• 54°40’ Brewing Company, 3801 S. Truman Road No. 1, Washougal. 360-844-5932, www.54-40brewing.com
• Grains of Wrath (GOW) Brewery & Restaurant, 230 N.E. Fifth Ave., Camas. 360-210-5717, www.gowbeer.com
• Brothers Cascadia Brewing, 9811 N.E. 15th Ave., Vancouver. 360-718-8927, www.brotherscascadiabrewing.com
I spend too much time in downtown Vancouver — ignoring many of the great places in other parts of Clark County. To remedy this, I decided to spend a night seeking the perfect summer beer in the perfect outdoor spot outside of downtown Vancouver.
When I say perfect summer beer, I mean a light, crisp beer with a low alcohol content (hovering at or below 5 percent). This is lawn-mowing beer, bbq beer, bonfire beer, beach beer. It’s the kind of thing you spend a summer night sipping outdoors.
7 p.m. — 54?40′ Brewing Company in Washougal: 54?40′ Brewing Company is located in an industrial area in the Port of Camas. Just keep going until you reach the end of the road. On the night I showed up, I sampled three summer-y beers: Billy Kristalweizen (kristalweisen wheat ale), River Road Pilsner (German-style pilsner) and Kascadia (k?lsh-style ale). I got a pint of the Billy Kristalweizen. The pilsner and the k?lsh went down easily, but the wheat ale reminded me of my favorite summer beer, Bell’s Oberon.
The outdoor space here is compact — a sliver of space to the side of the building. There are umbrellas for shade. Mellow, classic rock (Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel and America) played while a group of friends listened as one of them recounted a story about a bad Santa. A couple sat talking quietly behind me. Ahead was a view of Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.
7:30 p.m. — Grains of Wrath in Downtown Camas: I crashed my friend Sue’s anniversary dinner with her husband at Grains of Wrath Brewing Company. The outdoor space was the largest I visited: picnic benches framed by a brick wall with the brewery’s logo in metal on one side and waist-high thick metal fencing on the other. At 8 p.m., the two rectangular, rock-filled fire pits were lit.
I decided to get the beer sampler (four, five ounce brews). I chose the Hefeweizen, Luger, Summer Lager, and Mexican Lager. My favorite (again) was the wheat beer. When I told our server, Haley, that I was just there to drink and not to eat (though the menu looked good), she replied, “I like to drink my dinner, too.” I knew I was in the right place.
9 p.m. — Brothers Cascadia in Hazel Dell: This is the neighborhood bar that I wish was in my neighborhood. I always leave this place feeling better about the world. What makes this a great bar? A friendly bartender (Alex) who instinctively knows when to chat and when to leave you to your beer, a great vinyl collection, a pod of outstanding food trucks and reliably gratifying beer. I have waited all winter to check out this covered outdoor space festooned with small golden bulbs, a cornhole game and a chalk mural featuring trees and mountains.
On the night I visited, there was a large group of women with one guy. One woman commented, “I like that you’re the guy who shows up.” There was another group of four women. Friendly conversation (mixed with the soulful sounds of the Chambers Brothers) filled the space as I sipped my pint of The People’s Pilsner and watched a sliver of moon appear.
What was my favorite beer? Which was my favorite outdoor space? At the risk of sounding like a food and drink writer who is abandoning her responsibility of telling you what to eat and drink — I have to say that I had the perfect summer evening. My recommendation is: go to all these places, try all their summer beer. Summer doesn’t last forever in the Pacific Northwest, and you need to experience it while you can still enjoy drinking a light, crisp beer in the great outdoors.
Rachel Pinsky can be emailed at email@example.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @couveeats.