This is the Beer Yard news page, with brewing news from the Philadelphia area and beyond.
- December 26, 2007 - Patrick Mullin To Leave Drafting Room At Year's End
- Patrick Mullin, who has been the bar manager at Drafting Room Exton for nearly a decade and whose support of local and national craft beers and general influence have been so significant that he was once termed "the Tom Peters of the suburbs," will leave his post on December 31 to take a new sales position with Sierra Nevada.
In an email, Mullin cited a desire for new challenges and a job that would allow him to spend more time with his wife as reasons for the change, saying that "my last 9 1/2 years at The Drafting Room have been joyous and rewarding."
More details are available here.
- December 18, 2007 - Stockertown Beverage Brings Bear Republic to Pennsylvania
- Bear Republic, one of the California's best known and most popular labels, will have five beers on Pennsylvania retail shelves by year's end, a development which is sure to win the approval of craft beef aficionados and which is something of a coup for Stockertown Beverage Co., the Lehigh Valley wholesaler.
When retailers John Beljan and Chuck Greenstreet decided to take the wholesale leap into what they perceived as an under-served craft and high-end import beer segment just about four years ago, they told anyone who asked that their philosophy was that "putting a human face on the beer makes it a lot more special." That hands-on approach has been the driving force behind the growth of Stockertown Beverage Co. into an increasingly important player in Eastern Pennsylvania.
The wholesaler now represents 20 craft and nearly 150 import brands (most of the latter from the eclectic Shelton Brothers portfolio) and serves accounts in 26 counties, extending as far west as Harrisburg. Stockertown has added craft brands like Breckenridge (Colorado), Founders (Michigan) and Hopping Frog (Ohio) this year, to go along with Lancaster (their flagship local craft), Thomas Hooker (Connecticut), Middle Agesand Southampton (both New York). They will be adding a full-time Philadelphia sales representative in January.
The Bear Republic contract is for nine counties in the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley markets with plans to expand as sales warrant. The California brewery is also expected to sign with Pittsburgh wholesaler in the near future to establish a firm foothold in the Commonwealth.
Getting the brand was a long-term project. "I talked to them for two years," says Beljan. "The way we work is we research the best brands, not necessarily household name brands, but beers of good quality from a great brewer. We search online and in the beer magazines, and we look to our retail customers for guidance about which beers they can't get and want to get. Matt [Beer Yard owner Matt Guyer] has been fantastic in that regard and pointed us in several directions.I contacted Bear Republic and made us part of their thinking as they were getting ready to come into Pennsylvania. After that, it was a lot of hard work and personal contact because there's a lot of competition for speciality beers these days. I was out at GABF this year and was standing right there when they won a Silver medal for the Big Bear Black Stout."
Stockertown's size and commitment make them an increasingly viable choice for newcomers into the market, Greenstreet argues. "Specialty beers don't generally lend themselves to being part of the broad sales approaches employed by big, national brand wholesalers," he suggests. "They need to be hand sold, to be given individual attention and care. The kind of personal representation we offer is needed more than ever these days."
The folks at Bear Republic obviously agree.--JACK CURTIN
- December 17, 2007 - Forbes Article Cites Beer Yard Website As "Brilliant" Model For The Future
- When writer Eric K. Clemons of Forbes.com set out to write a story about the incredible variety of products available to consumers in the marketplace today and the "word of mouse" methods we use to sort them all out and find the best quality, price or special enhancement which most appeals to each of us individually, his research took him to many online venues, including
The Beer Yard.
That link is to an online sub-feature to Clemons' story, a slide show presentation called "Web Selling--What's Smart, What's Dumb<" and is in the "Smart" category. Clemons is taken with the fact that each beer listing on this site has a link to RateBeer site and links his readers to the The Beer Yard so they can see what he means.
The relationship between the Beer Yard and Ratebeer is nothing short of brilliant...it is probably a harbinger of relationships between sellers and independent, user-generated content, reviewing sites.
According to inside sources, the Beer Yard is considering changing its unofficial motto from "Beer in the Rear" (reflecting its location behind the Wayne Starbucks store) to "Harbinger of Good Brew."--JACK CURTIN
- December 13, 2007 - Brewers Guild Asks Public Support For Sixpack Packaging Reform
- Pending legislation in Harrisburg would make the six-pack the minimum size allowable for sale by Pennsylvania beer retailers and the Pennsylvania Brewers Guild is asking for the public's help in keeping it that way by contacting their legislators in support of an existing amendment to House Bill 606 which is scheduled to be voted on in early January.
