Brendan Greenen certainly embraces the “spirits” of downtown Camas, as his brewery and pub known as Grains of Wrath has grown into a bonafide Pacific Northwest Destination. It was many years and a lot of sweat and tears in the making, but Grains of Wrath has become an internationally awarded brewery on top of being Camas’ go-to brewpub for meetings, dates and every other kind of celebration you can imagine.
Brendan was born and raised in the Vancouver area, has called this area home his whole life. As a young man, he knew he was going to be in the restaurant business, and at age 23, he took a chance and with the support of his wife and parents, joined the service industry opening Caps N Taps in downtown Camas, on 4th Avenue. It was here, as he brought in local beers on tap and provided quite the watering hole for the locals, that he made new connections. He met his eventual partners in Grains of Wrath at Caps N Taps, as well as meeting Michael Hunsaker, a local brewer and partner in Grains of Wrath. Ideas started flowing about what a brewery and restaurant in downtown Camas would look like. And those ideas swelled. “When we were getting serious about it, we came across the old Lemon-Aid building (a 1930s era auto shop downtown just a block away), and saw the potential … saw what it would look like with patio dining, with all the equipment for brewing,” Brendan said. Plans started taking shape.
For Brendan, it was all in for this new venture. He sold Caps N Taps and work started in earnest on the renovation of the old auto shop building. “Of course, there were surprises. We ended up taking down about 80 percent of that building. But look at the footprint. It’s quite sizable.” And with that square footage, that meant more room for the brewing equipment, more beers, more experimenting. And just a few short years later, Grains of Wrath brought home beer awards from across the globe, for just about every kind of beer that’s out there … IPAs, stouts, helles lager, pilsner, you name it. That potential he spoke of, it really came alive. Today, if there’s a new brew you want, you gotta act fast. “The response from our community has been tremendous. We rotate our beers (on tap) often, and we sell through it all. We sell out of everything we make. And that’s because we have such a good customer base.”
Brendan said locals prefer their lagers and hoppy beers, and certainly the town’s namesake, the Papermaker Ale. The Grains of Wrath brewed Vienna lager has been among their most awarded beer, clocking in at a full eight weeks from brew to glass, showing the laborious process to make a transcendental craft beer.
But the steady crowds, even during Covid-19 days, show that man can’t live on beer alone. The tables at Grains of Wrath are packed every day with hungry patrons. From hikers and bikers touring the gorge, to folks driving up from Portland, to quick lunch for downtown shoppers, the menu at the restaurant has constantly evolved and hit the right notes with customers. “We give our chefs a lot of freedom on the menu. Often, we might spitball back and forth about what works, what the customers feedback is telling us. It’s been amazing watching that side of the business grow,” Brendan said. He noted that the fried chicken sandwich and the burgers are a mainstay and have proved to be the tops on the to-order list. The menu has featured decadent bone marrow like butter, classic wedge and ahi tuna salads, and ethnic treats like bulgogi bowls and poutine with a gravy to make a Canadian proud.
Even at 50 percent capacity during Covid-19, Brendan said there’s a lot to learn and take away in this business. “We’ve learned that you have to figure things out quickly and you have to adapt quickly.” Which is the hallmark of an anchor business in a bustling downtown, in an economy and an environment that’s constantly changing. Brendan said the team at Grains of Wrath is keenly aware of getting too big too fast and want to grow the right way. They are just now beginning to expand their footprint, adding a location in Portland that will give them more brewing space. It too will have a place to eat, but will be smaller and cater to a 21 and over crowd. “The brewery business is bigger than ever. There are more than 8,000 breweries in America. With that number, you can imagine some will try and skate by on mediocrity. That is absolutely not how you make it in the business,” Brendan said, stressing the importance of listening to the customers and putting in the hard work.
“We absolutely love it in downtown Camas, it has everything you’d want,” Brendan said. “And people love us. We want to keep growing, keep seeking new opportunities, and do it alongside downtown Camas and this community.”
Makes plans to stop in enjoy a delicious dinner and tasty flight of beer! Cheers! www.gowbeer.com