Michelle Van Tassel, Caps N’ Taps

Michelle Van Tassel fell in love with Camas, and found the downtown to be magical. “It was the most charming downtown I’ve ever seen.”

And part of that downtown allure is Caps N’ Taps, known for its craft beer and cider on tap and a modest menu of high quality nosh and nibbles. It opened in 2013 and soon built a following. As Michelle was drawn in to downtown by all the events that are put on to build a sense of community, the car show, plant and garden fair, farmer’s market, Camas Days, Christmas tree lighting, Boo Bash … she said the list goes on and it made her fall in love.

“I was super lucky in the sense that I purchased a turn-key business (in January of 2018). Brendan Greenen was the previous owner and handed over the keys to his already successful business in order to focus all of his attention on opening Grains of Wrath,” she said.

So what drew her to the business? “Yeah, I’m not sure that any parents say, ‘Gosh, I hope that my little girl grows up to one day own a bar.’ I always thought that I needed to have a parent-approved professional career. After two masters degrees and starting and departing careers that I realized were not my path, I finally admitted to myself that owning my own business and working in hospitality is what would make me happy. I had a pretty solid background in craft beer and this opportunity presented itself at the perfect time. I think it was meant to be. Something that I was lucky to learn early on is, if you aren’t happy, do something differently in order to find that happiness.”

So what is that secret recipe for running a successful tap house? “I love bars because they are a great equalizer. There can be a table of suits sitting next to a table of guys coming off a construction site, next to a table of teachers after school out for happy hour cocktail and it doesn’t feel weird,” Michelle said. “I find Caps N’ Taps customers are exceedingly kind. That’s the common quality downtown.”

She said she bought Caps N’ Taps because she wanted to be a part of the downtown community. “I try really hard to remember the names of all the customers that come through the door. There are lots of places that you can grab a beer, but I want this to feel like home base. I try to hold lots of fun activities and events to build a sense of community.”

And of course, there’s the beer. “We try to have a little something for everyone here, even if they aren’t a beer drinker … but yes, craft beer is our main focus,” Michelle said. In terms of beer styles, Caps N’ Taps definitely goes through IPAs the quickest, “but I think lagers are making a resurgence,” she said. “We serve primarily beer from smaller independent craft breweries. We even have a huge list of breweries that distribute their own beer instead of through a large distribution company. We want to have the beer that you aren’t able to find everywhere else. We carry the seasonals, one-offs and special releases from all of our favorite breweries mixed in with some flag-ships and favorites that make regular appearances. What you won’t find here is generic beer from big beer companies. However, if you are a Budweiser drinker, we would love to help you find an American lager that is small independent craft.”

Right now, Caps N’ Taps is just open for to-go beer, wine, and hard cider. The COVID-19 crisis is posing real challenges to small businesses all over the country. “I’m glad that we were able to pivot and focus solely on to-go beer, wine, and cider. My message to the community is, ‘if you have a small business that you love, and you are in a position to do so, find a way to show some support so they are still there when this is all over. Maybe buy a gift card from your favorite salon, order something online from your favorite shop, grab to-go food from your favorite restaurant. Small businesses are the heartbeat of downtown Camas and need the community now more than ever in order to survive.”

Once lock down is lifted, Caps N’ Taps invites all to come join in one of their Tuesday trivia nights. They also have events such as cribbage nights, chili cook-offs, corn hole tournaments, tap takeovers, a night for just Mug Club members, and the list goes on. “It will be a great day when all the downtown businesses can again safely operate,” Michelle said, noting that seeing tourists flood downtown this summer would be a welcome sight.

“Visitors and tourists are certainly appreciated. I love when someone who has never been to Camas before comes here for the first time. It’s always ‘Camas is so cuuute!’ However, the customers that are most important to me are the community members that I see every week. Thanks beer fam for all of your support.”

For a pour of your favorite, stop by for a Beer to-go. 337 NE 4th Ave.