HB 606 currently has an amendment attached which specifies a 66oz package as the minimum size for beer packages in the state. That 66oz figure is to accommodate some import beers, primarily Belgian, which come in 11oz bottles; the basic 720z sixpack fits under that guideline but would be excluded under proposals making larger sizes the smallest allowable package.
According to Dan Weirback of Weyerbacher Brewing Co. in Easton, speaking to The Beer Yard on behalf of the Guild, "some other interests out there" are pressuring legislators to raise the minimum size to 12 packs or larger because it would be exclusively to their benefit were that to happen.
"Making a six-pack the minimum package would bring Pennsylvania into line with every other state in the union," Weirback said this morning. "In all 49 other states, that is the basic package for beer. Making 12, 15 and 18 packs the norm would only benefit the large mainstream brewers, who are poised at our borders to bring those packages into the market. And it would place a serious burden on in-state craft brewers who would have to invest in additional packaging options and maintain an inventory of additional packaging sizes in order to compete and would not be able to respond quickly to a changed landscape.
"More importantly, surveys have shown that Pennsylvania consumers, up to 85 percent of them in one survey, prefer and want the six-pack size available to them. The six-pack is the most consumer-friendly option because it allows buyers to try new beers at less cost-an important factor with beer prices rising because of the hops and malt crunch-and to enjoy a wider variety of beers within their budgets. The size also benefits retailers, allowing them to display more brands in less space and appeal to a wider range of customers. And even Mothers Against Drunk Driving has come out in support of the six-pack option in Pennsylvania because it limits the amount of beer a consumer is required to purchase.
"Understand, a six-pack minimum would not preclude the 12-pack or other larger packages for craft brewers or anyone else; it would just insure that Pennsylvania will enjoy a full range of packaging options for beer which is consistent with what exists everywhere else in the United States."
HB 606 is a Liquor Control Enforcement bill and not the massive legislation which was much discussed in the press last summer and which provided for not only new options for current beer retailers but also expanded sales to additional venues outside the existing distribution system. That legislation has been tabled, apparently permanently, according to Harrisburg insiders. The new six-pack amendment was one of several added to 606 on December 4 by the Senate Law and Justice Committee, presumably because it was least controversial aspect of the proposed changes in the earlier bill and enjoys strong public support. From public reports, Anheuser-Busch, the nation's largest brewer, appears to favor the six-pack minimum, while Miller Brewing and Coors Brewing are supporting the larger packages.
In an emergency meeting held in Harrisburg on Wednesday, the Brewers Guild drafted a letter to legislators arguing that a sudden influx of additional packaging options will be an unfair burden to in-state breweries because "our businesses have been forced to compete in packages of cases (264 fl. oz.) and sixpacks (72 oz.) since the inception of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code" and that adopting the six-pack minimum would mean that "Pennsylvania retailers will avoid the burden of new product deluge as the 24 count carton that they currently stock can be divided, as their option, into more consumer friendly retail packages."
"We need consumers to push for this amendment to go through as it is currently written, immediately and loudly, by calling their state senators and assemblymen," says Weirback, "so that we can offset the lobbying efforts of the other side. If they don't, it very likely won't get through. The Brewers Guild by itself doesn't have enough clout compared to the other lobbyists. We want to mobilize everybody we can in support of six-pack legislation."
Consumers can go the Pennsylvania General Assembly online and enter their zip codes to get the names of their senate and house representatives. Clicking on the representative's name brings up telephone, mail and email contact options. "Tell them that you support the amendment to HB 606 which makes a six-pack the minimum size for beer in Pennsylvania," Weirback stresses. "Make it clear that you want package reform to go to six-packs, not 12, 15 or 18. Be clear and be firm."
The Brewers Guild was reformed roughly 18 months ago to represent the state's craft brewers and brewpubs in the area of legal reform. Artie Tafoya of Appalachian Brewing is president, serving with an executive committee which includes Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing (vice-president), Sean Casey of Church Brew Works (secretary) and John Trogner of Troegs Brewing (treasurer).-JACK CURTIN
- December 11, 2007 - Five Local Breweries Will Pour Their Beers At SAVOR
- Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Legacy Brewing Co, Stoudt's Brewing Co. and Troegs Brewing Co. were the local breweries among 40 chosen by lottery to pour their beers at SAVOR: an American Craft Beer & Experience in Washington,DC next May 16-17.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery was one of eight "Brewery Supporters" of the Brewers Association's new event which will also be pouring, for a total of 48 breweries.
Winning breweries were contacted by email yesterday and a press release sent out today.
