Metro-East Living

Old Bakery Beer Company keeps things simple

Old Bakery Beer Company in Alton is in renovated Colonial bread factory

Co-owner James Rogalsky talks about how he became a brewer and what food his restaurant has to offer
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Co-owner James Rogalsky talks about how he became a brewer and what food his restaurant has to offer

James Rogalsky and Lauren Pattan are only in their 20s, but they’ve taken on a project that’s the talk of the town in Alton.

The married couple renovated the old Colonial bakery and bread store and opened an 18,000-square-foot restaurant and microbrewery in January. Now they’re distributing beer throughout the region.

“I think it’s positive for the area,” said customer Jeff Griffin, 51, of Godfrey. “We needed the growth, and this building has a lot of historical significance. I came through here on a tour as a Cub Scout. They gave us a loaf of white Colonial bread. It was warm, right out of the oven.”

On a recent Friday, Jeff and his wife, Teresa, were sitting at the bar at Old Bakery Beer Company, drinking a Session IPA and Citrus Wheat. They passed on their usual order of housemade pretzels with whole-grain-mustard or beer-cheese sauce.

A few feet away, Erin and Aaron Heil were snacking on Billy Goat chips in a stainless-steel mixing bowl while waiting for two Sweet Potato Wraps with black beans and sriracha crema ($8 with side).

“I like that they use fresh and local ingredients in their food,” said Erin, 38, of Alton. “And we like the unique atmosphere. It’s very laid back and comfortable.”

I like that they use fresh and local ingredients in their food, and we like the unique atmosphere. It’s very laid back and comfortable.

Erin Heil on being a repeat customer

James and Lauren maintained the building’s industrial look and feel by re-pouring concrete floors, installing warehouse-style light fixtures and leaving old glazed-brick walls, tall ceilings, exposed duct work and the classic “Colonial is good bread” sign.

The restaurant has a relatively small menu with appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches and a couple of entrees. It changes every three months to take advantage of seasonal produce.

“We’re keeping things simple because we want to make sure the real focus is on the beer,” said Lauren, 27, of Alton, whose 2-week-old son, Murray, was sleeping peacefully in a Baby Bjorn carrier on her chest.

James serves as brewmaster. He works in the old garage, where Colonial delivery trucks used to park. It’s now lined with stainless-steel fermentation tanks, which customers can see through a wall of windows on their way to the restaurant and brew pub.

Old Bakery Beer Company sells 15 varieties of IPAs, wheats, ales and lagers on tap ($5 to $6). It distributes draft beer to about 50 bars and restaurants in Southern Illinois, including Grappa Growlers in Belleville and Stagger Inn Again, Peel Pizza and Dewey’s in Edwardsville.

The one thing that separates us from some of the other small Midwestern breweries is that we’re organic. Right now, all but two of our beers are USDA-certified organic.

James Rogalsky on his brewing philosophy

“The one thing that separates us from some of the other small Midwestern breweries is that we’re organic,” said James, 27, sporting a long beard and glasses. “Right now, all but two of our beers are USDA-certified organic.

“The other thing is, we’re trying to brew with the best local ingredients we can get. All of our malts come from Wisconsin, all of our grains come from Ohio, and a large portion of our hops come from Michigan. We don’t want to import anything from Europe.”

The restaurant also has a full bar with local sodas (Fitz’s and Excel), Goshen coffee, wine and cocktails ranging from an 1897 Old Fashioned to the Dark & Cidery with Prichard’s aged rum, apple cider and ginger syrup.

Popular sandwiches include the BLT, which substitutes housemade tomato jam for tomatoes, and the Cuban, with H&B ham from Hansen Packing in Jerseyville, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard on a banquette ($10 with side).

“We roast the pork in-house, and we make the pickles,” Lauren said. “It’s just a good, hearty sandwich.”

James and Lauren are Alton natives who met at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He later earned a bachelor’s in sociology at University of Missouri-St. Louis, and she completed her master’s in environmental management at Webster University.

James’ beer-making hobby started when Lauren’s mother bought him a home-brewing kit for Christmas. She knew he enjoyed good craft beer and had no other gift ideas.

“My first couple of batches were pretty bad,” James said. “But I kind of fell in love with the science and the process.”

The couple ended up moving to St. Louis and bartending at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company. Lauren became general manager, and James worked in the brewhouse after completing the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering Program.

Eventually, they developed a generic business plan for their own microbrewery, expecting to stay in St. Louis.

“I quickly realized that my sociology degree wasn’t going to do me much good,” James said. “So I thought I’d get into something more practical, and the craft-beer industry was growing really fast.”

The couple were struggling to find the right location when James’ father, Randy Rogalsky, persuaded them to consider leasing the old Colonial bread building.

The brick structure dates back to 1893. It housed Alton Baking and Catering Co. until the 1920s, when a fire destroyed half of it. It was rebuilt and used for Noll’s Bakery and later Colonial until the ’80s.

“What really sold us was the concrete floors and built-in drainage, which breweries require and which cost a lot of money to put in,” Lauren said.

Today, Old Bakery Beer Company has a giant lobby lined with historic photos and Alton maps, and an event space for private gatherings.

One wall in the restaurant displays the work of local artists. The bar is made of reclaimed wood. Rolling pins serve as beer tappers. Beer choices are listed on chalkboards.

“It’s a wonderful microbrewery, and it has good artisan food,” said customer John Remelius, 30, noting that it helped him decide to buy a home in Alton.

On this evening, John and his wife, Kristina, were sitting at the bar tasting beers. A flight of four, 4-ounce glasses sells for $7.

The couple also brought in their two, 32-ounce growlers to be refilled with draft beer. John likes to take them to Waterloo when he goes home to visit his family.

“Their beer selection is adventurous, which is something we both like,” said Kristina, 31. “I’m fairly new to beer, but every one I’ve tried here, I’ve liked.”

At a glance

  • What: Old Bakery Beer Company restaurant and brewery
  • Where: 400 Landmarks Boulevard in Alton
  • Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and noon to midnight Saturdays
  • Handicap-accessible: Yes
  • Seating: 200
  • Carryouts: Yes
  • Information: Call 618-463-1470, visit or tweet @oldbakerybeer

On the menu

  • House Salad — Mixed greens, carrots, radishes, rosemary, thyme, croutons and housemade Dijon vinaigrette, $3 side or $8 meal
  • Kale Salad — Kale, bacon, Parmesan and walnuts with lemon vinaigrette, $5 side or $10 meal
  • Cuban Sandwich — H&B ham, house-roasted pork, Swiss cheese, housemade pickles and yellow mustard on a baguette, $10 with Billy Goat chips, pasta salad or broccoli salad
  • Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato — Bacon, housemade tomato jam, mixed greens and garlic mayo, $8 with Billy Goat chips, pasta salad or broccoli salad
  • Smoked Turkey Sandwich — Smoked turkey, mixed greens, sage cream, cheese and cranberry sauce, $9 with Billy Goat chips, pasta salad or broccoli (seasonal)
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