Skeleton Key Brewery Wrecked in Sunday's Tornadoes

Skeleton Key Brewery Wrecked in Sunday's Tornadoes
Some of the damage suffered by Skeleton Key Brewery in Sunday night's tornado. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

As more fundraising efforts are started to help Skeleton Key recover, I am trying to track them below. If you’d like to get a fundraising event mentioned, please use the email link above.

While fortunately there were no fatalities in Sunday night’s tornadoes that struck the suburbs southwest of Chicago, there were about a hundred homes and businesses damaged.

One of them was Skeleton Key Brewery, on Lemont Road in Woodridge. They first notified their social media friends of their situation at 10:30 Monday morning:

Last night was devastating for our community. Homes all around us were severely damaged, and we anxiously await confirmation that our neighbors are safe.

Unfortunately, the brewery did not emerge unscathed, though we are beyond grateful that somehow none of us were there when the tornado blew through.

Please do not attempt to approach the building, even once the street is open again. The building has suffered extreme structural damage, and our taprooms are destroyed. Our equipment appears to be intact, and we hope to rescue our beer once we are able to safely enter the building, but safety is our priority.


The damage was severe, and is still being added up: Pieces of the roof tore off, leaving parts of the brewery exposed to rain and hail. The new HVAC system, installed for a brewery expansion, was thrown across the street, according to the Tribune’s Josh Noel.

The brewery’s co-owners, Emily Slayton, her husband, Paul Slayton, and her brother and head brewer John Szopa had to warn friends and customers to stay away, as not only was the brewery a shambles, but Lemont Road was still closed down.

By afternoon, it appeared much of the brewing operation was still salvageable, expect for a brite tank full of beer they were scheduled to bottle on Monday. But the tap room and public area were declared uninhabitable, and possible the whole building in their industrial park location may be condemned.

Later, the SKB crew was able to get volunteers to help move what beer they could out of the wreckage. They current plan is to sell kegs, or run some draft lines at Miskatonic Brewing Co. in nearby Darien. Miskatonic staff will be donating their tips during Thursday’s bingo to help support their Skelton Key’s Front of House staff. It’s likely other brewers will be doing their own fundraisers.


As I am adding to these updates, it becomes more likely some kegs will soon kick and can will sell out. The response from the beer-loving community in these parts has been overwhelming. Be sure to check ahead.

