Tanks for the memories

PBC makes a fresh start after Yards' departure.

By G.W. Miller III
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Feb. 6, 2008

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During the awkward five months while Yards and the Philadelphia Brewing Company coexisted in the same facility, many of the staffers worked for both operations. Some made Yards by day and tested recipes for PBC by night. Billy Westervelt bottled 95 beers a minute for Yards and then designed the labels and packaging for PBC's four new beers--Rowhouse Red, Newbold IPA, Walt Wit and Kenzinger--on his own time.

"I'd get done over there and then sneak over here to work on the labels," Westerville says.

Loyalties were tested all around--Kehoe invented the beer but the Bartons made it successful. Some bars pulled Yards from their taps. Rustica Pizza changed the Yards logo on their takeout boxes to a Philadelphia Brewing Company design. The beer blogs lit up with vociferous defenses and slanderous attacks on both parties.

In the end, all of the former Yards employees remained with the building, Bill says. One person went to Yards but returned within two weeks.

"Everything that built Yards," Bill says, "became Philadelphia Brewing Company."

During the transition, the Yards crew would leave work on Fridays and climb to the second-floor PBC office space where they'd party all night long.

Even these weekly happy hours grew out of the community post-cleanup events. Sweaty neighbors, filthy from digging through abandoned tires and piles of trash, would convene at the brewery where Bill would man the barbecue.

"It'd be a bunch of neighbors talking about what was going on, about new projects going up and about overgrown lots that needed to be tended," says Pat McHugh. "It was a small circle of friends. That circle of friends started expanding."

By last summer the happy hours grew out of control, with 50 or 60 people drinking free beer. It swelled from friends discussing ways to improve the neighborhood to friends of friends having a good time, to complete strangers who'd heard about the event complete with hors d'oeuvres and the occasional London broil on the grill.

"We'd get phone calls asking, 'Are you guys having that happy hour?'" Nancy says.

So when the festivities lost their community focus, she started answering, "No."

"Now it's just family hanging out," she says, "drinking 'cause it's the end of the work week."

G.W. Miller III (gwmiller@philadelphiaweekly.com) last wrote about layoffs at the Metro.

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