After finding success with its downtown Camas flagship location, Grains of Wrath (GOW) Brewing is expanding into Portland.
Earlier this month, the owners of the Camas brewery and restaurant announced they are taking over part of the former Lompoc Brewing location at 3901 N. Williams Ave., in Portland.
“The Portland market has been a big part of our history due to (lead brewer) Mike (Hunsaker’s) time at Fat Head’s, which has led to a dedicated following of our beer from GOW over the past couple of years,” GOW general manager Brendan Greenen stated in a news release. “We very much look forward to being able to expand to try to meet the growing demand for the beers we currently make, as well as to the opportunity to get a little more creative at the pub in Camas.”
In the past two years, GOW has earned 14 medals from the Washington Beer Awards, North American Brewers Awards and Great American Beer Festival.
“Pretty much from the day we opened up, we couldn’t keep up with demand,” said Hunsaker, who founded GOW with Greenen and partners Shawn Parker and Brendan Ford in March 2018. “We were lucky that we got a lot of things dialed in pretty quickly. We have been pretty happy with what we’ve got and what we’re putting out. If we were still trying to figure things out in Camas, (expansion) wouldn’t have happened. We know that we’ve been very fortunate, and we’re thankful.”
GOW’s Portland taproom, which won’t have full restaurant service but may feature a light food menu, is set to open this spring, and the brewery should be operating by late summer, according to Hunsaker. The building’s owner, Thad Fisco, owns brewery equipment manufacturer Portland Kettle Works, which will provide the new GOW taproom with a 15-barrel steam system.
“We started kicking the dirt and seeing what was around,” Hunsaker said. “We looked around here in Camas and Washougal, but not a lot of spaces were open. The (Lompoc building) happened to fall in our lap. Because the owners of the building also want to own the equipment, we didn’t have to buy a (brewing) system, so this happened really fast. It’s not that we weren’t ready to (expand), but we weren’t ready for it to be this easy.”
A second brewing site will allow GOW to expand production in all of its styles as well as restart its canning line, Hunsaker said.
“The Portland brewery is going to take a lot of our core beers that people really want, like Dystopia, EGA and Papermaker Pale, and the Camas brewery will keep making lagers, one-offs, seasonals and other styles, and (the two locations) will feed each other,” he said. “A lot of the non-India Pale Ale (IPA) styles have been very good for us; most of the medals we’ve won have been for our lagers. But we have to keep the IPAs going because they’re our bread and butter.”
Expanding to Portland will represent a “homecoming” for Hunsaker, who worked for Ohio-based Fat Head’s Brewery before it closed its Pearl District location in 2017.
“It will be good to go back to Portland. The fact that my career took off there makes it easier,” he said. “Every Portland brewer that I reached out to when we announced (our new location) was super excited. Portland is one of our home markets; a lot of people come to (our Camas location) from the other side of the river. Now they won’t have to make that trek, and that will open a lot (of opportunity) for us. Right now we just can’t make enough beer for the Portland market.”
Hunsaker said that nothing will change at GOW’s Camas location, where customers can expect “the same beers, the same quality.”
“This was a good time (for us to expand). An opportunity presented itself and we took advantage of it. But we don’t have any grandiose ideas of getting too big, especially with the way the market is,” he said. “We want to be cautious and responsible and fulfill our market, which is southwest Washington and Portland. We want to keep those customers happy because they built our brand.”
Two Washougal breweries also expanding
54? 40′ Brewing Company also announced a series of growth-based changes earlier this month.
The Washougal brewery recently partnered with Bellingham, Washington-based Dickerson Distribution to transport its beers to the Seattle market; introduced redesigned branding for its cans and website; and hired Seth Swihart, who has more than 10 years of production brewery experience, most recently at Portland’s Ecliptic Brewing, as lead brewer.
“After four years of growth making easy-drinking beers, we’re extremely excited to marry those beers up with branding that fits our philosophy,” 54?40′ Brewing owner Bolt Minister said in a news release. “It’s refreshing to finally see cans and a website that reflect the comfort that folks find in drinking our beers with family and friends.
“Having a terrific craft focused partner in Dickerson allows us to distribute beer the entire I-5 corridor from Southern Oregon to Northern Washington,” Minister continued. “Seth brings a know-how to the brewery for increased production along with an enthusiastic and creative nature. We’re excited for this next chapter of growth, and couldn’t be happier making it happen with great people and partners on our team.”
Another Washougal brewery, Doomsday Brewing, has also expanded by opening a taproom and restaurant at 9301 N.E. Fifth Ave., in Vancouver’s Hazel Dell neighborhood.
The Hazel Dell location, which opened in December 2019, is Doomsday’s third, joining its breweries at 421 “C” St. in Washougal and 919 Main St., in downtown Vancouver.
“We are excited to bring our family-friendly pub and pizza concept from our headquarters in Washougal to where we both currently live,” Doomsday owners Erik Cloe and Jake Walton told Washington Beer Blog in 2019. “This part of Hazel Dell has experienced massive growth in the past couple years, and we are proud to offer our small-batch craft beer and artisan pizza to the community.”