Downtown Camas Merchant Spotlight – Shelby Piersol, A Beer at a Time?

You wanna go where everybody knows your name. And at A Beer at a Time in downtown Camas, let Shelby and Leigh Piersol say “cheers!”

This family-friendly neighborhood pub is actually quite extraordinary, boasting one of the largest selections of craft beer on tap in the PDX area.

Coupled with a busy pizza oven and a new, outdoor patio, A Beer at a Time is set for a big return as we open back up for business.

After seven years in Washougal, the couple faced an expiring lease and were looking for more space to fit their expanding business. “We were looking for a place that would be a perfect fit for what we truly wanted in a location,” Shelby said.

It was by accident, she noted, that the couple drove by the day the “For Lease” sign went up at 216 Northeast Third Avenue (just next to the mill, the present day location of A Beer at a Time). “We knew that downtown Camas was a growing community, and we wanted to be here and nowhere else. Our business has seen growth every year that we’ve been here, and we see no end in sight.”

After picking up that lease sign, and claiming that prime corner spot, Shelby said they had their work cut out for them. “Let’s just say, that building we leased was built a long time ago, and not exactly built for a pub. The back of the building stood inches lower than the street, there was no heat or air conditioning, the plumbing was outdated, the pipes were from the 1930s and crushed in some places … it was basically a 30 by 100-foot long warehouse, it didn’t have anything but a bathroom and a misshaped office.”

That was six years ago. And they have overcome those renovation challenges, made all the necessary improvements, and did so through perseverance and with help from their customers. “They were a big part of that process,” Shelby said. “We held auctions for beer memorabilia, sold gift certificates for 40 percent off … that’s how we funded the sprinkler system and repaired the 50-year-old garage door. We took the building as is, so it was our responsibility to pay for everything.”

Renovating and reinventing, that’s part of the Piersol’s DNA. “I started out in this business, really, reinventing myself. It was 2007, in Washougal, when I was awarded the contract for the state of Washington to manage the liquor store for that town. With the privatization of liquor in Washington, my husband and I knew that we had to adapt to survive, and A Beer at a Time was born. It started out strictly as a bottle shop, then we slowly changed to serving growlers to go, and then we established ourselves as a small pub in Washougal,” Shelby said.

Fast forward 13 years, and now A Beer at a Time has quite the following. And knowing that her customers are the key, Shelby said, “They have the understanding and patience and the sense that A Beer at a Time was a place to meet up and see friends. They were not customers, but friends coming in and sharing their trials and tribulations with us … and some really awful jokes. It sounds like a cliché, but it really was like the TV show ‘Cheers’.”

When they brought A Beer at a Time to Camas, Shelby said they were bringing their idea of communication, sharing their lives, wanting to hear the stories of other folks. “We built our tables with the idea of talking to each other, not just sitting there. During our events, it’s not uncommon to have complete strangers share a table for our comedy nights. We keep the televisions to a minimum in our pub, with the idea of having our customers carry on a conversation with each other rather than gazing at a television. And all of our employees have the same ideals as the owners, friendly and personable service to each customer, no matter if it’s your first time or your tenth time visiting us.”

And they wouldn’t be called A Beer at a Time without that main ingredient … “We feature 45-plus taps of craft beers from all over America, at least six taps of ciders as well as a full bar selection,” Shelby said. “I would say that the most popular type of beer would be IPA. We have a wide selection of food for just about everyone, crafted sandwiches, air-fried wings and hand-made pizza.”

One of their most photographed meals might be the lobster rolls, which Shelby said is made from a recipe that’s a combination of her grandmother’s from Plymouth Rock and her great aunt from Camden, Maine, where she spent many summers.

Some of the desserts at A Beer at a Time came about, Shelby said, when they bought a local restaurant which included a bakery, and more family recipes. “I recently had a major health crisis and was told to take it easy … so I got out my three-ring binder of recipes and started baking. I just love baking with my grandmother and mom. It soon became apparent that people wanted handcrafted pies and desserts so much, so we had to buy a dessert cooler. I would say the favorite is a toss-up between old fashioned banana cream pie or coconut cream, all made from scratch.” Now it’s the summertime, she’s cranking out fresh fruit mini-pies.

It’s about time for us to pull up a seat, make ourselves at home, and say “cheers” at A Beer at a Time. Join them at 216 NE Third Avenue in downtown Camas or check them out online!