After our meal at El Jardin Norte when we were in the Chicago area last fall with our friends Scott and Marcia Schroeder, and Dave and Pat Heusmann, we spied a place across the street in the Glen Town Center called the Yard House. On their sign it said, "World's Largest Selection of Draft Beer". I said, "OK, kids, I've got to go in and see this."
Sure enough, the Yard House had over 130 spigots on a two-sided rectangular wall in the center of a large rectangular bar . There were some duplications of the more popular beers on each side just because of their shear size of the bar area.
On their web site, they list over 180 beers that they have at their disposal at their many locations. Now, I've been to beer bars before where they may have over 100 beers available, but most of those are in bottles and not on draft. It was truly amazing to see the rows of spigots with the different beers. I had to take a slow lap around the bar just to see what they had.
The original Yard House began in 1996 when former Denver resident Steele Platt opened the first location in Long Beach, Ca. Platt had earlier sold his interest in the Boiler Room - a Denver bar that specialized in serving a number of different brands of beer. Platt had run the Boiler Room for about 15 years before pulling up stakes and moving west.
Platt's concept was to offer good food, a great selection of beer and good music in his restaurants. The first Yard House had a two story keg room with five miles of beer lines going to the bar. At any given time, the Yard House could move 6,000 gallons of beer through its line system. That same delivery design is used in the other Yard House locations.
In August of 2007, Platt sold majority interest of Yard House USA to TSG Consumer Partners, an investment group from the San Francisco area. Platt still is involved with the business as they look to expand in the coming years. There are now 18 Yard House locations in eight states with 3 more scheduled to open within the first part of 2008. The company doesn't plan to franchise any locations, keeping all of the Yard House locations under private control.
As it was a Saturday night when we were in there, the place was pretty packed. We managed to find three seats at the bar for the ladies to sit on. We took a look at the menu of available beers and I ordered up a Smithwick's. I think Dave got the same. I forget what Scott got, but the girls were able to talk the bartender in allowing them samples of some of the beers.
They did serve food, but I didn't study the food menu as I wasn't hungry. But I thought this would have to be a place that I'd have to come back and try their food. From looking at the menu on the web site, it appears they have some pretty interesting items on their menu.
I was standing near the women and Pat asked me, "Are you familiar with all these beers, Will?"
Cindy just laughed. "Oh, I'm sure he is, Pat."
So, I took a look at the beer menu and I went down the list of available beers and told Pat if I'd ever had them before or not. They had about 110 beers listed and I have to say that I had sampled the vast majority of them. Pat was amazed, but Cindy said, "I don't know if that's something I'd be proud of."
Hey, I wasn't bragging - it was just a fact.
The Yard House had a number of televisions throughout the place, most of them turned to sporting events. They also had classic 60's, 70's and 80's rock playing throughout the place. And it wasn't at an ear-splitting level that made conversation all but impossible. Actually, the music they were playing was pretty damn good.
I was surprised to learn about the Yard House (which derives its name from the yard long glasses of beer handed to carriage drivers in England long ago when they'd make a stop at a rest house) as I'd never heard of it before. We only stayed for a beer or two as everyone was still pretty full from dinner and it was getting late. But I'm definitely going back for a meal sometime and I'll be sure to let you know how the food is.