Innovative interpretations of Ales, Porters and Stouts based on the English model – these are the main pillars of Yards Brewing Company. The product range is completed with a high quality all malt lager and seasonal products such as a summer wheat beer flavored with citrus zests and innovative beer specialties such as the Chocolate Love Stout. A total of no less than 200 lb of dark Belgian chocolate is brewed for this purpose.
Once again, it started in a garage
The brewery was founded in 1994 by Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit, both of whom were enthusiastic home brewers since 1988. Their first garage-sized brewhouse had an output of 3.5 bbl. By the end of 1996, Yards’ output had already grown to 800 bbl. In 1997, Kehoe and Bovit moved for the first time. The new brewery gave them the opportunity to bottle their beer. Until this time, Yards had delivered all the beer in barrels. In 1999, Bovit left the company. Since then, Kehoe has been President and brewmaster of the Yards Brewing Company as well as the brewery’s face and driving force. In 2001, the brewery reached its maximum output capacity with 2,100 bbl.
Time for the next relocation: in 2001, Yards Brewing Company moved to the old Weisbrod & Hess Brewery. Tom Kehoe partnered with Nancy and Bill Barton, who leased the building to him. The partnership was, however, short lived. As of 2007, Kehoe and the Bartons went separate ways. At that time, Yards brewed about 10,000 bbl per year.
Extension in a first step from 55,000 to 100,000 bbl
Kehoe then rented the next property, in which he installed his brewery plant. Yards produced 6,500 bbl in the first year. This location was the first brewery in Pennsylvania that was powered entirely by wind. Then in 2009 Kehoe brought in new partners Trevor Prichett and Ethos Holdings, and from that point forward the brewery was constantly modernized and expanded. In 2016 about 41,300 bbl were produced and sold. Roughly 90 percent of the Yards beers are distributed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. As high quality ingredient products, these beers are sold at premium prices: a six-pack costs about 10 USD.
As they were pushing up against brewing capacity and didn’t have a canning line, Kehoe and Prichett needed a bigger facility. In 2017, Yards found the necessary hall with an area of 70,000 square feet. In the first stage, the new brewery plant should have an annual output of about 100,000 bbl and later be extended to over 200,000 bbl. For the first time, a canning line was planned. The principles of using wind energy and the commitment to sustainability were maintained. The estimated cost for the completion of the new brewery is about 24 million USD, whereas 8 million USD are estimated for building and construction and the remaining 16 million USD for plant technology and equipment.
Two lauter tuns and one external boiler for maximum flexibility
The order placed with Ziemann Holvrieka included one complete brewing line including malt handling. The brewhouse is designed for twelve brews per day. The output volume is 100 bbl per brew with an original extract content of 15.5° Plato. The brewhouse was equipped with the innovative mash agitator Colibri as well as two Lotus lauter tuns with diameters of 7.5 feet and 15 feet. With this dual solution, Yards Brewing Company can effectively produce brews of less than 20 barrels or can even lauter brews with a high extract content. For this reason, an external boiler was installed, which is ideally suited for small batches. Another specialty of the brewhouse is the fully automatic dosing system for cone hops. In addition, Yards ordered six cylindro-conical 650-bbl tanks including dome covers and catwalk system.
“The visit of several reference breweries was very important for the choice of our brewing line”, says Kehoe. Kehoe’s aim was a brewery plant that offers the highest possible flexibility in addition to maximum wort quality. This required an individual solution that was best implemented by Ziemann Holvrieka. As examples, Kehoe mentions the two lauter tuns or the external boiler. “The solutions of the competitors were much more standardized. Compared to an industrial brewhouse, there were no compromises regarding the installed functional components such as pumps or valves”, says Kehoe.
All brewing vessels were delivered pre-assembled on a base frame
The planning and monitoring of the assembly as well as the automation were the responsibility of Ziemann Holvrieka. To simplify the assembly, all brewing vessels were pre-assembled on a base frame in Germany, with integrated internal piping and already mounted valves. On the construction site, the individual modules were only connected with each other.
The Yards team produced the first brew in the new brewhouse in March 2018. Until June 2018, the existing production facility was still operated for the “flavor matching”. Since that time, Yards has been brewing exclusively at the new location in downtown Philadelphia. An important part of the new brewery is the taproom. A gastronomic recommendation for all residents and visitors of Philadelphia as well as an architectural highlight and eye-catcher. While sitting in the taproom, the guests can look through large glass panes on the entire brewing process, from the brewhouse up to the canning line. Separated from the main dining room by a roll-up door is an outdoor area, where guests and visitors can have a seat below the fermentation and storage tanks. For this purpose, the stainless steel tanks were designed with high skirts. “It’s about working hard, having a good time and giving something back to society”, Kehoe summarizes his motivation to continue investing money and passion in his Yards Brewing Company. Yards has created something that has the potential to be spontaneously associated with the keyword “Philadelphia”, such as the Liberty Bell or the “Rocky Steps”. At least for lovers of top-quality beer specialties, the chances are good.