Back in 2014, Mike Hunsaker was brewing for Fat Head’s Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio, when the company announced plans to expand its Midwest-based chain into Portland, Oregon. Fat Head’s tapped Hunsaker to lead the brewing operations at the nascent brewpub, and Hunsaker soon saw the chance to prove himself in the city popularly known as Beervana. “It was one of those elite opportunities that you don’t pass up on,” he says. “This was a perfect place to prove what you’ve got.”
In the end, Hunsaker needn’t have worried. His beers racked up numerous awards — including a medal at the country’s largest beer festival. And, in March 2018, Hunsaker opened Grains of Wrath Brewing — along with partners Brendan Greenen, Shawn Parker and Brendan Ford — in the heart of downtown Camas, Washington, just a 20-minute drive from his former outpost.
Hunsaker’s hop-forward offerings turned heads early on in Portland — his Semper FiPA took home a silver medal in the American IPA category at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards, for instance. “You have to know how to make an IPA, especially coming into Portland,” he says. “As an unknown brewery, that’s the heart and soul out here.”
But even with the success, Hunsaker wanted to set out on his own. “You can impress your own personal style on things more than if you’re working for somebody else,” he says. So Hunsaker, Greenen, Parker and Ford opened Grains of Wrath Brewing in Camas in 2018.
Camas, a quiet town of 23,000, sits east of Vancouver, Washington, and hosted only one other brewery when Grains of Wrath opened in March of 2018. In moving to Camas, Hunsaker relished the chance to help grow the region’s scene while remaining connected to Portland’s thriving beer culture.
Opening Grains of Wrath also allowed Hunsaker to focus on one of his true passions: lagers. “It’s about the nuance,” Hunsaker says. “You can’t be ‘off’ with a lager. There’s nothing to hide behind; you can’t throw more hops at it and mask anything. Those are very simple styles as far as what you want to get and expect to get — and if you miss, it’s glaring.”
It’s safe to say Hunsaker’s lagers haven’t been “off” all that often. While at Fat Head’s, he won a gold medal for his Blitzkrieg Bock at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival (the largest beer festival in the United States), and his Vienna Lager (brewed for Grains of Wrath) took home a bronze medal at the festival in 2018.
Just over a year in, Hunsaker and brewer Owen Lamb offer an eclectic tap list that includes lagers, IPAs, inventive stouts (including one coffee cake stout) and more — all to pair with the brewery’s selection of salads, sandwiches and burgers.
In a way, Hunsaker is proving himself all over again — but instead of dialing in his IPAs, Hunsaker sees the bigger picture in putting down roots in downtown Camas. “The responsibility is so much greater on so many levels,” he says. “I’m not just making beer for myself; I’m making the best beer I can so people come here and so my staff can make a good living. It’s a learning of responsibility in the greater picture, other than just brewing. We have to keep our staff and our community in mind.”