Brewer Mike Hunsaker’s highly anticipated new Grains of Wrath Brewing opens this week and we already checked it out for our first look preview. Hunsaker moved to Portland to become the Head Brewer at Fat Head’s, where he became known for original west coast IPA recipes like SemperFiPA and his GABF Gold Medal-winning Blitzkrieg Bock. In 2016 Hunsaker announced on The New School that he was leaving to co-found a new punk and metal inspired new brewery called Grains of Wrath in Camas, Washington, with backers Brendan Greenen, Shawn Parker, and Brendan Ford.
Mike Hunsaker on the brew deck at Grains of Wrath
After typical delays around construction and permitting, the biggest thing to come to Camas since the paper mill will open this Wednesday or Thursday from 11am – 10pm and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Hunsaker already has nine of his (and brewer Owen Lamb’s) own in-house brewed beers on tap amongst 26 lines that will eventually be filled with 2 wines, 2 ciders and a guest tap or two.
Hunsaker had the budget with Grains of Wrath to put in a shiny new 10bbl JVNW brewhouse to his own specifications. The brewery on display through windows in the bar area is a slick mid-sized system, well layed out in a 90 degree angle leading to the loading dock and keg cooler with ten direct draw serving tanks. Out of the nine beers Grains of Wrath Brewing has on tap so far, the selection aims to please a wide crowd, not just the hophead following Hunsaker already cultivated in Portland. Lulu, a tart peach golden ale, is surprisingly malty and should please fans of sweeter, non-bitter beers. Meadowfoam Blonde ale is a Belgian-style blonde with local Meadowfoam honey is another beer for the intro craft beer new that’s light but packed full of banana and bubblegum phenolics, perhaps a bit too much of them. Dunkelweisse, is a classic dark wheat beer that’s also high in the banana bread and clovey notes; it’s smooth and very Bavarian. Chocolate Stout is a balanced, slightly menthol-flavored sessionable (at 5.1% ABV) English-style stout with light chocolate notes. Lionheart ESB is an interesting turn towards a melding of American Amber Ale with English-style Extra Special Bitter, malty, full bodied but not too sweet with a cross between floral earthy English hops and Grapefruity Cascades from the PNW. Pandemic IPA is Hunsaker’s first NE-style IPA of his own, it has the tropical notes and light bitterness that you want in the style with nice pineapple and guava flavors, but without the flour. Pandemic is a great beer for light tropical hop flavor without much bitterness, but is actually clearer than the Luger Pilsner! Luger is among the standouts in the lineup; on first try, Hunsaker has pretty much nailed it with this German-style Pils with enough spicy German hops to please a west coast fan, but without the overly bitterness of some that hit you over the head. After another couple of runs at it, the slight haze of the Luger should clear up to make an even crisper and more focused Pils. Overkill IPA is a pretty straight-forward modern IPA, clear and crisp with a blend of NW citrusy hops and new wave tropical; it’s easy drinking. EGA (Eagle, Globe & Anchor) IPA is the standout of the bunch (along with the Pils) and is the one sure to be the breakout star; it’s like the best of Hunsaker’s bold IPAs he created for Fat Head’s. Juicy hops, melon, pine, papaya, mango and mandarin orange flavors come together in a beer with a touch of sweetness to bring out those fruit notes, but not as sweet as many NE-styles. This is a clear line between west coast with a touch of east coast flavor and has a crowd pleasing 6.8% ABV. Not available yet but coming soon are Papermaker Pale and a rye bock, among others.
The full kitchen has two cooking lines, prepared for heavy crowds. Grains of Wrath’s chef is Fabiola Ponce-Wyatt, a veteran of Roman Candle Baking and Southpark Seafood. Along with her husband, cook and ex-NWIPA co-proprietor Jackson Wyatt, she hopes the food menu will please those looking for family friendly pub fare, but adds flair of her own that teases Asian, Spanish, and American.
The less adventurous will be pleased with the juicy brisket and chuck patty burger with cheddar, iceberg lettuce, aioli and zucchini pickles on a sesame brioche bun (optional adds of blue cheese, bacon or egg) and the Fried Chicken Sando or Steelhead Caesar. Mexican sandwich fans will love the Carnitas Torta with black bean puree, cotija cheese, cascabel chile aioli, pickled carrots and housemade sesame brioche. Getting into the fancier fare, I enjoyed the roasted bone marrow with onion jam served on grilled flatbread and the GOW Rarebit on toasted bread with Hill Ham and beer cheese sauce. Vegetarians won’t be left out in the cold, either; a housemade Veggie Burger from beet, carrot, white bean and quinoa patty with a pumpkin seed spread will fill you up, while a small Winter Veg Fritto, Sikil Pa’k with battered and fried delicata squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seed dip and shaved parmesan is perfect to share or wet the appetite.
Grains of Wrath Brewing is located right off of SR-14 that dumps you right into downtown Camas, drive right past the paper mill and Grains of Wrath is right there. The old car dealership, tire store, auto repair dealership industrial space has been transformed completely into a stylish but understated brick pub space with north-facing open glass windows, a big enclosed beer garden space with gas firepits and retaurant and pub space. All the tables and the bar trestles are made from vintage wood that made for a historic crawl space they found beneath the building. These huge polished wood planks are a rustic call back to the timber industry along the Columbia. The exterior is nearly all dark gray colored brick and the interior walls are all dark grey, black or pale green and it goes along with a lounge-y darker vibe like the punk rock and metal tones Hunsaker is going for. It’s a family friendly space ,though; the majority a an all-ages dining room with a 21+ bar area. The place does play all metal, through the speakers but it’s not blasting, and only two TVs in the main room and another in the bar distract. There are not a lot of signs of the punk and metal influence outside of the actual music and the logo, Hunsaker did rescue a tiny kneeling oak shrine box that will become the limited liquor cabinet once that license comes through. Other than that, just a few Pantera poster nods to the hard rock roots, though Hunsaker plans to fill the spot with more and darker but friendly art as it comes to him, rather than just go out and purchase a bunch of stuff.
Looking into the future, you will see an evolving beer and food menu and hopefully the GOW pub catching a later evening demographic in Camas with families in the day. Hunsaker plans to do festival one-offs, continue his collaborations and perfect his recipes while trying out new hop varietals in a pilot program he is one of the few small brewers that was invited to join. Also, Grains of Wrath will distribute through the small, independent distributor Day One Distribution in Oregon. Good news for those who miss Mike’s beers in Portland.
Grains of Wrath Brewing
230 NE 5th Avenue
Mike Hunsaker, Head Brewer and co-Founder of Grains of Wrath Brewing