Chocolate Covered Memories with Yards Brewing Company’s owner/brewmaster Tom Kehoe

When setting out to consume and support locally, do you simply shop for meats and produce from local farms? Do you act “locally” when it comes to your beer, too? When you order local Philadelphia beers, do you ever thirst for British style ales? Meet Tom Kehoe, owner, founder and brewmaster of Yards Brewing Company, located along the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

Founded in 1994, Yards began as a garage-sized operation in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. Their award winning Extra Special Ale (“ESA,” as the locals call it), helped establish a following for cask-conditioned ales in America back in the 1990s, long before the current craft beer boom. 
As Yards explains their philosophy, their roots lie in British inspired ales, they strive to be a positive force in the Greater Philadelphia/mid-Atlantic communities they serve, and they are committed to the artisanal production practices. 

Yards features five signature ales (including Brawler, IPA and the aforementioned ESA), three Ales of the Revolution (Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale, Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce and George Washington’s Tavern Porter), three seasonal beers, and about a dozen limited edition brews each year. If you chat with locals at a Philly bar, everyone seems to have a personal favorite Yards beer. I tend to gravitate towards Yards’ Philly Pale Ale, Cape of Good Hope, Saison, Tavern Porter and any of the varieties of their outstanding Love Stout.
We recently caught up with the Yards gang this past spring at their seventh annual Real Ale Invitational, celebrating/sipping rare cask (“real”) ales — unfiltered, unpasteurized beer that carbonates naturally inside a cask rather than by the addition of nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. (Their annual Smoke ‘Em Fest celebrates smoked beers and food and occurs every fall.) More recently, we swung by their welcoming tasting room to sample their limited edition Sons of Ben brew (a “rowdy” ale, honoring the Philly Union’s dedicated supporters) and Yards’ award-winning bison chili (more about that fantastic chili below). With the help of Yards’ amazingly friendly staff (especially Frank and Gina), we exchanged some emails with owner Tom Kehoe, who was kind enough to share his (Chocolate Covered) Memories with us … 

Beer Flight at Yards Brewing Company (Philadelphia) (photo by Lee Porter)


How did you find yourself in this niche of the industry?

Started making beer in my dorm room. It was very tough to get into the business then just because there were not too many options.

Any child/teenage food industry jobs?

None, but I bounced in college.

Yards owner Tom Kehoe
Yards owner/founder/brewmaster Tom Kehoe (photo courtesy of Yards)

What are your earliest childhood memories of food?

Hamburgers at little league games.

Where does your love of beer stem from?

I enjoyed the extra flavor you would get from imported beer, and then tried an Anchor Steam and realized that great beer can be made in the USA.

Specialty Brews at Yards Brewing Company (Philadelphia) (photo by Lee Porter)

What foods remind you of childhood? What were your favorite foods growing up?

The three P’s — Perogies, Panzerotti’s and Peanut butter.

Any specific food memories that you want to share?

I won my first pie eating contest at ten. It kinda’ went down hill from there.

Were you a picky eater as a kid? Any foods you couldn’t stand growing up? Have you overcome those childhood fears or do they still remain to this day? Any stuff you loved eating as a child that you would never eat now?

I still don’t like eating my vegetables, and if I do, they are not exciting. I was picky as a kid. I eat a lot more things now. Picky then and now, but I eat twice as many vegetables today — about eight total.

Washington’s Reserve on cask at Yards’ Real Ale Fest (photo by Suzanne Allaire)

Any childhood cooking accidents in the kitchen? Any as an adult?

Just typical playing with knives, cuts and punctures.

What do you think of the modern food/beer world (from Whole Foods to franchises like Olive Garden and Starbucks, from the Food Network to Groupon, from Yelp to foodie bloggers, from Bud to Sam Adams to the craft industry)?

Food is one of the few things that Americans still make. We are a country of manufactures, and we are proud of what we can do. It is easier for people’s opinions about things to be relayed in blogs and on TV. If we were still making radios and clothes in this country, we would blog more about those items.

What do you think of big industry beers (Bud, Miller, Coors, etc)? Do you ever drink such brew? Why? Why Not?

I drink the big guys’ [beers], and I am impressed on the consistency and how the quality is maintained. They make a lot of beer.

What family recipes do you want to share with us?

During Prohibition, my great grandfather would make beer and leave the fermenting bucket outside in the sun — a sun beer? Now that it is legal to make beer properly, that recipe is no longer used.

So in the spirit of home-cooked chili-making, we’d like to share the ingredients of our award-winning bison chili, but we’re leaving the measurements out to encourage adventure and experimentation! Enjoy Yards Brewing Company’s Award-Winning Bison Chili!

Yards owner/founder/brewmaster Tom Kehoe (photo courtesy of Yards)


For more about Tom Kehoe and Yards Brewing Company, visit and follow Yards on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.


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