Patrons convene to salvage Woodridge brewery destroyed in tornado’s wrath


WOODRIDGE, Ill. — Sunday night’s tornados continue to have devastating impacts on families in the southwest suburbs as clean-up efforts persist.

Skeleton Key Brewery in Woodridge did not emerge from the tornado unscathed, but the craft beer community is coming together to help the owners get back on their feet.

“It was doing great,” said Emily Slayton of Skeleton Key Brewery. “We were just talking Sunday evening before all of this about how it really felt like we were on the up-and-up and we had gotten over the hump.” 

What remains after a tornado slammed into the brewery Sunday night are walls barely standing and piles of debris.

“This roof just blew forward, right behind me. The roof is gone,” Slayton said. “It’s just open, so you can see the sun shining in. The bar is still there, so it makes it feel kind of dystopian and really weirdly, the glassware was all still lined up in a perfect row. Our menu has the letters on it perfectly. Everything else around it is pure destruction.”

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel: the community started a GoFundMe page to help. More than 70,000 has been raised thus far. 

“The Illinois craft beer community is an amazing group of people that has pretty much wrapped their arms around us and shown up,” said Vikki Reed, the brewery’s general manager. “That’s what they’ve always done.”

While thousands of gallons of beer were destroyed, thousands more were transported to Miskatonic Brewing Company.

“We’ve had a number of breweries, about two dozen, converge on us in order to transport all of the beer from the facility in Woodridge over here so that we can figure out how to get rid of it before it got warm,” Reed added.  

“We were able to salvage everything in our walk-in cooler, but our fermenters were all still filled with beer when the tornado hit,” said Skeleton Key Brewery co-owner Paul Slayton. “So everything in our fermenters is wasted beer at this point right now.”

Business owners say they remain optimistic, however.

“There’s this incredible relief that no one was here,” Emily Slayton said. “We are fortunate in the timing.  It happened on Father’s Day. Normally if it happened the night before, we would have had staff here. We might have had patrons here as well.”

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