Small Business Spotlight: Yards Brewing Company
In the late 1980s, two college buddies learned to brew beer in their dorm room with a home brew kit, and from their newfound passion, Yards Brewing Company was born. Since then, the regional craft producer has grown from a garage-sized operation in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia to a 38,000-square-foot facility along the city’s Delaware River waterfront — and it’s set to expand into an even larger facility this year, with assistance from a $2.5-million Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) loan. We spoke to Tom Kehoe, Yards’ Founder and President, and Trevor Prichett, Partner and Chief Operating Officer, to learn more about Yards’ history, success, and future.
What does your business specialize in and who are your clients?
Yards Brewing is the largest and longest-running production brewery in Philadelphia. There has been a real revival of great artisan brewing in PA, and we’re really proud to be a part of that.
We find that we fit quite nicely into Pennsylvania’s long brewing history, and we like to integrate some of that tradition into our beer. Our Signature Ales — Brawler, Philadelphia Pale Ale, Yards IPA, Love Stout, and ESA — are all brewed with a traditional English ale-style yeast, as would have been used in colonial times. Taking it one step further, our Ales of the Revolution harken back to Philadelphia’s brewing past, including George Washington’s porter recipe, Benjamin Franklin’s spruce ale recipe, and fellow brewer Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for a strong golden ale.
Our clients are beer lovers — they cover a broad base that breaks a lot of social and demographic boundaries. We have noticed that there has been a shift in consumer mentality over the past 20 years with the growth of the local movement for both food and beverage. The foodie crowd is becoming a more consistent consumer of craft beer, and Yards in particular.
What does your company do differently that sets it apart?
Our philosophy is to brew for our home state and appeal to Pennsylvania pride. Our beer is currently only sold in five states, with over 75 percent sold in Pennsylvania — we really want to be a hometown brewer for all Pennsylvanians. Growing in a small geographic footprint requires patience, but it allows us to really focus on quality and quality control.
Our strong company culture helps to ensure that our employees are engaged, and we want everyone here focused on continual self-improvement. That desire to be better translates into product quality.
At Yards, we also try to be good examples for other businesses and the many breweries starting up. We use 100 percent wind power, recycle everything we can, and reuse our spent grain by sending it to local bakeries or farmers. It’s all part of our commitment to staying local and being good stewards for the environment.
Since community and giving back to the people who support us is so meaningful to us, we came up with our Brew Unto Others campaign. Every 12 months or so, we donate a lot of beer — about three full tractor trailer loads — to nonprofit fundraising events, and we make sure to get out and support those events as well.
Why are you proud to be a Pennsylvania small business owner?
We wouldn’t want to have our business anywhere else. The history and heritage of brewing and beer drinking in Pennsylvania — starting in colonial times and progressing through the Industrial Revolution and people having a beer after work — really fits with the kind of work we’re doing and the kind of company we’ve created. It’s a compliment to be a PA brewer, and you’re viewed as more than just a local company — you’re one of PA’s team.
We’re very excited that the PIDA loan and expansion will allow us to enhance our current technology. The total $19 million expansion will feature a new tasting room facility that allows guests to view the brewing process, the only Ziemann German brewhouse in the Mid-Atlantic, and a new canning line. The 70,000-square-foot facility on Fifth and Spring Garden Streets will initially be able to produce about 100,000 barrels — ultimately over 200,000 barrels — and will bolster job growth in the area.
Tom Kehoe (right) is the Founder, President and Brewmaster of Yards Brewing Company. He has been a part of the brewing industry since 1992 and is an active member of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, for whom he has served as Technical Director and President. Trevor Prichett (left) is the COO and a partner at Yards Brewing Company. Trevor first met Tom in 2005 working with Yards on a class project for his MBA from the Wharton School of Business. The two stayed in touch, and in 2009, Trevor joined Yards full-time.