Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beer Nostalgia

One afternoon a dozen years ago, the year I moved to Philadelphia, I wandered with a friend though the narrow steep streets of the Manayunk section of the city, past close stone and stucco workers' houses hunkered between later, grander 19th century red brick blocks and high windowed tradesmens' workshops. An ungated vaulted passage to a rear stable yard beckoned. Once beyond it the wafting aroma of hops drew us further in to the open door of a three car garage sized cinderblock shed. I'd been a beer snob for about six years by then, so I recognised the brewers tanks immediately; someone was making beer. The first to appear was Jon, thin and cane like as a hops bine itself; and the second Tom, a broad and solid red headed barrel of a man, proportioned like the silver kegs around the perimiter of the concrete floored room. This was their new company - just the two of them and a part timer who came in to clean - up and running for just a year. Tom searched for clean glasses and Jon drew from the test tap of a just completed tank. Cool, not cold, full bodied deep amber with a caramel colored head was this their sole progeniture: ESA, Extra Special Ale. Boy was it ever. It was unquestionably the best English style ale I'd ever tasted. They called their company "Yards". The four of us drank and shot the shit, my friend and I leaving long afterwards tipsy and flushed with the excitement of a new found love.

The company grew and expanded into taverns across the city, coinciding with my own incursions. They relocated, added a bottling line, and Jon left for other pursuits. Bill and Nancy Barton came on board bringing needed funds and business know how, resulting in a final relocation into a Barvarian castle like brewery complex which had been mothballed since prohibition. At every step we were there - the beer carnivals and happy hours, and at the and community fundraisers and scruffier art exhibitions where they provided the kegs - pint glasses in hand and smiles on our faces.

As people grow, sometimes they grow apart. It was aparent that that was happening within the company as Tom and the Bartons developed different visions for it's future. Still, the recent news of a split came as a shock. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to continue my relationship with my beer as Tom continues to produce it, and also look forward to enjoying the beery developments of Bill and Nancy's new brewing venture. It's all overlaid with a certain melancholy though, as yet another key pleasure of "My Philadelphia" is changed by the forces of money and expansion altering everything around us. *Sigh*

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not Dead

Rather, distracted.

The author and Jerry, hurtling towards Williamsburg, deep below the East River.


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