The Well at the Distillery: Historic Brewery in Thornton Gets New Life as Distillery
By Carrie Steinweg published May 23, 2019
I'm a big history buff. I've written a lot of articles over the years on historic attractions, authored three local history books and served on the board of my local historical society for several years. I also love food and beverages. So, when there's a venue that combines the two, it really gets me excited.
The Well at the Distillery is in one of the oldest surviving structures in the south suburbs. Housed in an 1857 building in Thornton, it spent its first century as a brewery under several different owners. The original owners, the Beilfeldt family, successfully brewed beer there until prohibition and even during that time, the beer quietly continued to be produced when it became a soda production site. When prohibition ended, the building served as a brewery again until 1957.
In recent decades the building was split into different businesses and for some time sat unoccupied and deteriorated. Many times, because of the cost and time involved, a building like this will continue to sit empty and deteriorate - and eventually be demolished - unless someone with a big passion for history and a strong vision comes along to save it. The Village of Thornton is very fortunate that there was a vision to renovate and bring the former brewery back to life.
Work on the building has taken four long years and is still ongoing, but it's now a place where spirits are distilled using that same well that went into a century of beer-making.
The tasting room is open, and people are now gathering to enjoy some small-batch whiskey, gin, rum and vodka at the expansive bar that was creating using limestone removed when a tunnel leading to the well was dismantled. Later this year you'll be able to find their spirits on store shelves.
The lounge area is dark and decorated with old photos, local memorabilia and period-style furnishings to give an old-school speakeasy vibe. The well can be entered through the lounge and both are part of a tour that is offered several times a day during their operating hours. The tour covers the history of the brewery, some basics of the distilling process and some tastings.
The place has been slowly growing in recent months with new infused drinks offered regularly, the introduction of a light food menu, weekly trivia and movie nights. Several events have taken place there, including Fetching Market and a New Year's Eve party, and with more events scheduled in the near future. A private event space is available for parties, weddings and other events.
Paninis, flatbreads and cheese boards are on the menu with premium ingredients like aged mozzarella, marinated mushrooms, smoked provolone and kalamata olives.
The south suburbs and especially the Village of Thornton really needed this and I'm grateful that this historical gem is no longer sitting vacant, but being utilized, enjoyed and recognized and appreciated for its storied history. The Well at the Distillery is open Thursday through Sunday. For more info, visit the website at thewell1857.com or follow on Facebook and Instagram.