Something’s brewing in Battle Ground…

Laurelwood beer bottleEver since Mike De Kalb opened the first Laurelwood Public House & Brewery ten years ago in Northeast Portland, the restaurant has been committed to serving local, organic food and beer. It’s a commitment that doesn’t stem from some eco-local economic formula; it comes from an idea much simpler than that.

“It’s the way we like to eat, so we just assume that’s the way we should feed everyone else,” explained De Kalb, who grew up in Hockinson.

Today, the organic tradition continues inside each of Laurelwood’s five locations, which as of 2009, includes 1401 Southeast Rasmussen Boulevard, at Battle Ground Village.

Reflecting on years past, De Kalb said the decision to serve organic wasn’t always easy.

“When we first started Laurelwood, organic wasn’t always a good thing – at least in people’s minds,” he said. “Organic wine was bad. You went to the supermarket in the wintertime and saw these shriveled up organic apples and wondered why you were spending extra money on them. Organic has really come a long way in ten years.”

On top of serving a number of organic beers and ales, De Kalb said Laurelwood sources much of its produce locally. In addition, the restaurant uses hormone-free beef.

“We call that our ‘never-ever’ program,” he explained. “No antibiotics; it’s always natural.”

In an effort to run a more sustainable business, De Kalb said all the spent grains from Laurelwood’s brewing process go to local farmers that turn around and feed it to their animals. 

“There’s less carbon footprint that way,” he said.

Local and organic benefits aside, Laurelwood was just as vulnerable as any other restaurant when it came to the effects of the Great Recession. In order to survive, De Kalb said it was important that his brewpub was not viewed as a “destination place.” 

Laurelwood brewery in Battle Ground“I think for the most part we tried not to be a destination place, meaning we keep our prices low, we take a little less margin, we pay our employees a decent wage and provide benefits,” explained De Kalb. “I guess essentially the strategy is that we make a little less money but we still have customers coming through the door and they still find it affordable enough to come a couple times a week.”

After two years of serving food and drinks in Southwest Washington, De Kalb said future expansion in Clark County would not be out of the question. And, he added, Battle Ground Village has been a great place to do business.

“Often people who aren’t familiar with Battle Ground ask, ‘where are you located on that long street?’ Well, we’re not on that long street. You have to go to the end of that long street and hang a right,” laughed De Kalb. “I love it here.”

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