A former newspaper building in Collinsville, Illinois, is getting a new lease on life.

Old Herald Brewery and Distillery officially opens its doors today in the former home of the Collinsville Herald. Owners Derik and Whitney Reiser had originally intended to open a small pizza pub before their plans snowballed into the current concept, which features a production brewery, distillery and a full restaurant with seating for 120.

"It's just a really neat space and it’s perfect for what we want to do," Whitney says. "It’s large; it’s got the separation for the brewery side and the spirits side and it’s just a really neat building that sat there empty for many, many years."

Old Herald Still

"It wasn’t even for sale when we started this project, and we sort of had to talk it out of its owner," she adds with a laugh.

The couple, who have been homebrewing for 30-plus years, hired Torin O'Brien, who previously worked at Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis as well as at 12Degree Brewing in Louisville, Colorado, as Old Herald's head brewer. The lineup includes Printer's Ink, a black ale with chocolate and coffee notes; Late Edition, a dry-hopped IPA with notes of citrus, orange and grapefruit; Proofreader Pale, a pale ale with light notes of tropical fruit; and Miner's Coalsch, a tongue-in-cheek twist on a classic Kölsch. "We are donating 10 percent of the profits from sales [of Miner's Coalsch] to the Miner's Institute for the ongoing restoration of the 100-year-old Miner's Theatre in Collinsville," Whitney says. "We are very excited for this beer."

House spirits are produced under the Ardent Spirits label. The name was inspired by the original property deeds establishing Collinsville in 1837, which included a clause requiring any land owner who produced or sold "ardent spirits" to forfeit their land. To start, Ardent Spirits will offer a gin, rum and vodka. At Old Herald, guests can sample the house spirits in cocktails like Above the Fold with Ardent Spirits gin, hibiscus grenadine and tonic; and Down Route with Ardent Spirits rum, cinnamon-oolong syrup, coconut milk and lime juice.

Old Herald Above the Fold

Above the Fold with Ardent Spirits gin, hibiscus grenadine and tonic.

Whitney says the gin is ideal for those who think they don't like gin. The couple developed their gin recipe while attending a distilling university in Kentucky in August, where they were able to taste different botanicals, decide what they liked and scale the recipe up. "I think people who don’t like gin will really like this," Whitney says. "I hope they give it a shot. It’s not the heavy juniper, pine forest-tasting gin. It’s really lovely; it’s got a little citrus and cinnamon in it."

To pair with its craft beer and spirits, Old Herald also features a full restaurant with a menu that Whitney describes as approachable yet upscale. "There are some really fun, different menu items that you wouldn't normally find in Collinsville," she says. 

Old Herald Beers

Beers are, fittingly, inspired by the newspaper business, like the Printer's Ink black ale.

Executive chef Krissana Frawley comes to Old Herald from Beast Craft BBQ in Belleville, and also worked at Cleveland-Heath in Edwardsville. Her menu includes a lengthy list of shareable appetizers like jalapeño poppers with spent-grain breading, Cheddar and cream cheese-avocado ranch sauce; the poutine-inspired Old Herald Fries with braised beef cheeks, brown gravy and garlic-herb cheese curds; the Paper Route Pretzel with horseradish-mustard sauce and beer cheese; corn dog bites; hummus; pork rinds and bacon-beer mac 'n' cheese.

You'll also find salads and a couple sandwiches including the PBLT (crispy fried beer-braised pork belly with tomato jam, greens and herb aïoli served on country white), a patty melt, short-rib burger and Nashville hot chicken on a freshly baked biscuit. For something heartier, look to the list of entrées, which includes fish and chips battered in spent grain and served with jalapeño hush puppies, plus chicken and waffles, pork spiedini with pappardelle pasta and braised beef cheeks over barley risotto. Rounding out the menu are a selection of flatbreads, a kids' menu and desserts, which include freshly made beer donuts filled with IPA lemon curd and tossed in powdered sugar.

Old Herald's restaurant and bar area seats 120 diners, with room for another 20 in an adjacent lounge. A separate event space, which can seat around 75 to 80 people, will also be available to rent. Look for weekend brunch to launch on Sundays this spring.

"We really want our guests to come in and feel like it’s a place where they can hang out and be comfortable," Whitney says. "We want them to have a very tasty beverage and maybe something a little different. We just want to be a good force in the city. We want to make Collinsville proud."

Old Herald Brewery and Distillery, 115 E. Clay St. Collinsville, Illinois, 618.855.8027, oldheraldbrewing.com

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