Three thousand gallons of beer is kept at a temperature of 36-38 degrees in a glass-enclosed keg storage area that can be viewed from inside La Plaza Mall in McAllen. With some 130 beers on tap, the recently opened Yard House boasts the largest assortment of draft beer in the city.
The cold beer is delivered to the establishment’s centerpiece, an island bar lined with colorful taps, through more than two miles of lines running from the keg rooms through overhead conduit. Bartenders pour the customers’ choice into pints, 23-ouncers, goblets and half-yards.
Domestic and imported staples like Bud Light, Corona and Heineken are included among the mix of beers from around the world and local craft brewers. “We have what is the most popular beer in Belgium, Dageraad,” said Kevin Norrell, who has been with Yard House for more than seven years and moved from Austin to open the newest location. “We have 21 new beers that the Valley hasn’t been introduced to.”
5X5 Brewing Company of Mission and Big River Brewery in Pharr are represented in the diverse beer offerings, with 5X5’s Brunette Bombshell Honey Brown and Big River Wanderlust IPA on tap. “I think we are going to have a pretty good partnership with the local breweries,” Norrell said. “We will change up the beers from time to time as we see what the community likes.”
Norrell moved from a Yard House in Austin last August to oversee the build-out in McAllen, which is in a new expansion to La Plaza Mall. “We try to design great buildings. I got to see it from the ground up. It was still dirt in here. I think the design team came up with a great take on an otherwise traditional building.”
Everything about the Yard House is carefully planned to create a certain feel and energy, from carefully designed music playlists to energetic artwork created exclusively for Yard House by abstract artist Jerome Gastaldi. During a recent tour, Norrell repeatedly used the term “wow factor” as he talked about the design.
“There’s an energy level that’s created from the top down,” he said. “It’s the energy from the music to the art on the walls, it’s all part of creating an experience. When you walk in the door you start feeling the experience.”
And, with a food menu featuring more than 100 items, Yard House offerings include dishes like Parmesan Crusted Pork Loin and Ginger Crusted Salmon, as well as gluten-sensitive, vegan and vegetarian options.
McAllen is the 75th location for the company, which was founded in 1996 in Long Beach, Calif. “That original location is still there,” Norrell said, adding the new venue has received a positive welcome from the community. “I talked with a home brewer that came in and he and his wife were super happy.”
Community involvement is another tradition with the Yard House company, Norrell said. The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley has benefited with proceeds the company’s Friends and Family events. Customers can choose to “round up” their bill to help fund local food banks, Special Olympics and the American Red Cross. On a daily basis, Yard House employees “harvest” surplus food, not leftovers but fresh unused food that is donated to local food banks.