Yards Brawler: An Appreciation

It’s hard now to cast my mind back and recall when I first became aware of The Session; it was relatively early in my beer blogging ‘career,’ that much is certain – beyond that, seven years ago? Perhaps eight or nine? I do know that back then, I had considerably more time on my hands: one child fewer, a non-Amazon job and a longish train commute, all of which meant that I could write more about beer. Even then, I only participated intermittently, but always enjoyed reading the other entries. As The Session ends its run today, I opted for the ‘One More for the Road’ choice – a blog post about a beer I love, but one that nowadays I only get to see in the rear-view mirror: Yards Brawler.

In the nine years we lived in the Philly area, a Yards variety back was always on hand as a go-to – even as the offerings, both local and from far away, became more exotic, we always kept that around for our Friday night pizza-and-beer ritual. When Brawler debuted (or, perhaps more accurately, re-emerged) in 2008, it quickly became a favorite – a flavorful, dark mild perfect for everything from tailgating before soccer with our fellow Sons of Ben to enjoying with a fancy meal at one of the endless variety of great Philly restaurants that understand having a top-notch beer list is key. Even though it was widely available – certainly not a white whale by any description, it was always one of my must-have beers at the annual Yards Real Ale Festival hosted at the brewery; it’s even more wonderful on cask.

When the call came out of the blue from The Major Online Retailer Mentioned Above to uproot everyone and relocate to the other coast, I thought that certainly I’d miss some local beers, but that we’d be back relatively often to visit, and that surely, something would fill the same gap in Seattle; it turns out I was quite wrong. In the three-plus years we have been here, only one or two local seasonal beers have approached Brawler for its laid-back perfection, and they are infrequently featured among the 7.5%+ (often hazy) IPAs crowding out other styles. Even when sampling other milds on trips to Britain, Brawler is my benchmark – is it as good? And now, while planning our holiday visit back to our old stomping grounds, carving out time to visit the new Yards Brewery is high on the list of priorities; the opportunity to have a fresh Brawler, steps from where it was brewed, is one that can’t be missed (and hopefully the weather cooperates).

In a US brewing landscape that has moved ever-more toward the extreme end of whatever spectrum is selling that month, Yards continues to make perfectly-crafted (mostly) English-style ales that require no strange additions or a high-octane ABV; they are very ‘Philly’ in that they embody equal parts self-assurance and lack of pretension. I wish it could still be my go-to beer here in Seattle, but it will certainly be the first and last beer I have every time we return to Philly.

While it’s only ‘until we meet again’ for Brawler, it is a good-bye to The Session – thanks to all who have organized and contributed over the years; it’s been a fantastic driver to discover new (and not so new) beer writers, and a very-useful prompt to GET SOMETHING WRITTEN when I really needed it. I’ll raise that next Brawler to all involved.

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