In 1988, two cash-strapped collegiate wrestlers realized that they could sustain their thirst for quality beer without spending their modest savings at the local liquor store by brewing beer themselves. So began the friendship of Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit.
As they made their way through college they continued to experiment with homebrewing and formulating new recipes. Proud of their product, they were eager to share it with friends. An instant favorite, it wasn't long until they realized their modest homebrewing operation wasn't going to be enough to satisfy the growing demand.
During the early 1990s, many breweries opened, and craft brewing started to gain popularity. Working in a small English-style brewery in Western Maryland, Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit decided to take matters into their own hands, and in 1994, they founded Yards Brewing Company.
They emptied their savings to get started and began making beer in a small, garage-sized brewery in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia — crafting cask-conditioned ales on a tiny, homemade, three-barrel brewing system. Their lineup included such cult favorites as the Entire Porter and the Old Bart. Upon unveiling their Extra Special Ale at the Philadelphia Craft Beer Festival in April of 1995, beer drinkers in Philadelphia were flabbergasted. A star was born.
Within a few months, "the Yards Guys" were producing one six-keg batch at a time out of their tiny 3.5-barrel brewhouse, and supplying ESA, Entire Porter, and several other cask-conditioned ales to bars clamoring for their wares. They delivered each keg themselves, making a point of being there whenever a bar tapped its first one.
After developing a loyal following, Yards eventually outgrew its first brewery, and in 1996 moved up the hill to the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. The larger brewery allowed Yards to begin bottling its beer for the first time. With a larger brewery Yards was also able to expand production of its Extra Special Ale and began introducing new beers including Philadelphia Pale Ale, which the New York Times rated as one of the best Pale Ales in the country. Two years later, Jon Bovit left Yards to spend more time with his family. However, brewing continued, production increased, and the Yards lineup expanded to include India Pale Ale, Saison, Brawler, and other seasonal specialties.
In 2001, Yards Brewing Company moved into the old Weisbrod & Hess Brewery in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. New investors Bill Barton and his wife Nancy located the new brewery site. Vacant since 1939, Yards improved the facility and steadily increased production.
In 2003, Yards Brewing Company partnered with the City Tavern — a favorite bar of the nation's founding fathers — to create Ales of the Revolution, a line of historic beer recreations based on the original recipes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin.
Most recently in 2007, increased demand for Yards beer once again demanded that Yards Brewing Company look for a new space where they could increase production. In January of 2008, Yards Brewing Company moved to its current location at 901 N. Delaware Avenue.