Breweries had to sign up for the lottery to have chance and the were randomly chosen from eight regions across the nation. were entered into the drawing - 40 breweries from 8 regions were randomly selected for participation. Additionally, eight spots were reserved for Brewery Supporters (sponsors), for a total of 48 breweries participating at the event.
Tickets for each of three sessions will be limited to the first 700 purchasers. The $85 ticket will include a commemorative tasting glass, souvenir program and Craft Beer Taster's Commemorative Journal, food and craft beer pairings, seminars and two-ounce samples of specially selected craft beer.--JACK CURTIN
- December 11, 2007 - John Harvard's Main Line Location Closed
- A local broker for used brewery equipment acknowledged to the Beer Yard today that he has been in the process of marketing the brewhouse at the now closed John Harvard's in Wayne for the past month.
He and another informed beer industry observer, both of whom choose to remain anonymous, also agreed that they expect Harvard's Pittsburgh pub to suffer the same fate in the near future.
"In fact, I suspect that the Boston Culinary Group (which bought the John Harvard chain in 2005) will eventually close all the pubs except the original one in Cambridge, Ma., which is hugely successful, and do so sooner rather than later," said one.
Most employees appear not to have been forewarned of the closing, but brewer Brad Basile, who was an assistant brewer at Manayunk Brewing for the past year-and a-half and stepped into the brewer’s post at the closed location at the end of October, was apparently given a head's up by one of our sources a week ago.
No one is answering the phones for the location as of this evening and the location has disappeared from the Harvard's website as a Pennsylvania location.
The Wayne John Harvard's opened with a big splash in in February 1997 and proved to be the first of several tenants to make a go of it at what would appear to be a very desirable location which was originally home to a classic old Main Line watering hole and dining spot.
The Harvard's location in Springfield closed nearly two years ago and other sites around the country have been shuttered in recent years, so a closing would not be a major surprise.
Further information as it becomes available. --JACK CURTIN
- December 07, 2007 - Former Heavyweight Owners Sign Lease in Mt. Airy
- Tom Baker goes online with more details on his new brewpub, along with a shout-out to another great beer destination already established in the area.
ORIGINAL STORY 12-6-2007
Tom Baker told The Beer Yard this morning that the brewpub he and wife/[partner Peggy Zwerver promised to open when they shut down Heavyweight Brewing last year will be located on Germantown Avenue in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia and that he hopes to open the doors by the end of March 2008.
"We have a signed lease and will be moving our equipment into place as soon as possible," Baker said. "We also plan to relocate our residence to the area and hope to become a part of the neighborhood and a destination site for beer lovers."
The new pub, to be named Earth. Bread & Brewery will feature flatbread and Baker's beers, along with guest craft beers. "We have a full liquor license but won't use that right off the bat. We'll take things slow and get them right."
Earth, Bread & Brewery will be located at 7136 Germantown Avenue, a few blocks south of McMenamin's Tavern.
More details to come.--JACK CURTIN
- December 06, 2007 - Yards Distribution Rights Go To Muller Inc.
- Ed Friedland, who was a principle in the legal wrangle over Yards Brewing distribution rights confirmed to the Beer Yard this morning that those rights have formally been acquired by Muller Inc.
It's all been worked out," Friedland said. "Yards is happy, Kunda is happy, Origlio is happy, Muller is happy and I'm happy. In fact, the next time you see me, I'll probably be drinking a pint of Yards at the bar."
ORIGINAL STORY 12-5-2007
The distribution rights for Yards Brewing Company now belong to Muller, Inc., a reliable source told The Beer Yard late tonight.
Muller is a Miller Brewing affiliated wholesaler located in Northeast Philadelphia. The story is still unconfirmed but it is an arrangement which had been widely anticipated in local beer circles in recent weeks as the likely next shoe to drop in the series of distribution shakeups in the local market over the past two years.
Yards has been self-distributing since the acquisition of its original wholesaler, Edward I. Friedland, by Kunda Beverage of King of Prussia in 2006. Yards refused to accept the transfer of its rights and claimed that it had always designated first distribution rights to itself. The matter has been in the courts ever since, with Yards winning at each level.
In a deal announced in November, Kunda Beverage's wholesale contracts have all been acquired by Origlio Beverage, the region's largest wholesaler and a Coors house, as of this January.
Yards itself underwent a major change this past summer when co-founder Tom Kehoe split with his partners and set in motion a process which will see the brewery moved from its Kensington plant to a new location on the Delaware River waterfront in January.
How all of this sorts out and whether this move resolves the legal and related issues is not clear at this point. More details will be posted here as they become available.--JACK CURTIN