow beer lovers in Camas and Washougal, and possessing the desire to put his unique spin on traditional styles of suds.
“I make a little bit different style of IPA,” Hunsaker says. “Fat Head’s had a little more malt, and a little more body to it. I’ve always been influenced by Southern California, San Diego-style IPAs. So I took what I loved and imparted my own flair to it.”
The IPAs, including the rich, citrus-heavy Overkill (named after the second Motörhead album, naturally) and the even smoother and slightly more tart EGA (Eagle, Globe, and Anchor), provide the core of Grains of Wrath’s nebula of beers. And that foundation is strengthened by some of GoW’s other signature brews, like an easy-drinking, low-alcohol Mexican lager and a heavier, sweeter Belgian-style ale called the Brewhouse Bully.
Word has already begun to spread about Hunsaker’s still-young enterprise. On a recent visit, the rain didn’t deter plenty of customers from stopping by to sip a pint and tuck into the brewpub’s steelhead dip or smoked chicken salad sandwich. And the news that came out of the Washington Beer Awards this month only offers further proof of the brewery’s quick success: Grains of Wrath picked up a handful of plaudits for their work, including a gold medal for their Luger Pilsener and the prize of Very Small Brewery of the Year.
Their beers are also getting distributed to bars and tap houses around Portland and Clark County—helped along, Hunsaker says, by the relationships he’s been able to cultivate with other brewers around the region. The next logical step is to find a way to get their wares into stores, but that’s a long way off.
“We’re just three months and a couple of days into this,” Hunsaker says. “I think we’re way ahead of the curve from where I expected us to be at this point. But I just don’t have the time or any designs on packaging anything right now. Let’s get through the summer first.”