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Skeleton Key Brewery brings good beer, education programs to Woodridge

WOODRIDGE – Anew brewery opening in Woodridge believes the key to success is brewing well-crafted, balanced beer and telling interested people how to do it, too.

Head brewer John Szopa, his sister Emily Slayton and her husband Paul Slayton – a trio of Lombard natives who are now self-described beer nerds living in Downers Grove – are set to open the new Skeleton Key Brewery on Sept. 24 in Woodridge.

The three said their beer was for casual craft beer drinkers as much as those who love to learn about what goes into creating what they were quaffing – fellow beer nerds.

“Craft beer drinkers are our people – they’re us,” Paul Slayton said.

Long united by a love of delicious beer and experimentation, the three spent seven years home brewing, taking classes and working at actual breweries to drive toward their goal of opening a brewery of their own.

They then spent the last year transforming an old, empty office into a 6,000-square-foot taproom.

The three all have equal hands in brainstorming its various beers, with a goal of creativity without being overwhelming.

“We always started with classic styles and put a little twist on them,” Emily said.

That support has been clear already, from long lines during a sneak preview earlier this month to the city’s support of their opening, something they hope to repay to the community.

Emily Slayton explained the mission was spelled out in the name – a skeleton key being a key that opens many different doors.

“We wanted to have something that had that multiplier effect,” Emily Slayton said. “The further we got into the process, the more it sort of galvanized that idea and made that idea feel justified, because we realized how much there was to learn and wished we had somebody to tell us that kind of stuff.”

On top of regular classes highlighting everything from different hops and brewing techniques to obtaining a liquor license, they are planning on beginning an incubator program later this year, creating an apprenticeship for someone who is looking to get into the professional beer industry but lacks the formal experience to get a job at other breweries.

Szopa said the goal for “as long as we can manage it” is to have one of the three owners and brewers behind the bar whenever its patrons were in front of it.

“We want people to know that they’re going to be able to come into here and have a friendly atmosphere with good beer on tap for them and as much conversation as they need,” Paul Slayton said.



What: Skeleton Key Brewery grand opening party

Where: 8102 Lemont Road, Unit 300, Woodridge

When: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Tickets for up to four 12-ounce pours can be purchased at the door for $5 each, with merchandise and growlers available for purchase.

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