Mike Hunsaker Reflects on Grains of Wrath Brewing’s First Year

Mike Hunsaker on the brew deck at Grains of Wrath

Grains of Wrath Brewing was one of 2018’s most anticipated new breweries in Oregon (even if it’s technically over the border in Camas) and it’s hard to believe it is already celebrating one year this Saturday, March 9th. Brewmaster/co-owner Mike Hunsaker moved to Oregon to become the head brewer at Fat Head’s Brewing PDX in 2014 and left to open Grains Of Wrath in 2017 about a year before the local owner, Tom Cook, announced his transition to become Von Ebert Brewing.

In a few short years, Hunsaker built a reputation for his hop bomb west coast-style IPAs, even though he’s a midwest guy who’s more inspired by lagers. His metal and punk sensibilities brought him to open Grains of Wrath in the quiet, paper mill-driven suburb of Vancouver called Camas. Going from simply production brewer to the face and operation of a full service restaurant and production brewery must be a huge challenge, so I caught up with Hunsaker on the trials and tribulations of one year in business.

Grains of Wrath is across the river in Camas, WA and claimed a Bronze for their Vienna Lager at the 2018 GABF

Q: How much more or less stressful is it to own a brewery than just be a head brewer?

Mike Hunsaker: Well, it’s a lot more stressful for sure. Having to see the entire construction project through, with my partners Brendan Greenen, Shawn Parker and Brendan Ford, from restaurant and bar design, to kitchen, then to brewery, was a task that I couldn’t have foreseen. For sure, dealing with all of those made dialing in the brewery a pleasure. It was such a relief for both myself and my brewer, Owen Lamb, to get back to what we do–make beer.

Q: What’s your favorite beer that you have brewed so far at GOW?

MH: Without a doubt, our Vienna Lager and seeing its success has made this my favorite beer to date. Such a wonderful thing to see lagers coming back into the limelight with beer lovers again.

Q: What beer or thing have you not done that you are looking forward to doing?

MH: This Saturday, for our anniversary, I’m releasing my first wild beer. I’ve never used brettanomyces in my entire career before this. I was lucky to have some great mentors in starting this program, Lucky to have friends like Shilpi Halemane, Ben Edmunds, and Ryan Buxton to answer my questions and lend their expertise. In the next several weeks, we will also be bottling this beer.

Q: What’s been the hardest part of owning your own brewery?

MH: Hardest thing about owning my own brewery is trying to balance beer quality, product mix, promotion and being fiscally responsible to my partners and the business.

Q: What has been the most unexpected challenge of opening/operating a brewery?

MH: It has to be the buildout and the structural obstacles we ran into during it. We expected to take down about 30% of the building, but after further review, we ended taking down almost 80%. It put us back about 6 months and quite a bit of money. Luckily my partners had been thru their own businesses buildout and were the calming force needed to get through all of it.

Grains of Wrath celebrates its 1st anniversary with cornhole, live music, raffles and big cookout style food this Saturday, March 9th, 2019. GOW will also be officially announcing a new Mug Club and releasing a new beer called Spoils of Warn – Triple IPA. Spoils of War will be available on draft AND in cans.

1-Year Anniversary Party
Saturday, March 9th 2-10pm
Grains of Wrath
230 NE 5th Avenue, Camas, Washington 98607

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com