The Yards Brewery splitAugust 29, 2007
One of the owners of Bella Vista Beer Distributors (my new favorite beer store) told me something profound. He said of us beer geeks: “no one has an allegiance to any one brand anymore.” He’s right. To a point… but here in Philly at least, a LOT of beer drinkers pledge allegiance to Yards more than any other brand. Yards IS Philly beer. Yuenling Lager doesn’t count. Real beer snobs don’t drink it.
I remember 4 or 5 years ago or so, when cask-conditioned Yards Extra Special Ale was on hand pump at almost every real establishment in the city. Damn that stuff was heaven.
I’ve been on vacation for a while so when I heard that Yards was splitting up, I was shocked.
Partner Tom Kehoe is taking the name and the brands to another location, while Bill and Nancy Barton are keeping the old brewery in Kensington and renaming it the Philadelphia Brewing Company. They even have a website already.
An anonymous post on BeerAdvocate.com sums up the split:
The title and message of the post “Yards Brewing Company to Relocate This Fall” has prompted me to post a need response and clarification! This will be more than simply a ‘relocation’ of a brewery. As I see it, this is actually the death of a brand, and the beginning of 2 new brands.
As anyone who has ever been to the Yards Brewery can tell you, it has been obvious who has been the real force behind the growth and popularity of Yards in Philadelphia — Nancy and Bill Barton. The brewery tours, promotional events around the city, and even deliveries were managed personally by those two.
If you were to ask an employee who the brewers of Yards are (as I have), they were not mention Tom Kehoe. In fact, I have inquired several times in the past about Tom’s role in the operation. He was, after all, listed only as ‘co-founder’ on their website. Well to the Yards business and its patrons, that’s all Kehoe has ever been. Not a brewer, or a manager, or even a friendly face at the Brewery. He was the ‘silent’ partner.
This company split should only prove to be good to us, the costumers, as Kehoe struggles to maintain the popularity of Yards, and the Bartons begin their new (and likely, better) Brewery, which is apparently going to be called Philadelphia Brewing Company, and located at the current Yards facility. It seems Kehoe is getting the name ‘Yards’, and their recipes and merchandise, but the facilities, equipment, and certainly the business relationships will be remaining with the new Philadelphia Brewing Company.
As you can see, I’ve made my decision about what this means for the future of Yards. It’s entirely possible that Yards will remain a great brand after this, but certainly it will have changed dramatically. No one as uninvolved in his business as Kehoe was can take control and simply ‘remain the same.’
Look for Philadelphia Brewing Company to be Philly’s new home brewery.
Tom Kehoe actually replied in the thread:
Hello Beer Advoate,
This is my first post on the forum, and I am Tom Kehoe. It seems that with all of the activity of this page I wanted to just let you all know that I am reading the posts and I hope to communicate with the beer community through my actions as the President and founder of Yards Brewing Company.
The official seperation happened on August 2nd and all “three” parties got what they wanted. The details are details. The big picture is Yards will be leaving It’s lease early and moving to a new location (which I can’t disclose now). And a new brewery will be formed at the former location. Philadelphia gets TWO breweries and we need more. Philly needs to take back the reputation it once had as the brewing center of the country.
Yards will be making it’s fourth move in the city since it was a small 3 barrel brewery in Manayunk. We incerased the size of the brewhouse to 30 barrels when we moved to Roxborough and kept it the same when we moved to Kensington but expanded the amount of fermentation to increase capacity. Each one of these brewhouses was designed by me to brew Yards. Now I am working on a new larger Brewhouse — one that will be designed by brewery engeneers to my specifications to produce Yards Beers. Yards brews (and the Yards drinking public) will benefit from the move by having Yards produce a better product and an increase in availability.
It’s all about the beer — Cheers, Tom.
The first poster mentioned that Bill and Nancy are the “real force” behind the brewery, and the Inquirer article quoted Bill saying “Kehoe would show up late and leave early… He was on a free ride.”
So it sounds to me like the Bartons are the ones behind all of the hugely successful (and always free) events at the brewery, including the spectacular Christmas party each year, the Rich Wagner lectures series, the Fishtown/Kensignton community cleanups, and their Buy Fresh Buy Local events.
They’re also the ones who are most passionate about the pre-prohibition brewery building that they’ve revived as a community meeting spot/watering hole. I kiss the ground they walk on for that alone.
Where else can a loser like me ride my bike right through the front door and lean it on the wall while I drink free beer at the bar while listening to a lecture on the history of Brewerytown?
Take a look at that beautiful architecture that was almost certain to see the wrecking ball before Yards came along and saved it.
This isn’t a bad thing, people. It’s great.
Inquirer article and photo of the brewery here.