Depending on your perspective — and so long as you like beer — the existence of the Yard House bar next to Fenway Park is either a good thing or a very good thing.
It can’t be bad, not with 160 taps serving everything from Belgian classics like Chimay to local favorites from Stoneface, 14th Star, Jack’s Abby, and Moon Hill.
But in general it’s hard for a chain to be great, at least not without a gimmick like Jack Daniel’s slathered ribs or free breadsticks. The Fenway Yard House opened in 2012, and there are 67 more like it around the country, including one in Dedham and another in Lynnfield, all striving to give you “the world’s largest selection of draft beer” in as consistent an experience as possible.
A visit to the Yard House can be both overwhelming and comforting. The tap setup occupies the center of the room, and bartenders carve out a figure eight tracking down your brew. An electronic board advertises limited releases, and on a recent visit I order a beer I’ve never heard of called Spanish Trampoline, an IPA from San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. It’s a good experience: the brew is described on the screen as tropical and dank with low hop bitterness, and that’s how it drinks.
The bartenders are happy to bring you samples, which is how I take in the Yard House branded beers, made by Utah’s Uinta Brewing. When the House Honey Blonde is too sweet, I move onto the House Amber Belgian Tripel, which is boozier and just as cloying. I try the House IPA, too, (verdict: meh) before circling back to the Green Flash. It’s a circuit run by a lot of customers, a bartender tells me: when there are 160 taps, it’s almost criminal not to try more than one brew.
Beware of the yards, which come in tall, skinny cups (think spring break in Punta Cana) and contain two full brews. On a recent visit nearly everyone is drinking them, from the table of BU students behind me to couples on dates to a father and son decked out in Sox gear, likely bound for the ballpark. Prices for a full yard of say, Wachusett Blueberry, which will run you $15, aren’t listed on the menu.
“It’s actually more expensive to get a yard than two pints,” a bartender admits, attributing their popularity to their Instagram-worthyness. “And they’re kind of hard to drink out of.”
All the more reason to forgo the big cup and sample a little.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.