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Thirsty Thursday: Yards Brewing Company’s Brawler Champion Ale


Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.

Not too long ago, I was having people over the house who have a varied taste in beer.  I wanted something that wasn’t super hoppy and ran the gamut, knowing everyone would enjoy it. For all intents and purposes, I wanted to stay away from the mass-produced commercial beers like Miller Light and Bud Light, so I decided to grab a six-pack from a brewery from Philadelphia, my hometown.  I chose the city’s most popular brewery, Yards Brewing Company, and their flagship beer, Brawler.

Started in 1994 by friends and homebrewers Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit, Yards began pumping out just one six-batch keg at a time in a small 3.5 barrel brewhouse.  Over the years, however, it’s become one of the city’s largest breweries, pumping out somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 barrels each year, thanks to a recent expansion in late 2017.  The company consistently has its pulse on Philadelphia’s unique culture and history, as evident by Yards’ Ales of the Revolution, a series of beers that recreate 18th Century recipes. Each beer is inspired by a recipe belonging to notable forefathers, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin – a fascinating concept.

Over the years, Brawler has managed to become Yards’ most popular brew, available at every sports venue and in almost every bar and beer store around the city.  Defined as an English mild ale, Brawler – which won silver at the Great American Beer Festival back in 2013 – was introduced back in 1998 and then, for reasons we don’t know, reintroduced in 2008, at which point it became a year-round effort.  Brawler is 4.2 percent alcohol by volume and a 12 on the international bitterness units scale and Yards does a satisfactory job explaining this unique ale, which features amber malts and roasted barley:

“Crafted in the style of an English mild, this malt-forward ale is great when you want to go a few rounds. Its smooth character, hints of caramel and toast and remarkable drinkability define this ruby-colored brew as a knockout session ale.”

The packaging is simple and, honestly, I really dig it.  

There’s an orange and black theme with a political cartoon-looking man and monster doing their best “put up your dukes” expression.  It probably has some sort of Philadelphia history tied in with it, however I’m not aware of it. There’s no explanation of the beer, which is always a turn-off for me, other than to call it a champion ale.

Now, this is much different than the usual IPAs and DIPAs I drink.  When I popped the cap, I wasn’t treated to an overpowering aroma as per my typical beers, though I did notice a strong hint of caramel malt and maybe just a little pine.  Brawler poured like a medium-bodied beer, with a lower carbonation and a distinct brownish-red color that was complimented by a very dark yellow head.  As for the taste, I would say Brawler is heavily weighted by dry toasted malts and perhaps a little bread. There’s a very subtle hop bitterness and virtually no booziness.  I would say this beer is moderately drinkable, though to be honest, I would have to move on after two 12-ounce cans.

Brawler is very well priced, as the six-pack cost me just $10.  It’s got an average rating of 3.71 on BeerAdvocate, not be too far off for me, as I give it a 7.1 out of 10.  I think it’s a solid effort with a unique taste not often found in today’s beer landscape. It might not be the most drinkable of beers but it’s easily shareable as an effort that vastly different palates will like – the perfect beer to pick up a case of if you’re going to a large party. It’ll always remind me of home, since I’ve spent the last decade drinking it very sporadically.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.