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Even the biggest craft brewing aficionados will agree that for tailgates or beach picnics or watching the game on TV, you want a beer that goes down easy. Something you can sip on all day, priced so you don’t have to wince as friends toss them back.
That’s the idea behind Yards Brewing Company’s newest offering, Philly Standard.
With a no-nonsense label and bare-bones ingredient list — water, malt, hops, and yeast — the new release doesn’t even get assigned a specific style. What kind of beer is it? Per the listing on the brewery’s website: beer.
The description comes straight from the founder’s mouth. “I have been saying it is a ‘beer beer’ made by a craft brewer,” said brewmaster Tom Kehoe, who in 1994 launched Yards with a partner from a tiny garage in Manayunk, and helped oversee its subsequent expansion to a regional powerhouse.
With an ABV of 4.5%, which is less than Bud or Coors and about the same as Modelo and Rolling Rock, Philly Standard follows the industry trend of lower-alcohol offerings and simpler, less complex flavors.
Customers are snapping up hard seltzers faster than companies can put them out (Yards has a line of these, too), with the market expected to continue exploding, according to industry analysts. Meanwhile, new beer brands like Kenwood Original, brewed in Philadelphia as “a better light beer option,” are gaining traction.
And the old guard of the craft brewing world is adapting.
Brewers who once made a living pushing to find out what new ingredients they could add (bacon! coffee! donuts!) or experimenting to find new techniques they could wield (barrel-aging! dry-hopping!) are coming around to the realization that sometimes, a lot of people just want …a beer.
Something “in the spirit of tailgating and ‘I just want a beer’ type beer,” said Yards founder Kehoe.
He cited Firestone Walker as a model. The 25-year-old California brewery recently created a whole new line called 805, after the area code where it’s headquartered, touted as “an easy drinking beer that can be enjoyed anywhere.”
There’s another comparison that’ll be obvious to any Philadelphian who pops open a can.
The color and taste of Philly Standard are very similar to that ubiquitous Philly (lowercase) standard: Yuengling Traditional Lager.
However, the new Yards is more carbonated than Yuengling, in a refreshing way. It drinks almost like a happy medium between Yuengling and Miller High Life. There’s no off-putting aftertaste, and you can easily chug half a glass if you’re thirsty, which makes it a good backup to just about any kind of food or snacks.
Price point also plays a role, and Yards Brewing is aiming for the new offering to match other tailgate favorites. That should be doable, according to Nick Wendowski, owner of Stone’s Beer & Beverage Market on Fairmount Avenue.
“My guess would be that I’ll price it at $19.99 retail or slightly less,” Wendowski said. “Almost all of our 15-packs sit at this price point, except higher ABV packages.”
His one reservation is its visual appearance. Selling something in 15-packs assumes a beer is light and easy to drink, he said, while dark labels tend to signal to consumers that a beer isn’t either of those.
Philly Standard’s branding features red and white words over a black background. There’s also a little pigeon mascot, carrying a flag that says “215.”
“I’m a little uneasy about the dark label,” Wendowski said. He added, “Yards is an extremely successful brewery, though — so what do I know?
Philly Standard is available now in 15-packs at area distributors, and in bottles and on draft in the Yards Brewing taproom at 5th and Spring Garden streets.