PBC makes a fresh start after Yards' departure.
Photographs by Michael Persico
By 10 p.m. they're dancing.
In the cluttered, half-painted temporary tasting room of Kensington's Philadelphia Brewing Company (PBC), darts fly, the B-52s wail, women hop to the beat, and laughter emanates as easily and readily as beer flows from the tap.
Among the two dozen people cavorting in the clubhouse-like space are artists and kindergarten teachers, economists and car dealers, community activists and neighborhood developers.
"They let me come if I bring the shrimp," jokes Dave Nelson, a loft builder who brought homemade bacon-wrapped shrimp.
Of course in the middle of all the activity is the brewery's co-owner Nancy Barton, bopping along with a stainless-steel shaker in one hand and darts in the other.
She takes a swig, sets the shaker down on the long wooden lunch table and throws a dart at the board. As soon as it strikes, she spins and punches her fists in the air triumphantly. Then she grabs her drink, twists her hips and bobs her head to the music again.
Bill Barton, Nancy's husband, sits on a nearby barstool, watching the scene contentedly despite the pounding music and the chaos all around him. Mussed hair and slumped shoulders reveal his exhaustion.
Since Jan. 1 the Bartons and their dedicated crew of employees and friends have hustled 10, 11 and 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to get the new brewery open for business. They've painted the walls, installed new piping, cleaned all the tanks, added windows and repointed the bricks on this building that housed the Yards Brewing Company until Dec. 31.
And now they're finally making beer.
But tonight's revelry isn't a special celebration.
It's just the regular Friday happy hour/weekly party at a place where employees are treated like friends, neighbors are considered family, and everyone chips in to make a better beer and a stronger community.
The Philadelphia Brewing Company fired up its kettle this week, and again the sweet, biscuit-y smell of malt floats around the 123-year-old building on Martha Street at East Hagert. Kegs should start arriving at local bars and restaurants by the end of the month.
The distinctive and enticing odor once permeated much of this old industrial neighborhood that had dozens of breweries a century ago. Back then, this building was the home of the Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing Company, makers of 70,000 barrels of beer a year.
Then Prohibition shut the breweries down, the other factories ceased operations, residents fled the area and the crack epidemic struck Kensington with full force.
By the time the Bartons arrived here in 2001 as partners in the Yards Brewing Company, crime was rampant, trash was everywhere and the police were using the building for surveillance.
Tom Kehoe stands behind the newly constructed bar in the Yards Brewery on Delaware Avenue. It’s shortly after noon on a Saturday, and Kehoe, whose stout build and genial disposition suggest a man who could drink you under the table but would also happily pick up the tab, is welcoming visitors with freshly poured beer.