By Rick Roach
The warm light was soft and comforting as we entered the restaurant. I noticed a wide bar on the left side near the back of the room and rustic wood tables located throughout the floor space. We had been to Mill City Brew Werks to interview owners Mark and Fran Zech about their business in downtown Camas, Washington and had been looking forward to dining there. Mark happily greeted us and seated us near the center of the room. Mark’s enthusiasm for the craft of beer making and serving good food shines through his wide smile.

Mark had given me a sample of the creamy Fromudder Milk Stout when we visited for the interview and I was anxious to order a pint. As a resident of the craft brewing focused Pacific Northwest, I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know much about types of beer, but when I described the taste I was looking for Mark pegged it right away. I told him that I liked dark beer with ample body and a little sweetness with little to no bitterness. The Fromudder is a milk stout which fit the bill perfectly. Milk stout is brewed with lactose as a sugar to increase the sweetness in the beer and the Fromudder made my palate happy.

After sipping on the dark malty liquid for a few minutes it was time to order and I already knew what I wanted. Mark had described the Smoked Tuna Melt when we met for the interview and it sounded delicious, so I ordered it with a side of sweet potato fries. Mark also recommended the Bavarian Pretzel Sticks with beer cheese explaining that it was more of a Bavarian donut than a pretzel due to its being deep fried after being baked. Fran, who creates the recipes for the restaurant, had developed the technique and added the pretzel sticks along with their own house beer cheese to the menu as a signature offering at Mill City Brew Werks. Each pretzel stick was about six inches long and twisted lengthwise. The large sticks were soft and easily torn apart for dipping in the savory beer cheese which was handily located in a small metal cup attached to the convenient pretzel stick stand.

Lori ordered the Club House Sandwich, which consists of turkey, ham, bacon, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo on a sourdough bread, with a side of traditional fries. She said it was very tasty and big enough that she had to take half of it home along with most of the heaping portion of fries that accompanied it.

My sandwich arrived, along with a generous portion of sweet potato fries. It was presented traditionally, cut and stacked diagonally on the plate with a toothpick to hold it together. The Smoked Tuna Melt sandwich is Ahi tuna smoked in-house on cedar planks with lightly smoked gouda and bacon served on peppered sourdough bread. As I took my first bite I was swallowed up in a perfect mixture of savory, smoky, sweetness. The bread was lightly toasted and buttery, which perfectly complemented the smoky flavor of the sandwich. The sweet potato fries were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, thick enough to hold the flavor of the sweet potato and moderately firm. I developed a new way to measure how much I like a food item that night. It is by how many mmmm’ sounds I make when biting into food and the tuna melt got an mmmm’ on every bite. I think Lori may have thought I was over-reacting, but I can honestly say I have never tasted anything that I liked so much that I could hardly keep from expressing my enjoyment.

Mill City Brew Werks is an excellent brew pub in my humble opinion. They serve a variety of beers made from local and Bavarian ingredients along with four-star restaurant quality food. I look forward to dining there again and I highly recommend that you stop in and try them out. While you’re there take a stroll in downtown Camas, where you will find a variety of clothing, jewelry, gift and antique shops, art galleries, salons and other services. You might even want to catch a movie at the historic Liberty Theater and spend the night at the luxury boutique Camas Hotel!