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July 30, 2007 - Yards Partners Split; Kehoe Keeps Yards Brand & Bartons To Form Philadelphia Brewing Co. [UPDATED]
Bill and Nancy Barton have established a website for Philadelphia Brewing Company where they write that they will begin making beer at the Kensington brewery once they have received all the necessary permits. The permit process is underway at the present time.

There is no word currently available about how this will affect Yards production; Tom Kehoe has said (see below) that he has a lease on the Amber Street facility through the end of this year.

The Bartons will leave Yards officially on Thursday as a final "split" agreement is signed.

[ORIGINAL STORY - 7/23/2007]
It has long been an open secret in Philadelphia beer circles that the operating partners involved in Yards Brewing, the city's only full-service brewery, have not been seeing eye-to-eye.

That matter has finally come to a head.

This is what founding brewer Tom Kehoe told The Beer Yard on July 17: "Rather than keep bumping heads, we've come to an agreement. Bill and Nancy {Barton] have left Yards Brewing Company as part of an arrangement which will close on August 2. I will keep the Yards name and the beers and they have given me a lease on the current building through the end of the year. At that time, I expect to have a new and better brewery set up, hopefully here in Philadelphia, and will move Yards there. Bill and Nancy will, as I understand it, then use the current building and brewing equipment to operate a brewery of their own."

All of the current brewing staff remain in place and the current self-distribution policy will continue, Kehoe said. Self-distribution began in 2006 when Yards refused to accept the transfer of the rights to its brands to Kunda Beverage, which had acquired Edward I. Friedland, the distributor from the summer of 1995 on. The brewery argued that it had always specified itself as its primary distributor. There is still a court case pending over that issue.

Yards Brewing was formed by Kehoe and then partner Jon Bovit in late 1994 and released its first beers in 1995. The debut of Yards ESA (Extra Special Ale) at the Philadelphia Craft Brew Festival in April of that year has been called the "ground zero" moment of Philadelphia craft brewing because of the excitement it created. Due to the limited supply the very small original brewery could produce, ESA became the city's cult favorite beer by summer. As publicans scrambled to get it for their customers, ESA became the primary impetus for a renewed popularity of handpumps and cask beers in the city and environs.

Bill and Nancy Barton became involved as co-owners in 2001 when financial problems developed after the brewery moved from its original Manyunk location into a larger site in the same section of the city and began packaging several of its beers. The move to the current Kensington site, once home to the historic Weisbrod & Hess brewery, occurred in early 2002.

ESA remains Yards flagship beer and a staple on handpumps in the region, but the brewery is probably just as well known today for its very popular Philadelphia Pale Ale and its "Beers of the Revolution," George Washington Tavern Porter. Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale and Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce, classic brews reproduced in partnership with City Tavern, the city's historic Colonial restaurant. Other packaged products include India Pale Ale, Love Stout and Saison.

The Beer Yard spoke with both Tom Kehoe and Bill Barton this afternoon. Kehoe confirms what he said as reported above; Barton says he will have no official comment until "the papers are all signed next Thursday. There is a signed agreement but the lawyers still have a lot of work to do."--JACK CURTIN