Tom and Jon, two college buddies, decided to make some beer for their mates in the late 1980s. People really enjoyed what they tasted and wanted more, whether it was due to natural talent or an unending supply of suds. They didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of Yards Brewery.

Their nod to English ales is steeped in history. Fusing colonial customs with current tastes to create beers worthy for the founding fathers. A must-visit if you want to learn about the evolution of colonial beer while sipping presidential tastings in a rich, ancient city.

What to expect…

With 280-plus front-row seats to what is now the city’s largest brewing exhibition. This airy industrial space riddled with pipes and enclosed in glass walls is built for brewpub shock and awe. You can see a production floor with shiny new brew tanks and a towering stack of Brawler cans ready to thunder through the new canning line from the plush long banquettes and enormous square bar lined with the wood of an old bowling alley.

Out front on the sidewalk, a phalanx of massive silo-shaped fermenters stands poised like an arsenal of Intercontinental Beer Missiles ready to deliver Philly Pale Ale peace and Love Stout to the world.

The Menu

One of the long community tables inside Yards Brewing Co.‘s new 70,000-square-foot Spring Garden Street facility. Where 20 beers are on draft and customers can select from updated pub cuisine and trendier appetizers. Like ramen, tuna poke, and pork belly skewers glazed with spruce ale.

You’ll be able to eat and drink in their beneficent shade on Spring Garden once this never-ending winter ends and the taproom’s front garage door wall finally rolls up to spring. We might also question what it means to be “Philly’s brewery,” much alone a truly wonderful brewpub. Is it even conceivable to achieve greatness, at least in terms of cuisine, on such a grand scale? Maybe not, with over 1,000 diners already passing through on a weekend day.

Working with a brilliant chef like Jim Burke, a Starr and Vetri graduate who earned a name for himself in fine dining at James, is a fantastic place to start.

What makes Yards so special?

Yards has already established a significant new asset for Philadelphia’s beer market by committing to staying in the city with its current move (the fourth). Stepping up to construct a considerably more ambitious taproom than the old tasting room, which didn’t even have a functioning kitchen, is a fantastic opportunity to create a more immersive experience. Yards Brewery is better for it, even though there’s still potential for growth.

Not only can you sip beers at their freshest and taste how well these classic styles pair with food, but the old Destination Maternity Building has been transformed into an important new public space and community hub for the emerging new beer district on Spring Garden and in Fishtown, north and east of Center.

What about the beer?

With at least two dozen craft brewers already based in the city proper and several dozen more in the suburbs. It’s far too much of a huge gulp these days for one brewery to represent everything going on in the local beer scene. Some are larger (like as Victory and Tröegs), while others (such as Tired Hands, Free Will, Forest & Main, Brewery ARS, and La Cabra) are significantly more experimental than Yards.

But there’s no denying Yards’ status as a forerunner of the region’s craft brewing scene. Having launched in that garage in 1994 and built its brand on admirably slow but steady growth. With a strong local following for its traditional portfolio of mostly predictable but well-made English-style beers.

Kehoe and his current partner, Trevor Prichett, have promised to liven up the offerings with more taproom-only special releases. As well as an ambitious barrel-aging program that they previously didn’t have space for. Among the people’s favorite current limited releases were a spicy Belgian yeast take on the Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale, a coffee-infused Love Stout blended with La Colombe beans, a deep Russian Imperial stout, and zesty Cicada IPA.

Yards Brewery has been brewing for a long time now. So, I guarantee you, they are worth the shot and the hype! If it’s your first time to try Yards’ you must not miss the La Colombe Coffee Love Stout. With limited-edition Yards’ beers gracing the tasting room’s taps, we were especially drawn to the Love Stout, brewed with a heavy hand of La Colombe coffee. The silky, English-style stout had a roasted malt backbone that balanced the obvious dark chocolate and bitter aromas from the coffee.

Their Specialties

A minestrone soup loaded with fresh veggies tastes homemade and filling. Slow-braised shreds of beef shank, black beans, and tiny cubes of butternut squash gave hits of sweetness. As well as unexpected bursts of hickory smoke in a hearty bowl of chili. A bowl of mussels cooked with wine and buttery leeks was conventional. But the shellfish were particularly clean and soft, with hunks of delicious grilled High Street on Market bread for dipping.

A bowl of simply diced tuna poke in sesame-soy vinaigrette, avocado, and crushed macadamia nuts; or grilled toast heaped high with sweet and lemony lump crab ribboned with spicy pickled peppers; are some lighter dishes here to offer the menu some width and balance. Miso ramen with mushrooms was a decent attempt at a smart vegetarian option (the soft-cooked egg is optional), even if its flavor and elegance couldn’t compete with finer bowls in nearby Chinatown.

To wrap it up…

Stepping up to establish a more ambitious taproom in its vast new facility is a perfect opportunity to offer a more immersive brewpub experience – and Yards is better for it, even though there is still potential for growth.

Yards, Philadelphia’s hometown brewery since 1994. It has grown from a garage in Manayunk to Roxborough, then Kensington, and finally Northern Liberties. If you haven’t tried any brews from Yards, then your totally missing out, big time.