Skeleton Key Brewery

Skeleton Key Brewery Set To Open in Woodridge

In Press Release by Karl

Chicagoland is adding another brewery to the local roster — this one with an interesting educational…and incubatorial twist. 

Skeleton Key Brewery

Skeleton Key popped up on our radar about a year ago, when we spotted some documentation for a “brewery incubator” which would help breweries grow on a small scale, get their feet wet and put some recipes into the world for sale.

Since then, the plan has obviously morphed and evolved into a more traditional production brewery and taproom, but we’re happy to see that the incubator program is still a part of their gameplan.

It’s sort of the opposite approach that the soon-to-open all-contract Great Central Brewing Company has to growing breweries. Great Central is available for larger more established breweries to help brew beer and grow their business — Skeleton Key is looking for the people looking at a startup on a nanoscale, a few barrels at a time to see what the beer business is like.

Skeleton Key’s Emily Slayton explained the incubator to us thusly:

“It’ll be a 3-month apprenticeship-of-sorts where they can get experience with commercial equipment and the day-to-day operations of a brewery and taproom, and we will also work with them to help them develop a business plan and branding, guide them through the licensing processes.”

The AllAboutBeer site featured Skeleton Key here along with some other nacent incubator programs, including Cleveland’s Platform Brewing. Brewers can work with Skeleton Key’s system and even release beer under SK’s name.

“If they like, we would also help them get a foothold in the market early on by releasing their flagship beer as part of our apprentice series (name still up in the air), with as much emphasis given to their would-be brewery name as possible (but for legal reasons it would still have to be under our banner),” Slayton says. “If they wanted to, we could then contract-brew their beer until they find a home of their own or a long-term contract solution. They retain all rights to the recipe when they leave.”

More From GDB:  Two Brothers Brewing Expanding To Sunshine State

Not a bad way to dip your toes in the water.

More on the incubator program is here, and the educational focus continues with classes including all-grain brewing, packaging your beer, and how to make your own homebrew equipment.

Slayton herself is a homebrewer and barley enthusiast who was the first recipient of the “Pink Boots Society/North Dakota State University Department of Plant Sciences Barley Field School” scholarship award.

Per the below, their opening is scheduled for September 24. Much like Solemn Oath, the taproom is limited by the city in the size/amount of the pours they can provide, but still, drinking out of skull mugs sounds pretty rad.

Also, the opening of Skeleton Key means the I-55 corridor has another option for fresh beer — one could bounce from Blue Nose to Imperial Oak to Miskatonic to Skeleton Key and on down to Pollyanna and Metal Monkey in fairly short order.

(Feel free to map a trip on our Chicagoland Craft Beer Map.)

Press Release: 

Education-Minded Brewery Opens Its Doors in Woodridge

WOODRIDGE, IL (Sept. 12, 2016) — Skeleton Key Brewery (8102 Lemont Rd., Unit 300), the Chicago suburbs’ newest microbrewery and taproom, announces that its grand opening will take place Saturday, September 24 from 3pm-11pm. Owners/brewers Emily and Paul Slayton and John Szopa say they hope to make the brewery a community hub for craft beer enthusiasts by offering a rotating selection of up to eight beers, as well as a variety of beer-related classes and a brewery incubator program.

“Craft beer isn’t having a ‘moment’; it’s hitting its stride,” owner and head brewer John Szopa says. “We’re excited to be part of that, and we can’t wait to share it with others—both through the beers we brew and the learning opportunities we offer.”

The grand opening celebration will feature four of their best-loved beers: Space Plans dry-hopped IPA, Saudade Belgian witbier with chrysanthemum and sage, Tais-toi oat saison, and If We’re Not Back by Dawn brown porter. Tickets for up to four 12-ounce pours can be purchased at the door for $5 each; branded t-shirts, stickers, posters, and glassware will be available for purchase in the taproom. The evening’s soundtrack will be provided by roots-rock musician Dan Peters and his rhythm guitarist from 7-10pm.

More From GDB:  Beer For ... Parrots? Lincoln Park Zoo's "Zoo-ologie" Benefit Beer from DryHop

The 6,000 square foot facility includes a spacious taproom with 20-foot ceilings, a mural depicting a patchwork of fantastical doors, glass skull pendant lamps, and a 12-foot shuffleboard table. Seating is available at the bar and along the half-wall, where guests can get a wide-open view into the 15-barrel brewery. Behind the bar is a custom-made cabinet that houses personal ceramic mugs for founding members of the brewery’s mug club, the Skullmuggery Society. Glass skull mugs are reserved for members and supporters in the club’s other two tiers.

“We are blown away by the support we have received in advance of our opening,” owner and taproom director Paul Slayton says. “Not just our family and friends, but even complete strangers had our backs the minute we announced the mug club. One of the things I look forward to most is shaking their hands and thanking them in person for taking that leap of faith.”

Closer to the front entrance of of the brewery is an air-conditioned space trimmed in whitewashed brick and grey barnwood. Here, guests can sit at large acacia wood tables and play board games, order-in food from nearby restaurants, and get a glimpse into the brewery’s dedicated yeast lab. The space can be reserved for semi-private events, but when the taproom is closed, it will serve as a classroom where both novice and experienced craft beer lovers can learn about everything from beer styles and homebrewing to yeast management and growing your own hops.

“We’re creating something we wished had existed back when we first got serious about brewing,” owner and marketing director Emily Slayton says of the brewery’s educational aspect. “It’s not intense, Siebel Institute-level stuff, but it’s a good way to get an introduction to a lot of different things. We hope it inspires people to learn more about craft beer, and once our incubator program is up and running, we’re excited to be a springboard for the amazing breweries that are yet to come.”

More From GDB:  Breaking: Odell Brewing Entering Illinois in February

Emily will teach the brewery’s first class, an elective offered through the College of Dupage’s Business of Craft Beer program, titled Brewery Licensing and Permitting.

For more information, call 630.395.9033, email [email protected] or visit Photos available upon request.

About Skeleton Key Brewery
The idea for Skeleton Key Brewery grew out of a collective desire to brew great beer and help others do the same. Trained in breweries, busy restaurants and classrooms around the country, Lombard-native owners John Szopa, Emily Slayton and Paul Slayton maintain that their greatest education came from the trials and errors of homebrewing. The brewery aims to become a vibrant community hub for craft beer enthusiasts, homebrewers and passionate entrepreneurs alike. For current draft list, classes and taproom hours, visit


(Editor’s Note: We receive a ton of beer-related press releases, but we’ll only bring you the ones we think are relevant, fun, interesting, cool, newsworthy, or offer something we’d be interested in checking out ourselves.)

More From Guys Drinking Beer

About the Author



Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers. If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

Share this Story