On Sunday, April 6, the 7th Annual Philadelphia Real Ale Invitational flooded Yards Brewing Company, throwing leading national and international cask ale producers into the spotlight for one mighty beer-tasting event.
Yards Brewing Co., located along Delaware Ave., is the local king of the cask ale movement, which jump-started 20 years prior when they debuted the award-winning ESA. Now, the Philadelphia area (and beyond) has a reignited love affair for unfiltered, unpasteurized beer that naturally carbonates inside casks (rather than by the addition of nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure), making the sold-out Real Ale Invitational one of the largest cask ale showcases of its kind.
With local brewing greats like Tired Hands Brewing Co., Conshohocken Brewing Co., Victory Brewing Co., Round Guys Brewing Co., Barren Hill, multiple Iron Hill locations, Dock Street Brewing Co., and more, joining the 2014 ranks alongside legends like Marston’s, it was a welcome challenge to taste-test the day’s 30+ ales.
The following beers are what we are proclaiming to be the day’s best releases on tap.
Ardmore’s Tired Hands’ Second Level IPA (6.2% ABV) — Brewed solely with Galaxy hops, this unique IPA introduces samplers to the wide-ranging complexities of one of the beer industry’s most expressive hops. The yellow-hued wonder is also crafted with oats, which enables the release to possess a menagerie of citrus and passionfruit aromas on the front, and grassy, bready bites on the finish.
Domaine Dupont Cidre Reserve (7.5% ABV) — Perhaps the first beer to kick at Sunday’s affair, this extremely limited French cider was trumpeted as the day’s crowd-pleaser. Flavorfully tart, tip-toeing through the delicate combination of pineapple and lemon, the six-month aged, sparkling cider was bold and beautiful. Not to mention, the oak casks for which it was aged used to hold Calvados, which added an attractive sharpness to the cider’s backbone.
Neshaminy Creek’s County Line IPA (6.6% ABV) — Perfect for fanatical hop heads, this IPA was slammed with a five-pack of hops (Warrior, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe and Centennial Hops) and then, dry-hopped for two weeks with more hops (Mosaic). Its final cask conditioning with key limes, grapefruit, and—you guessed it— more hops (Citra) produces a tempting end result: a mighty West Coast-style IPA bursting with inviting mouthfuls of mango and citrus.
Yards’ La Colombe Coffee Love Stout and Southern Brown Ale — With Yards hosting the main event, you better believe that president Tom Kehoe roll out the big-gun releases for the invitational. With limited-release Yards’ beers elevating the tasting room’s taps, we were most attracted to the small-batch of the Love Stout, concocted with a heavy hand of La Colombe coffee. The silky, English-style stout hosted a roasted malt backbone, which offered balance to the pronounced dark chocolate and bitter notes that resulted from the coffee.
The Southern Brown Ale (5.3% ABV) was another buzz-worthy cask of the day, a clone of an ale brewed in 1933 by Whitbread Brewery. As an English ale tribute, the complex beer boasted an attractive mix of sweet malts and hints of caramel, aside rich, earthy characteristics and subtle whiffs of lemon. We hope to see this beer again soon!
Miss out on this premium cask ale showcase? Swing by YBC for your fill. The tasting room is open Mon.–Sat., noon–7 p.m.; Sun., noon–4 p.m. Yards Brewing Company offers free brewery tours too, on weekends, from noon–4 p.m. For more info, visit www.yardsbrewing.com.