The Well at the Distillery

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 (obviously!) and beverages. So, when there's a venue that combines the two, it really gets me excited. 

The well that was a source for brewing for a
century is now used in distilling spirits.

Head distiller, Ari Klafter, and co-owner
Andy Howell (not pictured co-owner Jake
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.

The bar facade was fashioned with pieces of limestone that surrounded a tunnel leading to the original well.

Cocktails made with spirits distilled on-site
can be enjoyed in the tasting room at
The Well at the Distillery. (photo: The Well)
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 well back to life.

The lounge, located between the tasting room
and the well, has an old-school speakeasy
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. Next year you'll be able to find their spirits on store shelves.

Behind this gate is the well that inspired the venue's
name. The well was used to produce beer at the
property for a century.
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 and for the time being is available at no-charge. As they get farther into the process of distributing product and expanding the building spaces, there will be a fee attached to tour, but it will eventually be more involved and include some tastings. 

Barrels on the distillery floor.

Bottles of beers previously brewed on the
site are on display in the lounge at The Well.
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 and are scheduled in the near future, including an ugly sweater dance party and New Year's Eve celebration. 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 and I'm very much looking forward to trying them out. 

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 or follow on Facebook and Instagram.

The Well at the Distillery
400 E. Margaret St.
Thornton, IL
(708) 877-6222