Amnesia Brewing calls it quits

Alex’s BBQ to keep restaurant, open taproom; new brewer to be announced in January 2018

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Amnesia Brewing opened at 1834 Main St., in downtown Washougal in February of 2013. The brewery's owner recently announced that he is closing Amnesia Brewing as of Friday, Dec. 1. A new, unnamed brewer is expected to move into the Washougal brewery space in 2018. (Post-Record file photo)

Touted just four years ago as a sign of good things to come on downtown Washougal’s Main Street, Amnesia Brewing is now calling it quits.

The local brewery — one of the first to produce craft brews in east Clark County — is now brewing its last beers and will close on Friday, Dec. 1.

The news isn’t all bad, though: Alex’s BBQ, which partnered with Amnesia in 2014, will open a new restaurant and taproom at the downtown Washougal location, and developer Wes Hickey, of Lone Wolf Development, who owns the building and equipment where Amnesia Brewing has crafted beers for the past four years, says he already has another brewer interested in the property.

“A new operator for the brewery will be announced in January,” Hickey told The Post-Record this week. “They will apply for licenses at that time and begin brewing once the licenses are obtained.”

When the former North Portland company brought its locally made craft brews to Washougal’s Main Street in February of 2013, it was one of the only breweries in east Clark County. Today, however, the market is getting “somewhat saturated,” said Amnesia Brewery’s general manager, Guy Nunez.

Amnesia Brewing Timeline:

MAY 2003: Kevin King and Kristina Heartman found Amnesia Brewing in Portland

FEBRUARY 2013: Amnesia expands to 1834 Main St., Washougal

SEPTEMBER 2013: Amnesia sells its Portland location to StormBreaker Brewing

DEC. 1, 2017: Amnesia closes its brewery and brewpub in downtown Washougal

JANUARY 2018: New brewer to take over former Amnesia brewing location

“On the one hand, the good news is that there are more beers to choose from,” Nunez said. “On the other, profit margins have slipped making it extremely tough financially without investor money, and that has never been our model.”

Nunez credits Amnesia with helping to establish the Camas-Washougal area as a new craft beer destination. Soon after Amnesia opened in Washougal in February of 2013, several other craft brewers discovered that east Clark County offered a relatively untapped market. The area is now home to several beer brewers, including Doomsday Brewing and 54-40 Brewing in Washougal, and Mill City Brew Werks in Camas. Another Camas-based business, Grains of Wrath, is expected to open a craft brewery and restaurant at 425 N.E. Birch St., in downtown Camas, during the first quarter of 2018.

Kevin King and Kristina Heartman founded Amnesia Brewing in May of 2003 and had a thriving business on Mississippi Avenue in North Portland.

King said he is proud that Amnesia, a company he and Heartman opened with just the money in their wallets, lasted for almost 15 years.

“I brewed beers that developed a long term following, like our Copacetic IPA, and Sean (Thommen, master brewer) created some amazing seasonal beers,” King said.

Heartman died in September of 2015.

Thommen now is the head brewer for East West Brewing Co., in Vietnam.

King has been brewing for more than 25 years and he plans to continue brewing, but they will be someone else’s beers.

“I will hopefully lend my expertise to assisting in the creation or refining of the recipes,” King said. “I have a lot of experience that would benefit the right situation.”

Alex’s BBQ to remain, open new restaurant and taproom

Alex’s BBQ will remain at the same downtown Washougal Main Street location, but will operate under a new name. Owners Alex and Carolina Ramirez also plan to open a new taproom in the Amnesia brewpub site. They will continue to pour Amnesia’s beers while the inventory lasts and integrate craft beers that are hard to find in Washougal.

Nunez said the Amnesia brewpub staff will continue working at the taproom. The site will close for cleaning, painting and renovations on Sunday, Dec. 3, and Monday, Dec. 4.

Darren Goan, a former Vancouver resident who now lives in Beaverton, Oregon, went to the Amnesia Brewery when it was in Portland. Visiting with his friend, Jamee Homuth, on Nov. 16, Goan described Amnesia’s downtown Washougal location as “nice and cozy.”

Homuth said it was a great location for nightlife in Washougal, and that she would return.

Heena Dwivedy, board president of the Downtown Washougal Association, said the DWA is very saddened to hear about Amnesia’s closure.

“(Amnesia) has also become a central place for new and local artists to display their work,” Dwivedy said.

She said she is glad the restaurant will remain at the Main Street site.

“Downtown Washougal needs more dining options, and Alex’s BBQ — with their delicious and affordable menu — is much appreciated,” Dwivedy said.

Local brewers react to closure

Mark Zech, owner of Mill City Brew Werks, a Camas brewery that opened in 2013, said it is always sad to see a craft brewery close.

“It is a very tough business for small guys to compete against the big brands,” he said.

Zech said he has always wanted there to be five to six breweries in the Camas-Washougal area, so they could draw the Portland craft beer lovers to the local community.

“I would ask each and every one of you to support your local breweries and businesses,” Zech said. “We have come a long way in both Camas and Washougal, and I would hate to see us lose anyone else.”

Brendan Greenen, an owner of Caps N’ Taps in Camas, has been involved in the formation of Grains of Wrath, which will soon open in downtown Camas.

His business partners are Mike Hunsaker, an award-winning head brewer at Fat Head’s Brewery in Portland, and Shawn Parker and Brendan Ford, founders of Fuel Medical, in Camas.

Greenen said Amnesia’s closure comes as a sad surprise to them and others in the local community.

“Amnesia’s relocation to Washougal was a great thing for people out here and has been a staple of downtown Washougal for many years now,” he said.

Greenen said he doesn’t think there are too many breweries in the Camas-Washougal area.

“We live right across the river from Portland, which is commonly regarded as one of the meccas of craft beer in the country,” he said. “Along with Portland, there are many examples of the explosive growth of this industry with a focus on bringing quality craft beer to people.”

Greenen said the Grains of Wrath partners hope to bring another quality craft brewery and restaurant to the area, and intend to provide about 25 jobs.

“The bottom line is that we think that there is plenty of room for more restaurants, bars and breweries locally, and that it is one of the many ways that Camas-Washougal is becoming a destination,” he said.