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. Just down the street was the beginning of a large rock quarry which today is the largest limestone quarry in North America. John S, Bielfeldt would go-on to quench the insatiable thirst of the multitude of workers and quarriers that mined the land and built what is today the great city of Chicago.
While many came to Thornton to extract the stone, John Bielfeldt used it as a filter and The Well tapped into the limestone spring feeding from a deep underground aquifer from Lake Superior. The minerality of the limestone filtered water provides a desirable effect on the production of fine spirits both then and now. Thornton’s limestone geology means that iron is filtered out of the water as it flows over the rock and becomes a sweet-tasting mineral water. The water is pumped out of a limestone aquifer 150 feet underground and filtered using reverse osmosis, so the mineral content remains intact.
By early 1857, the Bielfeldt family built a residence above The Well and adjacent to the brewery’s grain tower. Both buildings remain today as the core of the distillery. The beer they brewed became known as “J.S. Bielfeldt Lager Beer” which was later changed to Bielfeldt Brewing Company after the death of John S. Bielfeldt in 1899. The Bielfeldt family’s production persevered despite floods, tornadoes and fire. What ended the brewery wasn’t nature, it was the law.