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Feb. 4, 2023

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Camas Brewing Co. opens, pours ‘easy drinking’ beers

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Best friends and recent Oregon State University fermentation science graduates Jacob Speer and Michiel Creyf have taken over producing beer for Camas Brewing Co. in downtown Camas.
Best friends and recent Oregon State University fermentation science graduates Jacob Speer and Michiel Creyf have taken over producing beer for Camas Brewing Co. in downtown Camas. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When friends and Camas Slices owners John Strocko and Eric Duensing opened Camas Brewing Co. last year, they turned to another set of friends to produce the beer to go with their pizza.

But it wasn’t through the usual channels.

“We had some customers who asked us about our brewery. At the time, we didn’t have any brewers,” said Strocko, whose previous head brewer had moved out of state. “The customer said my son just graduated from OSU with a fermentation science major and a chemistry minor, and so did his best friend.”

Those two recent graduates were Jacob Speer and Michiel Creyf. They now make the beer that can be ordered at Camas Slices, or in its brewery and taproom around the corner at 335 N.E. Cedar St.

“It was a weird coincidence,” said Speer. “My tentative long term goal for graduation was to work in the industry at a brewery for five to 10 years then start my own brewery. Camas just fell out of the sky, and I was like, ‘Wow we can move up that timeline.’”

Strocko and Duensing met on the East Coast, where they started a business selling New York style pizza from a food truck called DC Slices. They opened Frontager’s Pizza in Pacific Beach in 2014.

Speer and Creyf both started out as computer science majors but completed their degrees in fermentation science at Oregon State University — a hands-on applied science program that focuses on the use of microorganisms to create fermented drinks like wine and beer as well as foods like cheese, yogurt, pickles and bread.

Speer interned at New Glarus Brewery in New Glarus, Wis., while he was a computer science major to oversee automation, but found himself drawn to brewing.

“I’m a big chemistry nerd, so I was interested in the high end lab equipment. I really liked the deep dive into science aspect of the brewery,” said Speer.

Creyf, his friend and now fellow brewer, had switched from computer science to the fermentation science program. Speer later followed. Speer interned at Buoy Beer Co. in Astoria, Ore., and is still working there while brewing at Camas Brewing Co.

Speer described their brewing style as beer made by beer lovers who focus on being authentic to the traditional styles.

“Milkshake IPAs and pastry style beers don’t really interest us,” he said. The standard Northwest IPA is on tap, but the brewery offers brews that aren’t as common, such as their Coffee Nitro Stout made with coffee from Camas roaster Hidden River Roasters and a traditional nutty-brown ale with roasted walnuts called Sussy Baka brown ale.

“We want to make easy drinking beers that are good with pizza. The kind that you can drink a couple beers and still get off the stool,” said Strocko. They also offer beach-friendly sips like pilsners and blonde ales that they sell at the Camas taproom and their coastside business, Frontager’s Pizza.

Camas Slices and Camas Brewing Co. are separate businesses. The pizza restaurant fronts on Main Street. Around the corner is a taproom with 12 taps. Eight of the taps flow with beer from Camas Brewing Co., the rest are guest brews and cider. Pizza from Camas Slices can be ordered in the taproom and beer from the brewery is available at the pizza restaurant.

The taproom is currently open Wednesday through Sunday, 3-9 p.m., but hours will expand as the business grows.