What's on tap?

Bev Blackwood - All hail the beer bar.

This past Friday, I was invited to the opening of a Yard House pub location in Friendswood, Texas, a suburb of Houston.For anyone not familiar with the concept, Yard House is a multi-tap bar and restaurant that focuses on craft beer. 

There’s great music and the draft system pipes arc over and around the dining area to the bar from the blue-lit keg room, which is perched in the rafters on one side of the dining area. The food was excellent and the beer selection was first rate. I was even able to try a beer I hadn’t had before… but more on that later. 

The multi-tap bar is now a staple of the American beer industry.If you walk into a bar that has four macro beers on tap, two of which are the “lite” version of the other two taps, you’re in the wrong bar, right?Yet once upon a time, that was the rule, not the exception.

I live in Houston, and while we’re not on the bleeding edge of craft beer (our oldest craft beer, Saint Arnold, is 21 years old, but they are roughly 18 years older than their nearest competitor) we lacked a brewpub (in a city of 4 million people) as recently as a year ago. Part of that has to do with business models and state laws, but even so, it’s embarrassing. However, we have excelled at multi-tap beer bars.In 1985, The Gingerman opened in Houston. 

It was lauded by Michael Jackson in his 1991 edition of The Pocket Guide to Beer: “Houston has The Gingerman, one of the best beer-bars in America.” One of the (then) managers there, Chris Black, now owns one of the next generation of beer bars that sets the new standard, a little place called Falling Rock in Denver, Colorado. It was a very potent recipe for success: Give people great beer at a good price and don’t put any “Crap on Tap” as Falling Rock states.That’s enabled other bars to follow the same model, notably Flying Saucer, whose pubs are spreading throughout the south and BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, (Our host Michael’s alma mater) which offers a blend of house-made beers (from a central brewery) and select craft beers. Yard House is another evolution of the concept, offering a massive tap selection with around 100 craft beers on draft, all properly served, with the system overseen by a certified Cicerone to ensure every beer is served up as the brewer intended.

I enjoyed several beers during my visit, but the new one for me was Evil Crawfish, from Clown Shoes, a variation on their Eagle Claw Fist.A deep red ale, it had tropical fruit highlights as it warmed, from the Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops. The residual sweetness from the crystal malts emerged as it warmed, which helped to ameliorate the 9% ABV kick that was very evident when it was cold!A multi-tap bar is a great way to explore beer, and many offer tasting flights that allow the neophyte beer drinker to explore new styles without the expense of a full pint.I really had a fun night at Yard House. My only recommendation is never order a “yard” of anything… Explore!

The Author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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