Fat Head’s Brewery may have left the Portland area, but not its most talented brewer.
Mike Hunsaker settled in Camas, Wash. when he moved west to help open the branch of the Ohio-based brewery in 2014. The Chicago native immediately felt at home. “I’m a big fan of this town. It has a beautiful downtown and a neat history. It has a clientele that’s willing to support its businesses. It’s an underserved area. It doesn’t have as many options as it should for the people and homes around here,” he said.
Several years ago Hunsaker started work on his own brewpub, choosing the in-your-face name Grains of Wrath after a song by one of his favorite punk bands — Bad Religion.
“We planned to have this place open last summer, but we ran into serious roofing issues and major construction delays,” he said. “Through it all, the city has been great to work with. They’ve made every effort to keep us moving along. The residents are eager for it to open.”
Things finally came together, and the family-friendly place with an edgy/rustic feel welcomed its first customers in March. His will be the second brewpub in town. Mill City Brew Werks was the first.
When the property that used to house an auto repair shop became available several years ago, Hunsaker saw his opportunity. “We liked it from the beginning,” said Hunsaker. “We liked the location and the size.” It’s at the west end of downtown across from the Georgia-Pacific paper mill with 7,500-square-feet of space inside and a 2,000-square-foot patio. Roll-up doors that were once meant for cars will provide sunlight and warmth on nice days. The owners decided not to sell the building, which had seen additions in 1960 and 1980, but Hunsaker struck a deal to finance all the reconstruction work with the hope of purchasing it sometime in the future.
His three partners all have experience running a business in Camas. Brendan Greenen, who owned local beer bar Caps N’ Taps, will help Hunsaker with the day-to-day operations. The other two, Brendan Ford and Shawn Parker, own Fuel Medical Group.
Hunsaker’s brewing partner and right-hand person is Owen Lamb, who started at Fat Head’s in Cleveland and worked his way up from packaging to assistant brewer. He was at Fat Head’s in Portland for about a year and did a stint at Breakside while waiting for the brewhouse to be ready at Grains of Wrath. “Owen and I brewed together in Cleveland,” said Hunsaker.
The 10-barrel JVNW system was delivered in late November and became operational before Christmas. Hunsaker and Lamb put in some long days brewing for nearly two weeks straight getting ready for opening day. The brewhouse has ten 20-barrel fermentation tanks and ten 20-barrel serving tanks. At full capacity, the bar will be able to serve 20 different beers at a time, 10 from the serving tanks and 10 from kegs. Some of those offerings will include the IPAs Hunsaker’s reputation was built on, but he and Lamb personally favor lagers.
The shiny, stainless tanks are visible from the bar area through a large picture window, framed underneath by a bar made from old-growth timbers uncovered during construction when the original floors of the 1930s-era building were torn up. Also original are the two 50-foot beams that run the width of the building. “We will leave the one that runs through the pub seating area exposed,” said Hunsaker. The tables are made from the same timber.
Hunsaker described the food as gastropub-style. Fabiola Ponce-Wyatt has come on board as chef. She has worked at Southpark Seafood, Roman Candle and Xico. Her husband Jackson Wyatt, formerly of N.W.I.P.A., will also be assisting in the kitchen with a menu that rotates seasonally.
Beer distribution is planned for Clark County and the Portland market. “We’ve had great support from Portland and hope they come up and support us here,” Hunsaker said. Initially Grains of Wrath beers will be draft only with plans to can some special releases. •