On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I got the opportunity to visit Yard’s Brewing, one of the City of Brotherly Love’s most well-known breweries. If it weren’t just a block away from a very busy 8-lane surface street, I would have felt like it was in downtown Detroit: abandoned buildings, empty lots, BOOM CASINO, BOOM BREWERY. It felt like I never left home.
Walking into the building, it has a similar feel to many warehouse-turned-brewhouse establishments – though the tap room was in stages of being renovated. High ceilings, big windows into the brewhouse, and assorted varieties of seating in addition to a bar were all still present.
As for the bar itself, it’s apparently crafted from wood that once comprised bowling alleys. Additionally, some of the benches were once church pews, and their billiards table is some form of antique. Unfortunately, the only part of the distinctive decor captured here for posterity is the bowling alley.
So, uh, I didn’t just walk into a brewery to note the decor, did I? Of course not. Onto the beers:
The taphouse had 8 beers on tap – though as you can see one of them was lacking a tapper (actually, the stout may have been poured from a beer engine elsewhere – I don’t remember). The beers were decently cheap, at about 4 bucks for a pint, but the flights were a ludicrous deal – 5 bucks for four 10-oz samples. That’s just a dollar for 8 ounces. Naturally, I got one of everything they had on tap:
None (or at least very few) of these beers are available in Michigan, so it was a good experience in tasting. The IPA and Pale Ale were standard, with the former being a little light on the hops and malt for the style (though I don’t exactly drink beers right on the edge of the style most of the time).
I’d had the Brawler before, though I’m nearly certain that “pugilist” is not an actual beer style. It, like the pales, is a little light on the flavor. That’s not to say there was none, but as a hoppy brown ale, I expect a little bit more out of it. I thought the ESB was probably the best of the beers on the right-side tower. It’s not necessarily my favorite style, but Yard’s absolutely nailed the style. I couldn’t help but think how badly we missed on it when brewing our own ESB.
The left side had a Founding Fathers theme, and was called Ales of the Revolution. The Love Stout didn’t really belong with that group, but whateva, I mis-apply labels when I want. Said stout had nice chocolatey tones and a decent body, but was fairly standard. The other brews over there, however, where interesting.
Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce Ale (named after Benjamin Franklin’s Almanack of the same name) had a lovely spruce aroma and a flavor that jumped out right away. Unfortunately, once you got that flavor, there was nothing to back it up behind. The malt profile and/or bitterness just weren’t there to accompany the spruce.
General Washington’s Tavern Porter is based on a recipe that George Washington himself brewed! Of course, I’ve mentioned Washington’s brewing before, and might explore it in this space later in the future. The beer itself lacked a little OOMPH that I look for in a porter – either with an adjunct or a depth of flavor – but since they were going for authenticity to el Presidente’s brew, I can’t fault the folks at Yard’s.
Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale was a standard golden ale. Not really my cup of tea, so I don’t want to criticize it, but I wouldn’t order it again, most likely. Like Washington’s beer, it was based on a Jefferson recipe – though TJ’s wife took care of the brewing. Can’t fault the folks at Yard’s for striving toward authenticity.
In all, I enjoyed the Yard’s experience, and would certainly make a return trip next time I’m in Philadelphia. See, look how much I’m enjoying: