Brewery Hops Up Sound Control

ALTON, IL—Lots of people talk about following a dream while having a beer; last year, James and Loren Rogalsky followed their dream by making beer, when they founded The Old Bakery Beer Company, a sustainable craft brewery in downtown Alton, IL.
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Pearl Pro Audio installed dozens of Tectum Finale sound absorption panels inside the Old Bakery Beer Brewery in Alton, IL ALTON, IL—Lots of people talk about following a dream while having a beer; last year, James and Loren Rogalsky followed their dream by making beer, when they founded The Old Bakery Beer Company, a sustainable craft brewery in downtown Alton, IL. The name comes from the building that their brewpub calls home, which started out as a bakery in the 1800s. Despite having various owners who remodeled it and a fire that tore through the facility in 1929, it continued to operate as Colonial Bakery until shutting down in the early 1980s. When the Rogalskys decided to create their brewery in the aging edifice, they wanted to honor the building’s history while creating a modern brewpub experience; their work cut was out for them—and that included dealing with numerous sound issues.

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A state-of-the-art brewery was constructed and installed, along with two public areas—a Pub and an Event Space. Throughout the building, renovations were made with an eye towards highlighting the industrial design, updating things while keeping the charm of the building intact. Much of the structure was blasted with walnut shells and steam to enhance the textures inherent of the old factory bakery, and in keeping with the Rogalskys’ intent to remain as “green” as possible, repurposed woods, reclaimed lumber and lighting materials were used whenever possible. When new materials had to be used, the Rogalskys made a point of using environmentally appropriate products, too.

While it all made for a welcoming place to have a drink, the renovation also created a serious problem: The building’s acoustics were great for a bakery, but for a room full of people poring over some fresh-brewed IPA, speech intelligibility would now be a major issue. RTA times were horrid, mainly due to the glazed brick that covered the walls, floor and ceiling. The presence of just a few voices was enough to create a sound not unlike a shouting match; add some cars driving past the front of the building, and there was a near constant cacophony of noise that radiated to the back of the room. The reverberation in the space was like a cathedral, and this had to be improved.

I was contacted by the owners during the renovation to see what Pearl Pro Audio (Godfrey, IL) could do about the problem, so we tested the Pub and Event Space, using computer analysis to evaluate the sound and decide on the best materials to apply and in what quantities. After comparing several brands and manufacturers, we settled on Tectum Finale acoustical panels.

While noise control was our top priority, Tectum was also chosen for its Forest Stewardship Council- certified green and sustainable products, which met the concerns of the new owners. The panels are made of excelsior (wood fibers) derived from Wisconsin Aspen trees, because it turns out the Aspens are self-propagating; when cut, a new tree begins to grow back from the remaining roots. Other components of the 2-inch-thick Finale panels include Magnesium Oxide mixed with Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom salts) to create the binder. After manufacturing, water used during the process is recycled and captured, so overall, the panels answered the environmental requirements of the project nicely.

The two spaces required a large amount of treatment; we applied more than 125 4-by-4 foot squares of Tectum Finale to walls and ceilings, and then applied and hung another 35 4-by-8-foot Finale panels and clouds from the Event Space ceiling. Attached by drilling and using Tapcon screws, the project was labor-intensive, yet day by day, as we installed the panels, the sound quality improved. The owners noticed that a small radio kept in a corner during construction now sounded very good; previously, it had almost been drowned out by traffic noise. Similarly, conversation that was impossible to hear a week before was now very warm and easy to understand. Even other workers noticed as they talked across the room; before, if you shouted, the words were gobbled up in noise, reflection and reverb. The building’s owners were very pleased with the outcome.

With the noise issues under control, we then installed a small, twozone music system for the public spaces, which we based around Peavey Architectural Acoustics’ PZS 140RA multi-zone mixer/amplifier and a pair of Crown XLS1000 Drivecore amps, along with eight Peavey Impulse 652S loudspeakers. The system can handle room-combining or splitting, allowing the Pub and the Event Space to have separate sound systems when needed—useful if there’s a business meeting in one room and pub customers in the other. Music for the systems is provided by an iPod or XM Radio.

Between the environmentally conscious noise control and the new music system, the final result made for some very happy owners. Going forward, Pearl Pro Audio expects to provide Allen & Heath’s new QU32 digital mixer, widescreen video projection, LED lighting, Heil mics and more from our inventory as needed for high-tech meetings and live music shows in the Event Space. We’ll help keep this house of hops hopping!

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Old Bakery Beer

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