On Sunday, April 30, Yards Brewing Company held its 10th annual Real Ale Invitational. Under overcast but dry skies, firkins from 50 breweries were tapped in a tent pitched on Yards’ parking lot, while Yards’ 10 cask varieties were poured inside the tasting room. The term “jovial” best describes the event; as compared to other outdoor beer festivals in the region, the Real Ale Invitational was not a mob scene of drunkenness. One could see that the folks enjoying the special varieties of beers were there for just that – to try new and exciting experiments on well-known beers in a mellow, relaxing environment.
Among Yards’ cask selections were their Brawler with coffee, Love Stout with vanilla, Philadelphia Pale Ale with orange zest and Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce dry hopped with Nugget hops. The other 50 varieties of cask ales were too fantastic to name them all, but some that received special notice were Troegs new Crimson Pistil IPA, Stoudts 30th Anniversary Trip-Ale (a blended triple and American pale ale dry hopped with Cascade hops), Flying Dog “Pearl Necklace with raspberries and cocoa and River Horse Special Ale with chocolate and chili peppers. Flying Fish served its Blueberry Braggot with brandy soaked blackberries that came in at 15% ABV! Of course no cask event would be complete without some traditional varieties of beer. On hand this weekend were England’s Greene King Ruddles County IPA and Old Speckled Hen, as well as an ESB from Forest & Main called My Analog Brain and Yards called Bitter Landlord.
On top of the beer selections, there were several details that turned the 10th anniversary of the Real Ale Festival into a truly enjoyable celebration. There was plenty of room for all to reach the kegs without pushing and spilling beer; plenty of friendly servers; and great music provided by bagpipers and a jam band. One unique benefit of the Real Ale Invitational was that food – actual food – was included in the price of admission. Not only were there stacks of tomato pies and pretzels outside, there were two buffet lines in the tasting room that included delicious (and typically not seen at festivals) beef stew, macaroni and cheese, mushy peas, and hearty slices of bread. In addition, a whole pig was roasted in a barbecue pit made from concrete blocks in the parking lot. No one was hungry during this festival!
Bri Dahl, a Seattle, Washington native and first time visitor to Philadelphia was excited to attend the Real Ale Invitational – “As an out-of-towner, it gave me a glimpse into the vibrant beer culture in Philly. The broad range of styles was fun to try on cask. It felt like a special treat to experience Yards’ Ales of the Revolution beers on cask too!” Jim Antush, also from Seattle, agreed, “It was cool having such a wide variety of beers, some of which I would never try otherwise. And some of those were a nice surprise for my taste buds!”
At one point during the afternoon, Tom Kehoe, founder of Yards, was seen walking through the crowd around the tent, his well-known smile stretching from ear to ear. While the Real Ale Invitational’s 10th was a happy event for the attendees, Tom may have been reflecting on the festivals of the past ten years as this may be the last to be held at Yards’ current location due to their impending move to 5th and Spring Garden Street in Northern Liberties. No matter where the Real Ale Festival is hosted in 2018, it is a must attend for fans of cask ales and varieties on old favorites.