Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Co. has been building its new brewery in cooperation with Ziemann Holvrieka GmbH for quite some time now. In addition to tanks, Philly’s largest craft brewery ordered a completely new brewing line, which included malt handling. The brewhouse went into operation in March 2018. After successful flavor matching, Yards Brewing has been producing exclusively with the new brewhouse for over a year now, so we thought it would be a cool time for a visit.
Let’s recap Yards’ history
The brewery was founded in 1994 by Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit, both of whom were enthusiastic home brewers since 1988. Their first garage-sized brewhouse had an output of 3.5 bbls. By the end of 1996, Yards’ output had already grown to 800 bbls. In 1997, Kehoe and Bovit moved for the first time. The new brewery gave them the opportunity to bottle their beer. Until this time, Yards had delivered all the beer in barrels. In 1999, Bovit left the company. Since then, Kehoe has been president and brewmaster of the Yards Brewing as well as the brewery’s face and driving force. In 2001, the brewery reached its maximum output capacity with 2,100 bbls.
Time for the next relocation: In 2001, Yards Brewing moved to the old Weisbrod and Hess Brewery. Kehoe partnered with Nancy and Bill Barton, who leased the building to him. The partnership was, however, short lived. As of 2007, Kehoe and the Bartons went separate ways. At that time, Yards brewed about 10,000 bbls per year.
Building bigger bbls
Kehoe then rented the next property, in which he installed his brewery plant. Yards produced 6,500 bbls in the first year. This location was the first brewery in Pennsylvania that was powered entirely by wind. Then in 2009 Kehoe brought in new partners Trevor Prichett and Ethos Holdings, and from that point forward the brewery was constantly modernized and expanded. In 2016 about 41,300 bbls were produced and sold. Roughly 90 percent of Yards’ beers are distributed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. As high-quality ingredient products, these beers are sold at premium prices — a six-pack costs about $10.
As they were pushing up against brewing capacity and didn’t have a canning line, Kehoe and Prichett needed a bigger facility. In 2017, Yards found the necessary hall with an area of 70,000 sq ft. In the first stage, the new brewery plant should have an annual output of about 100,000 bbls and later be extended to over 200,000 bbls. For the first time, a canning line was planned. The principles of using wind energy and the commitment to sustainability were maintained. The estimated cost for the completion of the new brewery is about $24 million, whereas $8 million were estimated for building and construction and the remaining $16 million for plant technology and equipment.
Two lauter tuns and one external boiler for maximum flexibility
The order placed with Ziemann Holvrieka included one complete brewing line including malt handling. The brewhouse is designed for 12 brews per day. The output volume is 100 bbls per brew with an original extract content of 15.5° Plato. The brewhouse was equipped with the innovative mash agitator Colibri as well as two Lotus lauter tuns with diameters of 7.5 ft and 15 ft. With this dual solution, Yards Brewing can effectively produce brews of less than 20 bbls or can even lauter brews with a high extract content. For this reason, an external boiler was installed, which is ideally suited for small batches. Another specialty of the brewhouse is the fully automatic dosing system for cone hops. In addition, Yards ordered six cylindroconical 650-bbl tanks including dome covers and catwalk system.
“The visit of several reference breweries was very important for the choice of our brewing line,” said Kehoe. Kehoe’s aim was a brewery plant that offers the highest possible flexibility in addition to maximum wort quality. This required an individual solution that was best implemented by Ziemann Holvrieka. As examples, Kehoe mentioned the two lauter tuns or the external boiler. “The solutions of the competitors were much more standardized. Compared to an industrial brewhouse, there were no compromises regarding the installed functional components such as pumps or valves.”
All brewing vessels were delivered pre-assembled on a base frame
The planning and monitoring of the assembly as well as the automation were the responsibility of Ziemann Holvrieka. To simplify the assembly, all brewing vessels were pre-assembled on a base frame in Germany, with integrated internal piping and already mounted valves. On the construction site, the individual modules were only connected with each other.
The Yards team produced the first brew in the new brewhouse in March 2018. Until June 2018, the existing production facility was still operated for flavor matching. Since that time, Yards has been brewing exclusively at the new location in downtown Philadelphia. An important part of the new brewery is the taproom — a gastronomic recommendation for all residents and visitors of Philadelphia as well as an architectural highlight and eye-catcher. While sitting in the taproom, the guests can look through large glass panes on the entire brewing process, from the brewhouse up to the canning line. Separated from the main dining room by a roll-up door is an outdoor area, where guests and visitors can have a seat below the fermentation and storage tanks. For this purpose, the stainless-steel tanks were designed with high skirts.
“It’s about working hard, having a good time and giving something back to society,” said Kehoe, summarizing his motivation to continue investing money and passion in his Yards Brewing.
Hanno Fink graduated from the Technical University of Munich (Weihenstephan) as a brewing engineer in 1994. Since then he has worked as a project manager at AB Inbev in Leuven and afterwards as production manager at Hoegaarden Brewery. In 2010 he moved from Belgium to France where he finally worked as technical director of the brewery Brasserie Licorne, before he started to work with Ziemann Holvrieka as project manager in 2016.