1988...in the year six B.Y. (Before Yards)
Like many college students, friends Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit enjoyed beer but didn't enjoy paying for it. So they decided to take action and began brewing it themselves. As they homebrewed their way through Western Maryland College, they experimented with malt, hops, and yeast, formulating new recipes and sharing their creations with friends. It wasn't long before they had more friends than beer.
To gain some hands-on experience in a professional brewery, Kehoe and Bovit apprenticed at the British Brewing Company, a pioneering English-style brewery in Glen Burnie, MD. They spent their early days there cleaning kegs and, their first paycheck was a Happy Meal. No joke... it was a quarter pounder, fries, and a coke. Then in 1994, they emptied their savings accounts, maxed out their credit cards, and took the plunge. Yards Brewing Company was born in a 900 square foot garage in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.
Tom and Jon decided to take the plunge. They emptied their savings accounts, maxed out their credit cards, and Yards Brewing Company was born in a 900 sq. ft. garage in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. The first Yards kegs were delivered to Dawson Street Pub, Khyber Pass, and Cavanaugh's in the spring of 1994. Each keg was conditioned with fresh hops (called "dry hopping") and yeast (to naturally carbonate). The 'Yards Guys' as they were lovingly called, made it a point to raise a few pints whenever a bar tapped its first Yards ale. Yards was officially incorporated in October of 1994.
The Manayunk days... Unfortunately for Jon, he was the only employee (out of two total) who could fit inside Yards 1, the original 3.5-barrel system, to clean it. We'll do the math for you: Tom and Jon were producing about 900 barrels per year (about 1,540 kegs), at 3.5 barrels per batch, so that meant the kettle had to be cleaned a cool 255 times a year. If you happen to run into Jon, buy him an ESA. In addition to ESA, Olde Bartholomew and Saison were brewed for the first time, among other now retired ales.
1997 - 2000
To meet the rising demand for Yards ales, Tom and Jon moved to a larger building in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. The move enabled Yards to increase production from 900 to 3,000 barrels a year, bottle beer for the first time, and introduce new beers, including the now ubiquitous Philadelphia Pale Ale and Brawler.
After 4 years in Roxborough, Yards once again needed more space to meet demand and so made the move to the Kensington section of Philly. The new location, a former brewery called Weisbrod & Hess, enabled production to increase to 7,500 barrels! Just before the move to Kensington, Jon Bovit left Yards to spend more time with his family.
2002 - 2006
These were revolutionary years for Yards, literally. In collaboration with Philadelphia's historic City Tavern Restaurant, Tom developed Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale and General Washington's Tavern Porter, historic recreations of the founding fathers' original recipes. A few years later, Yards introduced Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce, inspired by Ben Franklin's own spruce beer recipe.
Yards once again got too big for its britches and moved to what is our current location in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, along the Delaware River waterfront. Dedicated staff and friends of the brewery toiled away, transforming the 26,000 sq. ft. former iron supply warehouse (and later, a skate park) into a 50-barrel brew house, packaging line, and shipping facility.