Eric Duensing’s desire to launch a brewery in Camas sprouted from his desire to launch a brewery in Seabrook, a small-but-growing tourist town on the Washington coast.
It all started in 2009, when Duensing and a friend decided to enter the burgeoning food truck market in Washington D.C. That first venture, DC Slices, earned a reputation for serving residents the type of hand-tossed, thin-crust, fold-them-in-half pizza slices popular in New York City.
In 2014, Duensing and his DC Slices business partner moved to Pacific Beach on the Washington Coast, where they ran a wood-fired pizza food truck out of a 1930s Ford flatbed before opening Frontagers Pizza Co., a classic Italian restaurant, in 2016.
“Seabrook wants a brewery in their town, and I really wanted that contract,” Duensing said. “I said, ‘I need to learn how to do (run a brewery) if I want to be a viable contender for it.'”
Duensing’s dream came to fruition in December 2021, when his new brewery, Camas Brewing Co., poured its first beers at Camas Slices, the New York-style pizzeria he opened in January 2021.
“(Now that Camas Brewing Co.) is online, I can show Seabrook, ‘We have a functioning brewery and we have phenomenal brewers,” he said. “Brewing beer here just made sense. That’s the beauty of having our facilities do this. (Customers) will sit down with a certain pizza and drink the beer and say, ‘That’s a match.’ I always make this analogy — we’re a logistic company that happens to make pizza (and beer), so we need things that go together.”
But just because Camas Brewing Co. was born out of a vision for another town doesn’t mean that Duensing is not fully invested in Camas and the East Clark County beer community.
“Camas needs to have its own brewery,” he said. “Camas Brewing Co. is owned by Camas. This is your local home (brewery). We’d love to do some local distribution because we want to get our name out there. By no means am I shutting any doors. I’m open to selling beer to anybody. I just need to go out and start knocking on doors and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this beer, come over and try some, and if you would like to pour it at your restaurant, we’d love to facilitate that.'”
Duensing hired Jake Speer and Michiel Creyf, recent graduates of Oregon State University’s brewing program, as his lead brewers.
“Jake’s parents were eating dinner here one night,” Duensing said. “They’re like, ‘Hey, when are you going to open the brewery?’ We were like, ‘Well, we’re trying to find some brewers to do it.’ They said, ‘My son and his best friend are brewers. They just graduated from Oregon State.’ We were like, ‘Bring them in.’ We talked to them, and we were like, ‘You guys are awesome.’ I love to watch them work. They’re uber-nerdy about it, (but also) very respectful and want to know what the customer wants.”
Camas Brewing Co.’s initial offerings include a wide range of beer styles:
o CamBrewCo, a blonde ale, is “our everyday, light, easy-drinking beer,” according to Duensing.
o Northwest Standard IPA “won’t knock your teeth out, but has a little bite at the end, an IPA from 10 years ago,” he said.
o Helluva Hef hefeweizen is made from a 400-year-old recipe, “Bavarian style, with a banana-y (smell) on the nose.”
o The Big Red One red ale, named for the United States Army’s first infantry division in recognition of Duensing’s military career, marries roasty caramel undertones with prominent hop flavors.
o Hidden River Coffee Nitro Stout includes sweet, dark-roasted aromas from beans hand-picked by Hidden River Roasters employees in Camas.
Duensing is shipping his beer from Camas to Seabrook to serve at not only his restaurant, but other area eateries as well.
“The other restaurants in Seabrook want our beer because they want to support me, so we distribute it to them,” he said. “What’s the problem with most small breweries? They can’t find anybody to buy (their beer) and get their name out there. I already have a restaurant that’s going to buy everything. We’re kind of getting rid of all the middlemen and taking it straight from production.”
Right now, Duensing said, he is concentrating on getting the brewery’s “feet on the ground” and “introducing a phenomenal product for our current restaurants and the local area.”
Five years from now, he envisions having a brewery in Seabrook that “will supply beer up and down the coast because there’s no real brewery on the coast like that.”
“I don’t want anything crazy. I just want normal, good-drinking beers,” Duensing said. “To be honest, we’re creating beers that we want to drink. We want beer like it was 10 years ago — an easier, less complicated, but fulfilling beer that goes with our food. This is how beer used to be, and we want it back. That’s what we want to be known for.”