  • Miskatonic also has cans of Skeleton Key beers available for pickup.
    They’ve also announced that on Wednesday, when they open at 3, they will have Sunstrike! on tap. “This awesome collaboration with Skeleton Key Brewery is one we have been looking forward too all summer. Packed with Meyer Lemons and Rose Hips, this beer will have you dreaming of the beach! SKB was only able to get 1 keg of this before Sunday storms, so come drink it while you can (or we might drink it all). Part of the proceeds from the draft and can sells will be going back to SKB for them and their staff. We have a small quantity of 4-packs online now for purchase.” There’s now an event listing for a benefit coming July 26.
  • The two Iron&Glass stores in Romeoville and Minooka have 4-packs available, and will host a Skeleton Key tap takeover on Friday).
  • Sovereign restaurant in Plainfield is donating a portion of all draft beer sales to the relief effort until the end of June.
  • Elmhurst Brewing Company secured a keg of Skeleton Key’s Things We Don’t Say Double India Pale Ale. They will donate 100% of the proceeds from sale of this beer to the relief fund.
  • Orange & Brew bottle shop and taproom in Downers Grove has cans of SKB’s Don’t Blink and Paintball Fight, and draft of Lost in the Ivy, their hoppy red ale.
  • Mikerphone Brewing of Elk Grove Village announced its staff will be donating their tips to the SKB staff. They’ve also secured 4-packs and drafts for sale, and their weekly Bingo resumes Thursday, June 24 at 7 pm as a further fundraiser.
  • Wolfden Brewing in Bloomingdale has a Skeleton Key tap takeover now going on, with Things We Don’t Say Hazy IPA, Lost in the Ivy Red Ale and Wondrous Saison.
  • Naperville’s 2 Fools Cider has tapped SKB’s Things We Don’t Say, and donating 100% of the sales to Skeleton Key.
  • Goldfinger Brewing of Downers Grove has their 7th Evil Ex Schwarzbier on tap. I was just there Wednesday afternoon for it, and about half the people there were drinking it.
  • Rabid Brewing in Homewood has two of their “tornado-powered” beers: Sun Strike (lemon rose wheat) & Don’t Blink (Scotch ale), in their taproom with all proceeds going to back to the Skeleton Key recovery fund. Donations will also be accepted in the Rabid taproom.
  • On Thursday, Marz Community Brewing will be tapping two guest drafts at their Iron Street taproom in support of SKB: Lost in the Ivy and Wondrous Saison.
  • Two Hound Red in Glen Ellyn has three Skeleton Key beers available: Things We Don’t Say – IPA – 6% ABV, on draft. Sunstrike – Wheat Ale, Miskatonic Collab – 5.4% ABV, Available in 4-pack cans. Paintball Fight – Berliner Weisse – 4.5% ABV Available in 4-pack cans.
  • Liquid Love Brewing in Buffalo Grove is tapping a keg of Lost in the Ivy Midwest red ale brewed completely with ingredients from the Midwest! Tapping starts Thursday at 4 pm.
  • In Lexington, IL, near Bloomington, Kemp’s Upper Tap is tapping a keg of SKB Cold Fresh Joy Helles. 100% of the proceeds from this keg will go towards their recovery efforts. “We have no doubt that they will come back stronger than ever, let’s raise a pint of Cold Fresh Joy.”
  • Black Lung Brewing posted Wednesday that “When our Things We Don’t Say IPA does kick, we have a whole other keg (of the same TWSD collaboration) from our friends Skeleton Key Brewery! All profit from that keg will go back to Emily and family who lost their brewery in a freaking tornado over the weekend. This beer is tornado powered!” Vikki Reid of Skeleton Key says their version has a little less malt and is more hop-forward.
  • Sew Hop’d of Huntley is planning an event for July 2, with BBQ from Fire & Smoke BBQ Company.
  • First Forest in Hodgkins has Wondrous Farmhouse Ale going on tap as soon as a line opens.
  • BuckleDown Brewing in Lyons got a keg of Cold Fresh Joy on tap.
  • Will County Brewing in Shorewood has taps available.
  • The Open Bottle in Lockport and Tinley Park has 4-packs to go.
  • Hillgrove Tap in Western Springs has secured some SBK on tap.
  • Crafted 1979 in Mokena: “We are tapping their Helles Lager, Cold Fresh Joy, starting at open! We will also be selling mixed 4-Packs of Sun Strike, Paintball Fight, Don’t Blink, and their version of Things We Don’t Say or Cold Fresh Joy (two 4-pack options).
  • Werk Force Brewing will have some beers on tap in Plainfield.
  • 302 Wheaton burger restaurant will have some SKB beers on tap.
  • Wooden Paddle pizza place in Lemont has snagged a few kegs and cans.
  • Pierce Tavern in Downers Grove is tapping.

I have more of the scheduled event for this weekend in my now-published “Craft Beer Weekend” article.

Skeleton Key opened in 2016 as a taproom only brewer. Their plans involved an incubator program, to help new brewers gain knowledge and skills to strike out on their own. Liquid Love, Phase Three and Brother Chimp Brewing were among the new brewers to take part. SKB had just begun to move into packaging its own beer to make up for business lost during the pandemic.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by Charolette Converse, Marketing Manager at Mikerphone, to support Skeleton Key and its employees. In its first day, nearly 450 donors kicked in over $36,000 of the fundraiser’s $50,000 goal. (Update: On Tuesday, Charolette raised the goal to $100,000. At 3 pm, over 800 donors contributed $72,500. Wednesday, the goal was raised to $150,000, with $110,000 donated so far, including a top donation of $2,500 from Goose Island).

Filed under: Beer News

Tags: Skeleton Key, Tornado

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