Photos, story by Cassie Hepler
Located in the suburbs of Philly, the Victorian town of Yardley in Bucks County houses Vault Brewing who does not consider themselves a bar, a pub or even a traditional brewery. Entering in the “faux vault entryway,” you’ll notice you may have entered an old school bank except that the entire brewery and wood-fired kitchen oven are completely open to view. The brewery that once sat directly behind the bar is now expanding down the street and up the hill.
The décor is a combination of regal bank, stark industrial, old-world and modern. What is not modern is there are no TVs, pub traditional menu items and no pop or rock music. Taking it back to real life conversation, it is almost a new concept if it wasn’t already done… years ago. They encourage eating and discussing starters rather than TVs, unique gastro-pub dishes rather than wings and fries with recorded live jazz and funk rather than radio music and DJs.
With a solid but small selection of tapas, salads, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts, everything you find on the menu is either made in-house or sourced locally, nothing is ever frozen or reheated, and every “in-house” ingredient is made fresh daily and rotates seasonally. The beer is unfiltered and was brewed on-site in the 310 gallon (10bbl) brewery. They once brewed twice a week and each batch rarely lasts more than a month, thus the need to expand to a larger facility. The beer lines run directly from the serving tanks behind the bar may be served via draft (traditional CO2), nitro (think Guinness-style), or cask (low-carbonation, warmer temperature, English-style). A Pennsylvania license restricts them from selling out of state wines but they happily provide local wine from Crossing Vineyards and Winery.
Vault Brewing Company opened its doors on October 11, 2012 in Bucks County, PA. The Yardley location was chosen due to its historic Borough, its proximity to the Delaware River, and its neighboring towns of Washington Crossing, Newtown, New Hope, and Langhorne. The original part of the building was constructed in 1889 for Yardley National Bank. The 8,000 pound vault door was installed prior to the construction of the building and no changes have been made to its design in over 125 years. The vault is now used as a beer-conditioning cellar.
Yardley National Bank went out of business during the Great Depression, but the building continued to serve as a financial institution for many other banks over the years. Some may remember the bank as a location for Philadelphia National Bank and Prime National Bank. Most recently, the building was home to Bank of America until the branch was closed in 2009.
The building sat vacant for 3 years until brothers James and John Cain along with their father Jim, decided in March of 2012 to completely overhaul the building and turn it into a brewery. The first hire was Mark Thomas, brought on to help design the brewing equipment layout, define the beer offering, and run the brewing operation as the Brewmaster. The Cains had previously attempted to install their brewery in an old golf ball factory on Delaware Ave but had to abandon the idea after a few months of zoning battles. The silver lining was that even though they now had to select a new location, it was evident that there was much support for the business and the unique concept. The plans were drawn in April and construction began in July. Contracting team Jeffrey C. Burdette, Inc worked seven days a week to demolish, construct, plumb, wire, tile, paint, and decorate the building in less than three months. The interior design was created by Miho Kahn Interiors, LLC.