ALTON — When the opportunity arose to fulfill their longtime dream of a sustainable craft brewery, husband-and-wife team James Rogalsky and Lauren Pattan decided to just “hop” to it.
The Old Bakery Beer Company is making craft beer in the large building that formerly housed the Colonial Bakery. Rogalsky is no stranger to brewing, starting first as a home brewing hobbyist before spending two years working at the Urban Chestnut microbrewery in St. Louis. When an opportunity with another brewer fell through, Rogalsky decided to put together a business plan of his own with Pattan.
“We first started looking in South St. Louis but were blown away by size and character of the old Bakery building,” Rogalsky says. “I (also) liked the idea of doing something in our hometown.”
Rogalsky, 27, a Marquette graduate, and Pattan, 26, who attended Alton High School, have moved back home to tend to their business.
The large riverfront building at 400 Landmarks Blvd. served as the Colonial Bakery from the late 1800s until the 1980s. A year’s worth of design and labor went into preparing the space for brewing and business, including the pouring of fresh concrete, sand-blasting old paint, and updating the plumbing and electrical system.
“We have tried our best to keep the building’s history alive, and our name is just a small piece of that endeavor,” Rogalsky says.
Much of the existing finishes of the bakery were kept, giving the space a rustic, industrial feel. Many of the walls, including the bar backdrop, feature the bakery’s original glazed brick (white glazed brick was used so much in regional bakeries it became known as “bakery brick”).
The building’s entrance leads to a windowed corridor that offers a peek at the shiny brewing vessels and tanks that brew the beer served on site.
“We have 10,000 feet to grow into,” Rogalsky says. “For every square foot we can produce one barrel annually, brewing two or three times a day. We are hoping for 1,500 to 2,000 barrels a year.”
Just past the brewing area is the restaurant and bar. Long tables offer plenty of room for large groups.
The employees are enthusiastic about the new business (Josh Terpening of Godfrey described it as “a righteous and groovy place,” while Heather Robinson from Wood River says the early response is “really, really positive”).
A selection of session beers (lower alcoholic content with a cleaner finish) range from golden yellow to bright amber to deep ochre. For $6, guests can sample four beers.
“We’re making a conscious effort to keep our beers approachable,” Rogalsky says. “We’re making them clean, without rough edges … not high in alcohol, and not super-bitter.”
A self-described “avid craft beer drinker,” Pattan says she likes “something hoppy, dark, and a little sour. I like a really nice hoppy pilsner.” Rogalsky prefers “lightly hoppy and bitter,” such as pilsners, stouts, pale ales and porters.
While James handles the brewing operation, Pattan, a former general manager at Urban Chestnut, handles the restaurant.
“I had just finished graduate school in December of 2013,” she says. “I was ready to have a job with no school and no multiple jobs. That’s when James decided he wanted to open the brewery.”
The “accessible and local-as-possible” seasonal menu is a collaborative effort with kitchen manager Matt Cooper. Three weeks into the opening, the Cuban sandwich is proving popular with guests, with pork, beef and turkey all roasted in house. Lauren says one of her favorites is the tofu banh mi.
“It was important for me to have a good vegetarian option, instead of something that seemed like it was just thrown together with whatever was in the kitchen,” she says.
Early response exceeded expectations, with a packed house on the weekends and a menu sellout the first weekend. Now the dust has settled and the owners say they are prepared for an ongoing business that has truly exploded.
Future plans include a focus on expanding distribution, beginning in St. Louis.
“The brewery currently brews one to two times a week and has nine beers on draft,” James says. “We hope to get up to 11 or 12, and change up the beer list every other week.”
According to the Brewers Association, 2014 saw new breweries opening at a rate of 1.5 a day. The brewpub is not alone in Madison County, which has also seen a recent brewpub opening in Edwardsville, with another planned for Granite City.
The Old Bakery Beer Company is open 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. (staying open until midnight on Friday and Saturday). It is closed Monday and Tuesday. For more information, visit www.oldbakerybeer.com.