Joe Sixpack: Belly up to the bar - your own bar, that is
YOU'RE A GROWN-UP - it's about time you had your own bar.
Not your kitchen counter. And not that folding card table you set up with a half-dozen bottles of cheap liquor whenever your buddies show up on poker night. I'm talking about a real bar, with running water and a beer fridge where you don't have to make room for boxes of Juicy Juice.
I'm going to tell you what you need for your own bar, but first let me tell you why.
As much as I enjoy hanging out at the neighborhood pub, my basement bar is the place where I feel most at home - and not just because I'm in charge of the TV remote control.
It is an expression of my manliness, I suppose: my cave. A leather sofa, a bookcase and a place for my stuff. The lighted Ortlieb's sign rescued from a demolished bar; the souvenir seat slats I brought home from the last Phillies game played at old Connie Mack Stadium; the treasured prints of dogs playing poker.
It is a haven. It is also a welcome mat.
One longtime reader, a guy named John Rosborough from Drexel Hill, says friends are the favorite thing about his bar, which he calls Penny Lane Pub.
"It's the feeling of my core group of guys," Rosborough told me not long ago. "It's a bond, a feeling, maybe like 'Cheers' was on TV. When people come to my house, they have the best time. . . . It's just a nice, warm, tight feeling.
"Many people have told me it's their favorite bar in the world."
Rosborough has done his up big time, with mirrors, Beatles memorabilia and a 100-year-old brass cash register. He also has a draft system that uses smaller, easy-to-kick one-sixth kegs (or sixtels). That way he's not stuck with the same brand for more than a few weeks.
I usually advise against Kegerators unless you're prepared to spend about a half-hour a month cleaning the tap lines. Otherwise, you're going to be drinking a lot of bad beer. If you want draft beer for parties, chill a keg in a large ice tub and use a party pump.
Here's what you really need:
_ A place. The basement is optimal because it's largely soundproof and out of sight. But it's not the only place. One of my neighbors built his bar on an outdoor patio so he can hose it down the next morning.
_ A flat surface. Depending on your space, it should be 42 inches high, with room for bar stools. It can be made of anything, even a piece of trash-picked junk.
_ A refrigerator. You can convert the old one you pulled from your kitchen, but do the environment a favor and buy something smaller and more efficient. Warehouse stores like BJ's and Costco sell nice glass-door wine refrigerators. Replace the curved wine bottle holders with flat shelves, available from any restaurant supplier.
_ A sink with running water. You can live without drinking water, but eventually you have to wash out the glasses.
_ An air filtration system. Even if you ban cigars, you'll need to clear the air after a night of Mexican beer and tacos.
_ A television. Preferably one that blacks out "Project Runway."
_ A couch. Bar stools are fine, but a soft place to sack out is even better.
_ Dimmable lighting. It's got to be bright enough to tell the difference between a four and five of spades, low enough to accommodate tomorrow morning's hangover.
_ A wall-mounted bottle opener. No matter what, I guarantee you will misplace your bottle opener unless you nail it to the wall.