A few years post-college, after Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit have apprenticed at British Brewing Company in Maryland, the two friends decide to brew together again. They develop a prototype ale and sell it in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead show at FDR Park. Response is positive, giving the two idealistic youths the courage to just go for it. On October 28th, Yards Brewing Company becomes officially incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In December of that same year, Tom and Jon sign a lease for what is to become their first brewery at 219 Krams Avenue in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia.
The Major League Baseball strike begins.
In early ’95, Tuna’s Moving Service (a 100% real moving company) delivers a kettle, mashtun and three fermenters - the building blocks of Yards’ first 3.5-barrel brewing system. On April 8th, the Liquor Control Board gives Yards their blessing to brew and sell beer legally in PA. On the 62nd anniversary of Brew Year’s Day no less. April 29th marks the first ever Philadelphia Craft Brew Festival where Tom and Jon introduce their first brew, Extra Special Ale. A crowd forms around booth number 406 and before long the ESA kegs are kicked. Philadelphia’s beer renaissance has officially begun.
On May 18th, Tom and Jon personally deliver their first orders of ESA to Dawson Street Pub, Khyber Pass, Cavanaugh’s on 39th Street, and (now closed) Sugar Mom’s. On the 19th, Dawson Street pours the first pint of ESA from a beer engine, the way English ales are meant to be served. A second 7-barrel fermenter is added, bringing capacity to 36 kegs per week. To accommodate growing demand, Yards assigns their first wholesaler, the Edward I. Friedland Co., to distribute Yards ales throughout the Philadelphia area.
Second, third and fourth beers are introduced – Imperial Stout, Olde Bartholomew Barleywine and Entire Porter (a blend of a dark English mild and an imperial stout). The first Philadelphia Real Ale Invitational, celebrating cask-conditioned beer, is held at Irish Pub and has now become an annual tradition at Yards.
A postage stamp costs a whopping 32 cents.
This is a big year for new beers. Yards introduces Saison, Old Ale, Grand Cru, Oyster Stout and Imperial Stout. Oyster Stout is crafted with oysters hand-picked by David Mink, owner of Sansom Street Oyster House. How fancy! Mike “Tuna” Martinovich, an old wrestling buddy from Tom and Jon’s college days, is hired as cellarman. Tuna soon begins his decade-long reign as head brewer. By the end of 1996, Yards has scaled to 795 barrels.