Saturday mornings at the eco-friendly brew hub offer visitors more than just great beer on tap.
I don’t usually drink at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but this time, I made an exception. When the beer is not only free but fresh, it’s hard to say no, especially when you’re in the brewery that made it.
Every Yards Brewery tour starts off with samples of its Philadelphia and India pale ales, showcasing the brewery’s ability to make equally delicious, light and strong beers.
The brewers poured each cup, encouraging everyone on the tour to try both. These were fresh batches, they said, and they didn’t want anyone to miss out.
With no further prompt, I took two and took a look around the immense warehouse, filled with all different types of steel brewing equipment. On some of the walls, there was faded graffiti art, remnants of when the space held an indoor skate park.
When everyone had a drink or two in hand, Frank, a head brewer and lab quality control manager, led us to the fermenting tanks and gave a short history of Yards Brewery and its accomplishments.
The first brewery opened in 1994, in a room no bigger than a garage in Manayunk. The beer became so popular that they soon had to relocate. As their following became bigger, and demand increased, they had to relocate again and again, until moving to their current address on North Delaware Avenue.
Although its production increased, Yards did not stop thinking about the environment. The company has earned awards, such as the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce 2010 Green Business of the Year award, for its extensive use of recycled products (even the floors are made from recycled concrete), and from PennFuture for being the first brewery to be 100 percent wind-powered.
As for the company’s reason for brewing in Philadelphia, Frank explained that Philly’s water is similar to the Trent River water in England. Yards makes English-style ales, so this was a perfect fit.
Afterward, he walked us through the brewery, pointing out the different tanks, machines and their functions. Every process of brewing takes place within the brewery, so he started from the beginning: the malting of the grains.
The two car-sized grain silos are connected to the mill room, where the grain is milled and then malted. The brewers’ passion for the environment shows through here as well, as spent grain goes to local farmers for cattle feed or to the wild flour bakery for bread.
We were then led back to the fermentation tanks, where Frank told us about the yeast. Sounding like a protective and proud parent, he talked about how yeast develops and its role in the brewing process, converting the malt sugar into alcohol.
“Yeast are living organisms,” he said. “You keep feeding them, they’ll keep growing.”
And grow they do. For every 100 barrels of alcohol, only half a barrel of yeast is added, which multiply to about five barrels. This yeast is reused and can last for as many as 10 generations.
From there, we were taken to the back room of the warehouse, where all the finished beer is packaged and stored. On one side was the long bottling line, shaped like a small kart-racing track, and on the other were small stacks of wooden casks, which are used for small experimental batches.
When the tour ended, we were taken back to the entrance, or the tasting room. Here, people could purchase six-packs and kegs of Yards beer or just enjoy a drink at the bar. Inspired by the tour, I couldn’t help but order a George Washington porter. I figured, “Why not?” I already started drinking in the afternoon; I might as well end the day right.
Manuel Agurto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.