Few establishments can make a better claim to being a fixture in Manchester than Backyard Brewery & Kitchen. Its current incarnation as a brewery and restaurant is only about six years old, though family ownership reaches much further back, to when the current owner’s father had it for years and operated it as The Yard Restaurant.
Before that, it was The Green Shutter restaurant — that incarnation probably reaches back to the ’70s. The end result of all this history is a place that’s extremely comfortable — for an individual, for a couple, for a family, or for a group from work.
Backyard Brewery and Kitchen certainly needs no publicity from me — they’ve been featured in multiple articles in this very publication, and more widely in the Union Leader, the Phantom Gourmet, even CBS Sunday Morning. (How many NH breweries can say that?) Read on for links below.
Backyard Brewery & Kitchen is extremely easy to reach, sitting at the well-traveled junction of 28 and 28A, southeast of the mall, east of the airport, due south of where I-93 meets I-293, and with a large parking lot on the north side of the building. But once inside, you can easily forget about the busy outside world.
Backyard is a large venue. They have tables on a sizable outdoor patio with a firepit, a large central dining room with bar in one corner, a smaller dining room on another side of that same bar space, and several function rooms upstairs. When the place is fully humming on a busy Friday with nice weather, they can accommodate 400 patrons.
They feature live music every Friday and Saturday from 6-9 p.m.
Their indoor dining space is comfortable and inviting. They have stools at the bar, they have booths (some of which offer a view into the brewing space through large glass windows), small tables, and long tables ideal for a party of colleagues.
One small ding is their in-house background music system. While the choice of music was fine (rock & pop from the 70’s & 80’s — Temptations, Duran Duran), the sound reaching my ears was tinny, like listening to the speaker of a cheap cell phone. Announcements made on this system would surely sound like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. I’m sure the sound system is entirely separate for their live performances. But hey, high-quality Muzak is hardly a reason to visit (or avoid) a brewery!
At many breweries, food is an afterthought. At more, it’s an also-ran. At some, it becomes something to anticipate along with the beer. Backyard Brewery & Kitchen is easily at or beyond that level. I challenge you to watch their spot on The Phantom Gourmet (link below) and NOT have your mouth water. In my limited experience there, they delivered on that promise and made me want to return to try more from their kitchen.
After browsing their menu (available on their website), I started with the breaded & fried broccoli appetizer, and it was delicious. Next I had the pumpkin soup — perfect on a cold rainy day — and I can easily imagine returning just for that.
They have beers to go in 4-packs of cans, and more beers on tap. At any given time they typically have a dozen beers (all brewed in house) on tap, and roughly four beers available in cans.
From the tap you can get three sizes: 4oz, 10 oz, 16oz. Prices are $2.50, $5, $6.50. Or you can get a flight of four 4 oz pours for $8.50, a great way to try several of the beers to discover some new favorites.
Before I get into beer descriptions, let me start off by saying that a common refrain for all of these beers was incredibly clean mouth feel — like drinking water fresh from a mountain spring. Cliche as that may sound, it’s what sprang to my mind when beer after beer shared that one outstanding attribute.
So — 12 beers brewed in-house and available on tap, yet only one is a New England IPA? Are we still in Manchester, NH in 2023? What’s happening here? What it is ain’t exactly clear….
Their beers also shared a subtleness of flavor — none screamed like a trumpet in your ear.
On my first visit I tried:
|Alcohol By Volume
|11. Snow Squall
|Wheat Beer - Witbier
|3. Cherry Jubilee
|Sour - Fruited
|6. Cheeky Old Earl
|Mild - Other
|Lager - Helles
#3 Cherry Jubilee may grab your attention with its color, but it is NOT one of those beers that smacks you in the face with its outrageous sourness. Instead, it is mildly sour, and also mild in fruit flavor, while still being distinctly a fruit beer. Overall very good — would be great served cold on a summer day with barbecue.
#11 Snow Squall delivers an amount of flavor that is often accompanied by a higher ABV. It’s hard to argue with an increased ratio of flavor to alcohol. I’m a fan of wheat beers and brought home a four-pack.
#6 Cheeky Old Earl adds Earl Grey tea to an existing beer recipe for a flavor addition that is subtle and far from overpowering, but definitely noticeable. The overall effect is very pleasant.
#7 Lawnmower is a good basic lager, though with plenty more flavor than you’ll find in most of the mass-produced lagers on the market. If you come here with your friend who “just wants a bud,” have ’em try one of these.
(After drinking this I mysteriously felt the impulse to watch the 1992 movie “The Lawnmower Man” starring my namesake Jeff Fahey. So far I am resisting….)
On my second visit I tried:
|Alcohol By Volume
|5. Milk Money - Blueberry
|IPA - Milkshake
|8. Grumpy Goat
|Bock - Single
|9. Light Roast
|Stout - White
|12. Monkee Bars
#5 Milk Money Blueberry comes with an extra smooth mouth feel, perhaps from the lactose, with just a hint of sourness and a subtle blueberry flavor.
#9 Light Roast absolutely looks like no coffee stout I’ve ever had before, and it tasted great. They’re obviously using a clever Jedi mind trick to make you drink more beer — you taste coffee, you look, you don’t see coffee, you taste again. Once I got my brain to accept this misaligned input from eyes and taste buds, I was very happy with this beer.
#12 Monkee Bars brings the flavor (and the bitterness) in spades!