Yards Brewing Company, like many breweries, began small. College buddies Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit had been avid home brewers for a while when they both landed apprenticeships in 1993 at the British Brewing Company in Maryland. Using the industry experience they gained during their apprenticeships, the pair opened Yards Brewing Company in a small garage in Manayunk, Pa., and began distributing beer in kegs to local bars. They soon outgrew their 900 square foot space and moved the brewery to Roxborough, Pa., where they tripled production capacity and began bottling. Yards moved two more times before arriving at its current location in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, where they offer free tours and operate a tasting room seven days a week.
Kehoe and Bovit gained an appreciation for English beer styles during their time at British Brewing Company. Many well-known beer styles originated in England, including stout, porter, India pale ale and brown ale. In fact, brewing is an ancient tradition in England, and beer has been brewed there for centuries. England is also where the term “session beer” originated, which is often used to describe a palatable beer with a relatively low alcohol content. As the story goes, the term originated with World War I armament factory workers. They were allowed two drinking sessions per day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. The workers quaffed on beer with a milder flavor and a lower alcohol content, so as not to be too sloshed to satisfactorily assemble dangerous munitions when they got back to work. I decided to try Yards’ year-round Brawler Pugilist Style Ale, a self-proclaimed “session beer” brewed in the English Mild style.
The beer pours a dark amber with a nice, off-white foam stand. On the nose, malts dominate, with bready, toffee and toasted notes pouring out of the glass in an impressive exhibition of malt aromas. Taking a sip, I’m pleasantly greeted by malt flavors, with crisp, grainy and cereal flavors at the forefront. Very little bitterness is present and the hops are subdued, allowing the malts to really shine through. The beer is smooth and not at all harsh, making for a pleasant brew to enjoy pint after pint.
True to the Yards description, this is a very approachable ale and a great display of what malt flavor can contribute to a beer. The Brawler goes down smoothly and easily, and at 4.2 percent ABV it’s easy to throw back a few of these in one sitting. But don’t let the lack of alcohol fool you: This is a very enjoyable, very tasty ale with tons of great flavors. Cheers!