On an early Saturday afternoon I found myself somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for a long time: Yards Brewing Company. At 901 N. Delaware Ave the brewhouse and tasting room of Yards sits, full of chatter and the smell of beer.
I entered the tasting room with Michael, our eyes panning across the many tables and chairs for our friends. Finally we spotted Alex and Travis across the room. They were able to hold a couple seats at a table for us as we waited a short thirty minutes until the free tour began.
After stopping at the host stand and receiving a poker chip to turn in when our tour was called we grabbed a sample of the Yards Brawler. Samples in hand, we worked our way through the tasting room maze to the table that seated our friends.
It was 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday and this place was packed.
Sunlight poured in through the windows as groups got ready to go on tour. Some crowded the bar, ordering beer to sip while they waited until their tours began. Others sat at tables with their samples and mingled. Whatever your choice, the atmosphere was upbeat and friendly.
While we waited we noticed a fact sheet on the back of a drink menu in the middle of the table. In large green letters it read, “The greenest brewery in Pennsylvania.” This was something I did not know prior to visiting. It turns out that they operate on one hundred percent wind power and have other recycled features as well. A really cool detail to keep an eye out for is the bar counter top. It is made from reconstructed bowling lanes.
Despite the crowds of people waiting for tours the tasting room was much more spacious than some others I’ve been to. Yards’ tours draw a good following.
Before we knew it our poker chips’ color was being announced over the tasting room speakers asking that we line up to start the tour.
We lined up and dropped our poker chips into the cup that our guide held. As we passed through the entrance to the brewery he encouraged us to walk over to the table and try the samples of the two beers that were there. The Yards Brawler and the Philadelphia Pale Ale were already poured in rows of plastic cups. It was enough for everyone to have more than one sample.
Pretty soon our enthusiastic tour guide was inside with us. He explained to us how Tom Kehoe founded Yards in 1994 in Manayunk. This is also where the Extra Special Ale was created.
Since then they’ve moved to Northern Liberties where they remain today. The vats and kettles that towered over us are all reused. They were originally from another brewery, Yards made them their own. The concrete floors in the brewery are also recycled material.
I won’t give the whole tour away. The experience is part of the story and the staff at Yards has an exciting way of telling theirs. The guide we had was one of the best I’ve experienced this far. I really loved the way he got the group involved in asking questions.
I will give you one spoiler though: he might call on you for an answer once in a while. Not to fear because it is all in good fun. There were many laughs had on the tour. After around a 20-minute question and answer session where he answered anything from how Yards got its name to how long the beer lasts (A fine product will remain a fine product, your beer does not expire), we were back in the tasting room. I couldn’t wait to try some more of their beer.
As we re-accustomed ourselves to the tasting room post-tour, our guide made himself available for questions about what to try. Seriously, love a brewery whose staff loves talking about their beer. It was as busy as before but proved to be more difficult to navigate with flight of beer in hand. Just earlier that day we saw someone drop two glasses. We tried to not be the next.
Luckily we planned it all out. I got a Revolutionary Flight and Michael got a Signature Flight. Alex and Travis did the same. We lined up at the bar gazing up at the chalkboards covered with options. While waiting in line I took note of the fact that you could get a growler of any beer available. We would come back for those later.
Once we got up to the bar and placed our order the flights were ready in seconds. The real trick became finding a seat in the sea of Yards visitors. We tiptoed carefully, flights in hand, as we made our way out of the line.
Swerving around the pool table and squeezing around one more person we finally found a spot. We arranged our four flights on the countertop and stood by them. Sipping and comparing along the way we managed to try every beer in both flights.
It took us longer than you’d expect just to try them all. After each try we discussed them, things we liked or disliked. Which ones we enjoyed the most. Really we enjoyed them all but everyone has a favorite, right? Once we tried everything we each finished off our own flights, not quickly either.
We talked for hours planning future beer excursions as well as deciding what beer to try that wasn’t included in the flights. Travis went back to get a Ron’s Burden Scotch Ale on draft and Michel got the Extra Special Ale. Once we’d tried mostly everything at that point is when the growler decision came into play. Michael and I ended up choosing the Hugo for a growler, a great choice that I mention here.
Growlers in hand we begin our exit. As the next tour is announced over the loudspeaker and new drafts are being poured we push through to the front door, resisting the urge to get one more beer for home. So we marched our way to the subway and planned our next visit. We have growlers now, it’s our new excuse to come back and get them filled.
Learning all about Yards though I still had a few questions. Things that can’t be answered on their website or through research. I had some questions for a brewmaster. I was fortunate enough to have them answered by not just a brewmaster but the founder and president of Yards, Tom Kehoe. Thank you again to everyone at Yards, you really exhibit what the city of brotherly love is all about. Click here to check out my Q & A with Tom Kehoe.