Brewing is in our Foundation

The colorful history of The Well at the Distillery, the oldest standing brewery in Illinois, can be traced back to 1857 when the brick and limestone brewery and grain tower was built by the John S. Bielfeldt family on the west bank of Thorn Creek in the small Village of Thornton, Illinois. The artesian well already was on the property where a log cabin saloon and brewery had opened in 1836.

Timeline

1836

The Well

Don Carlos Berry kept a well-known tavern in Thornton. He brewed “Berry’s Beer” in a log cabin on the site of the present brewery (west side of the Thorn Creek at Margaret St). He sold the cabin to Gurdon Hubbard.

1857

Building the brewery

The colorful history of The Well at the Distillery, the oldest standing brewery in Illinois, can be traced back to 1857 when the brick and limestone brewery and grain tower was built by the John S. Bielfeldt family on the west bank of Thorn Creek in the small Village of Thornton, Illinois. The artesian well already was on..Read More

1899

Bielfeldt Brewing Co.

Upon J.S. Bielfeldt’s death in 1899, the business was turned over to his children. The Bielfeldt family’s production persevered until 1920 despite floods, tornadoes and fire. What ended the brewery wasn’t nature, it was the law.

1902

Thorn Creek Flood

Flood partially damages brewery.

1904

1904 Tornado

The brewery was partially destroyed by tornado.

1910
First delivery truck

First delivery truck

A truck was acquired in 1910 for delivering beer.

1920
Prohibition

Prohibition

A nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933.

1922
Prohibition brings change

Prohibition brings change

At the onset of Prohibition, the Bielfeldt Brewing Company was sold to Head Brewer, Carl Ebner, Sr. Ebner bottled soda pop, but also continued to secretly produce beer. Soon, federal agents raided the brewery with axes, smashed the vats, and thousands of gallons of beer were poured into Thorn Creek...Read More

1933

The Thornton Brewing Company

Once Prohibition ended in 1933, the brewery came under the control of successive owners beginning with John M. Kubina. Kubina claimed to have been approached by Joe Saltis wanting to own a piece of the new business. Kubina swiftly declined. Renamed “The Thornton Brewing Company,” Kubina’s company was able to..Read More

1936
Rocky Start

Rocky Start

From there it moved into the hands of successive owners. It became “Illinois Brewing Company” followed by “Frederick Brewing Company,” and “McAvoy Brewing.”

1951
White Bear Brewing Company

White Bear Brewing Company

In 1951, Lidefonsas “Joe” Sadauskas took ownership and the brewery was renamed “White Bear Brewing Company.” He produced a Lithuanian-style beer that proved unpopular with local residents. This, combined with Sadauskas refusing to pay a crime syndicate for protection led to big trouble. Once again Thorn Creek was filled with..Read More

2014
From Ruin to Restoration

From Ruin to Restoration

In 2014, as the old brewery sat vacant, a small group of craft distillers happened upon its colorful history as Illinois’ oldest standing brewery and discovered the artesian well still functioned. After four long years of meticulous building restoration, The Well at the Distillery is again producing fine distilled spirits...Read More

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