Since the NHL playoffs began, I’ve stopped shaving, I’ve worn the same Bobby Clarke t-shirt every night the Flyers play, and I’ve been drinking Philadelphia brewed beer almost exclusively. My recent trip to Philadelphia couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only did I get a chance to go to Flyers vs. Devils Game 1, but, for my birthday, my wonderful girlfriend scheduled a private tour of Yards Brewing Company for the two us.
If you live in Pennsylvania you may have noticed the Yards name popping up on tap handles near you. I know here in Scranton it’s becoming much easier to get a Brawler, Yards IPA, or Philadelphia Pale Ale. Personally, Yards Brawler has been a favorite of mine for a while and it remains near the top of my short list. Brawler is a malty, 4.2% ABV English session ale with a nice crisp sweetness. Brawler also sports one of my favorite labels in beer and I was very excited to see that Yards sells t-shirts, prints, and lots of other merchandise for all of their beers at the tasting room.
When we arrived at Yards we were greeted by Zach Artz, Yards’ Events Coordinator. I would like to sincerely thank Zach for his hospitality and knowledge. He went out of his way to accommodate us and we had a truly great experience. The tasting room is a spacious entrance to the warehouse style building that is Yards Brewing Company. Bar tables and decorated walls lead up to a large wooden bar made from recycled bowling alley lanes. The wall behind the taps is glass showing the giant steel brewing vessels where the “magic” happens. Overall, I thought the space had a great industrial feeling of a warehouse and a brewing complex mixed with the welcoming atmosphere of a corner bar complete with pool and shuffleboard tables.
Zach hooked us up with a couple of free brews and gave us a little time to look around the tasting room. Going into the tour, I had already tried Yards IPA, Philadelphia Pale Ale, Brawler, and their Extra Special Ale. I had no idea that they also made Love Stout, their Ales of the Revolution series, a Saison, and an Imperial Pale Ale called Cape of Good Hope. Wanting to try something new, I tried Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale and my girlfriend went with the Saison, which was offered both on tap and cask conditioned in the tasting room. Tavern Ale is a tasty, strong golden ale made with honey and rye that weighs in at a very sneaky 8.0% ABV.
After we took a look around the tasting room, Zach brought us behind the glass to take a look at the brewing equipment. Here he gave us a walk through of their entire brewing process along with a tutorial on brewing in general and a little Yards history. Among the massive steel brewing kettles, fermentation tanks, and carbonating silos, Yards still has their original brewing setup. The original brewing setup is a much smaller apparatus that allows them experiment with new varieties and tweak things along the way. After the brewing room, we took a quick peek at the packaging process and returned to the tasting room for a guided tasting and some lunch.
We enjoyed a four beer tasting of Love Stout and the three Ales of the Revolution complete with history and back stories from Zach at each stop. All four beers were exceptional and interesting in their own ways.
Love Stout is a rich, chocolatey, 5.5% ABV stout with quite a bit of sweetness that is actually boiled with oysters. We moved from Love Stout on to General Washington’s Tavern Porter. General Washington’s was the first of our dark to light journey through the Ales of the Revolution. The Ales of the Revolution are all actually brewed from recipes used by the founding fathers themselves.
General Washington’s Tavern Porter follows a recipe Washington used to “satisfy his thirsty field officers.” It is a 7.0% ABV porter that I found to be a refreshing step in the hoppier direction from Love Stout. I usually prefer porters to stouts and this was no exception. To me, Love Stout is a delicious desert beer while the porter is more of an any occasion brew.
After the porter, we moved on to Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale which, as I mentioned, a strong golden ale with a surprising balance and sweetness for strongly hopped, high alcohol content beer. Tavern Ale is based upon a recipe made by Jefferson’s wife Martha at their home in Monticello using honey and rye from the Virginia estate.
The final beer in our tasting was Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce Ale. Spruce Ale taste just like it sounds, spruce-y. Benjamin Franklin’s original recipe used spruce essence and molasses to brew his ale, “as barley and hops were not readily available at the time.” Zach let us know that Yards is legally obligated to add hops to every beer they create, but it is kept to a minimum in Poor Richard’s to keep as close to the recipe as possible. Spruce Ale weighs in 5.0%ABV and has a mouthfeel and body like most ales, but the expected hop bite is replaced by a spruce/sap-like twinge. Spruce Ale is definitely worth trying to see what it’s like for yourself.
I’ve been doing a lot of research recently about sustainable energy, waste reduction, and other green initiatives in brewing and I was happy to see the effort Yards puts forward in that area. I learned a lot about the way Yards does business and I have a lot of respect for their practices. Yards was the first brewery in Pennsylvania to use 100% wind powered energy. All of their fixtures, furniture, and equipment is reclaimed. They have also found useful and beneficial ways to reuse their spent grains and resources.
Yards has a relationship with a local bison farm in which they give their spent grains to feed the bison and get bison meat in return. In the tasting room, they offer a small menu of sandwiches and other bar food including bison burgers and bison chili. We had a bite to eat in the tasting room before we left and the food was as good as the beer. We didn’t try any bison, but the bread they make from spent grain was fantastic in their grilled cheese and their roast beef sandwich hit the spot too.
I fully recommend stopping by Yards if you are ever in the area. The tasting room is a great spot to grab a drink or a bite to eat, especially if you are looking for a brew you can’t find in your local distributor, like the Ales of the Revolution or a cask conditioned version of their Saison. If you happen to meet Zach, tell him I said cheers and thanks again. My recent trip to Philadelphia strengthened my Flyers love and my Yards love. I know I will be grabbing a Yards six-pack next time I’m at the store and I suggest you do the same.
Tim Meyers (Tim@GoodHopBadHop.com)
P.S. I wrote this article before they Flyers were eliminated by the Devils. I will be drowning my sorrows in a Yards rather than celebrating with one. Lets go Phillies!