It wasn’t planned that One Well Brewing would become a popular family hangout, but that’s what’s happened anyway.
The microbrewery, which opened in 2014, has garnered a reputation for having great locally made brews, good food and — unusual for a brewpub — a kid-friendly atmosphere.
That atmosphere developed naturally but was completely unexpected, says co-owner T.J. Waldofsky.
“You don’t know what your customers are going to want. You don’t even know who your customers are going to be,” Waldofsky says. “You can kind of guess at it when you’re writing a business plan, but we saw people coming in here and they had kids and they wanted food for their kids, so we created a kids’ menu. And when we expanded in 2016, we realized there were more kids coming in here, so we’re like, ‘Let’s just cater to that.’”
Games and more
The One Well taphouse, located at 4213 Portage St., features a kids’ play area with toys and room to roam. There’s a wall lined with classic pinball machines, several old-school arcade machines like Double Dragon and Golden Axe, and a bookshelf filled with more than 300 board games, some of which came from the personal collection of brewery co-owner Chris O’Neill. And the kids’ menu features popular children’s meals such as pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.
“We want anybody to feel welcome here, and if that includes kids and young families that want to bring in their kids to come and play in our kid area, then, by all means, they should come here,” Waldofsky says.
And come they do.
“We can still have a nice night out,” One Well patron Mandy Roscheke says as she watches her 2- and 6-year-olds play in the kids’ area. She’s been bringing her children to One Well for about a year and says she enjoys the opportunity to have a good time while being out with her kids.
Rebecca Longcorn has been coming to the brewery since it opened and says she loves that she and her children, ages 6, 7 and 10, can enjoy the board games, like Yahtzee, that she played when she was younger. She says her kids also love the brewery’s regular menu.
And it’s not just regulars who bring their children. On Mallory Aleinberg’s first visit to the brewery, she brought her 2- and 4-yea––r-old children based on the recommendation of a friend.
“I don’t have to worry about people looking at them if they’re being loud,” Aleinberg says about her children, who laugh loudly as they play.
The idea of bringing children into a brewpub may shock some people, but Waldofsky says One Well Brewing caters to kids in the same ways that some chain restaurants do.
“I think some people struggle with it,” he says, “but if you look at any chain restaurant, they serve liquor and they have kids in there every day. We don’t serve liquor — I’m not saying liquor is bad or anything — but they’re doing the same thing. We’re a bar and a restaurant.”
Waldofsky says those who want a more purely adult atmosphere may feel more welcome at One Well after 9 p.m.
Gathering by the well
Perhaps what draws families — and others — to One Well is the intention behind the establishment. When O’Neill and Waldofsky were planning their microbrewery, they wanted it to be a place where “everyone can gather together and have a good time,” says Waldofsky.
“Before pubs even existed, people in every town would gather around a well and talk about what was going on in town, play some music and hang out,” he says. “We wanted to kind of embody what that vestige represented and make a community gathering place. You can sit down — we’re not rushing you out of here. We don’t have a wait staff intentionally because if you wanted to sit here and play a board game for two hours, we’re not trying to flip your table and get someone else in here.”
Oh, and there’s the beer, too. One Well’s handcrafted brews, such as its famous Xalapa, an ale that features the taste of a jalapeno without any of the spicy kick, have done so well that One Well recently acquired a 10,000-square-foot production facility at 3618 Gembrit Circle to house a new brewing system and to serve as a distribution center should the brewery begin distributing some of its products to other retail locations.
That facility also allows other area microbreweries to pay a fee to brew their beverages there in large batches on a monthly basis as opposed to making smaller batches weekly at their own facilities.
Waldofsky says he and O’Neill have also talked about the possibility of opening a second taphouse location, though where that would be, he says, is up in the air.
“You’ll never meet an asshole at a brewery,” Waldofsky says and it seems his brewery’s patrons, young and old, might agree with him there.