The holiday season is usually a time to socialize with family and friends and so it was that I reconnected with long-time friend (and past boating comrade) Eileen, below left. We’ve been meeting over lunch between Christmas and New Years for around 20 years, conceivably longer. Often her sister Barb will join us, as was the case this season.
Wanting to patronize someplace different, I immediately thought of the Vault Brewing Company in Yardley because the sisters like a good beer! It opened in 2012 and the location was chosen due to historic Yardley Borough, its proximity to the Delaware River, and its neighboring towns of Washington Crossing, Newtown, New Hope, and my current place of residence, Langhorne. (Eileen hails from Wrightstown and Barb from Newportville.)
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, how cool is that! They provide an atmosphere more akin to the speakeasies of Philadelphia than to a traditional brew pub.
You enter through a “faux vault entryway,” and immediately notice that the entire brewery and wood-fired kitchen oven are completely open to view. The brewery sits directly behind the bar and the kitchen is adjacent to the dining tables. Their décor is a striking, unusual blend of regal bank, stark industrial, old-world, and modern.
Luckily Eileen, who arrived first, had the where-with-all to get our name on the wait list because for 2:00 on a Tuesday afternoon, it was packed! Barb arrived minutes after me, but we still had to wait for about 15 minutes before we were seated. On my way in I noticed they were adding an extension out back into the parking lot.
Barb disliked her first choice of beer so I suggested asking for a small taste of her next beer before she committed. The waitress brought two samples.
For their second choice, Eileen and Barb decided on a flight of 5 beers. It worked out well because if one sister didn’t really like one of them, the other seemed to. Me, I stuck to a glass of Merlot.
Their menu rotates seasonally and is intentionally focused yet varied with unique gastro-pub dishes. While not gigantic in scope, they offer a 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.
I pretty much made up my mind right away and opted for the Chicken & Greens salad. My companions had a more difficult time selecting, but finally both chose the Buffalo Chicken Salad (although Barb nixed the bleu cheese). Barb initially contemplated a hamburger but was concerned over the doneness because our waitress didn’t make it sound like you could get it cooked to your liking, odd as that seems.
The menu only lists one burger, the Grass Fed Burger: an 8 ounce hand-formed patty, with white cheddar, butter lettuce, heirloom tomato, red onion, red pepper-garlic aioli, on a brioche. I noticed one male patron ordered that and it took all he could do to open his choppers wide enough to take that first bite!
BUFFALO CHICKEN—Roasted chicken, arugula, pickled red onion, cucumber, celery, yellow pepper, blue cheese, creamy dill vinaigrette.
CHICKEN & GREENS—Poached pesto chicken, chick peas, arugula, English cucumber, celery, haricot verts, heirloom cherry tomato, shaved parmesan, and roasted tomato vinaigrette.
I pretty much ate my entire salad and would definitely order it again. After Barb took her first bite, she was appalled that there might be mayo in it, and we figured it must be part of the creamy dill vinaigrette, so she more or less picked around it, not consuming most of the greens.
Around three years ago Russ and I had stopped in for lunch and split an appetizer order of the Buffalo Cauliflower consisting of buttermilk cauliflower, house buffalo sauce, sweet pickled celery, and chive sour cream, and as I recall we both really liked it. If I’m not mistaken our other choice was a Margherita Wood-Fired Pizza. They now seem to have more selections as far as the pizzas go.
According to their website, they brew twice a week with each batch rarely lasting more than a month. The beer lines that 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).
Some unique elements of the interior include:
- The original vault repurposed as a beer-cellar
- A giant safe repurposed as an illuminated wine display
- Decorative wrought-iron fencing surrounding the brewery and copper-clad wood-fired open
- A visually-striking painting that incorporates original deposit slips and paid checks from Yardley National bank dating over 100 years ago
- Hand-dyed concrete bar tops that were poured and molded on-site
- A huge rusted iron horse head above the urinal in the men’s room
- An eclectic shoe rack display in the women’s room (although I’ve yet to visit the ladie’s room)
After three hours of kibitzing, we all needed to wrap it up and head home. And since it was now dinner/happy hour, the place was even more crowded with what looked like quite a wait line. Promises were made to continue our yearly tradition, with the possibility of meeting up during the rest of the year, but that never seems to happen…
Oh and thanks Eileen for treating us!
A gentlemen customer offered to take our photo in front of the wine vault as we were leaving.