These days, there are quite a few big chain craft beer bars covering large swaths of the country. Flying Saucer has 16 locations throughout the South. World of Beer recently exploded out of the South and now boasts 40 stores across the country. And Yard House tops the list with 44 locations, including one in Hawaii.
One of the interesting things about these places is that—unlike restaurants, where you can easily duplicate the cuisine location to location—these bars have to modify their selection based on brewery distribution. What’s on tap at the Denver Yard House won’t necessarily be the same in Atlanta.
So, how do these chains figure out selection? Yard House recently pulled the curtain back a bit, and it turns out the beer menu isn’t just based on availability.
Yard House beverage director Kip Snider holds an annual beer review, which is comprised of a group of beer experts and takes place over a four-week period. During the review, the panel blind tastes every single beer on tap at its locations, as well as potential candidates for future tapping. They’re scored on a 1 to 5 scale, and any beer that scores below a 3 is dropped.
But that’s where it gets a bit complicated: Not all the beers that make it to the taps score a perfect 5. The group takes into account sales performance, guest preference and a number of intangibles to decide which beers are featured. Even locations within the same city might offer different beers based on these factors.
But some things are similar from location to location: According to Snider the two biggest trends throughout all Yard Houses are IPAs and session beers—all of the locations also share a core list of 25 beers.
A big takeaway from hearing about the annual Yard House beer review is this: They listen to the customer. When your favorite brewery tells you to ask for their beer on tap and, if its not, then demand their beer on tap—well, there might be something to that.