Guest Post: How to create and stock your own home bar

[Ed.: We’re always open to guest posts here on Queen City Drinks, if you want to do 1 or 100 just shoot me an email at Tom@QueenCityDrinks.com. This post is from Blake Daniels a stay-at-home dad from Upstate NY that enjoys the simpler things in life. You would most likely find him building forts with his boys, cooking delicious meals for his wife, brewing and enjoying beer or mowing the lawn.]

Whether you’re a professional brewmaster, amateur homebrewer, or someone that simply enjoys finer beer and liquor, a home bar is something that might make the perfect addition to your house or man cave. You may have seen some extravagant home bars on television or in movies and thought to yourself, “that’s too rich for my blood”. However, you can have your very own home bar for a reasonable price by cutting out the more luxurious components and bringing it back to basics. At its core, a home bar should consist of the spirits and drinks that you enjoy, as well as the accessories you need to enjoy them properly.

Things to drink

The most obvious thing that you need is alcohol. Without it, your bar is just a collection of cool glasses and mixing equipment. Since you want to be prepared for the varying tastes that your guests may have, you should go with a range of whiskeys, scotches, vodka, gin, rum, beers and a seemingly endless stream of other essential spirits. Now that you have the ingredients, the other things you’ll want to focus on include specialized glassware, bartending equipment, and some aesthetic touches.

Things to drink out of

There are two main types of glassware for a typical bar; one for drinks and the other for ingredients. To cover the basics for both, every bar should start with at least a few of the following:

glasses

  • Whiskey Glasses – These glasses are versatile, can also be used for scotches and bourbons, and are necessary for a number of specialty mixed drinks
  • Beer Glasses – When it comes to beer, many stylesrequire a special glass to enhance the flavor and aroma, here are a few examples along with the beer(s) theyshould be used with.
    • Tulip – Belgians, Imperial IPAs and Sour beers
    • Weizen – Wheat beers (American, German, etc.)
    • Shaker Pint – Pretty much any style, but is best reserved for your BudMillerCoors drinking friends
  • Mason Jars – Easy to find and perfect for storing things like simple syrups and alcohol infused fruit

In all seriousness, if you can’t invest in dozens of different beer glasses, shaker pints will work well with most styles. If you decide to go with standard pint glasses, you can at least add some personality to them by picking up a personalized set.

Things to make drinks with

It’s not all about glassware when it comes to a home bar, it’s also about the tools of the trade.  A well-prepared bar is what separates the boys from the men. You never want to be asked for a drink order and be caught off guard. The most immediate image in people’s minds when they think of bartending is usually the stainless-steel shaker with strainer and maybe a muddler (used to mash fruit, herbs and spices in order to release their flavor); however, jiggers (used for measuring small amounts of liquor), bar spoons, whiskey stones (keeps the drink cool without watering it down) and an ice bucket are equally as important. These tools will provide you with everything that you need to raise your craft to a professional level.

A place for all your things

The final and most important task to tackle is how to set-up or build the bar itself. It won’t do you much good to simply have all of these items sitting around your kitchen, you need to give them a home. A simple solution is to convert one of the cabinets you already have in your house. This is done by adding shelves and drawers into the space available, creating a secret storage unit that fits in perfectly with your other furniture. Using mirrored glass for shelving is always a nice touch, and including special napkins and towels can really impress your guests. For those who would prefer a more permanent setup and aren’t afraid of using a few power tools, you can easily craft your own bar using a set of DIY plans.

Remember, the goal of setting up your own home bar is to create a space where you can relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends. This is a chance for you to be creative and have fun with the process, which will make the final product that much more enjoyable.

Beer gifts for the dads and grads

Father’s day is only two weeks away and college graduates are hopefully venturing off to work. It’s time for us, the dedicated craft beer consumer, to steer the recent grads away from their college days of buying the cheapest can they can. It’s time to usher them into the beautiful bountiful world of craft beer!

For those whose dads may have never escaped those college days of cheap beer, or may already be on the path towards great beer then we can help them enjoy those beers even more! Both of these thoughts work just as well for anyone, like myself, celebrating a summer birthday!

Spiegelau Glasses

If you’ve got a dad or grad who is drinking beer straight from the bottle or from a generic pint glass then this should be the top present to get them, and at $40 it’s not too pricey, especially considering what is included! The set includes the ever versatile (and my most used) tulip glass, a lager glass, a pilsner glass, and a weizen glass. I notice the biggest differences when using the tulip and weizen vs. a shaker.

The set runs $40 on Amazon if that’s too much or you don’t see the pilsner or lager glass being used then I strongly recommend at least getting a set of 2 tulip glasses which runs $25 on Amazon. These stemmed tulips are my default go to glass and the difference they make in flavor and especially aroma is mind blowingly profound.

Like the tulip glass above these IPA glasses make a noticeable impact on my enjoyment of the brews I put in. Not as versatile as the tulip since these only highlight aspects of IPAs, pale ales, and double/imperial IPAs. You can get plain ones on Amazon 2 for $20 or get the Dogfish Head logo or Sierra Nevada logo for $9 a piece at their respective sites. As a remind Dogfish Head & Sierra Nevada were part of the whole process to create these glasses, you can see my post on that here.

Books

If you or whoever you’re shopping for is headed to a beach vacation, or just a long plane ride for work, then a book is always a safe bet and the following are some great beer books.

First up is Mike Morgan’s Over-the-Rhine: When Beer was King ($15 for a dead tree/$10 for kindle). This is full of great stories about Cincinnati history, people, and oh yeah BEER! Check out my full review of the book here.

Next in the Cincinnati history department is a new book about the life of Christian Moerlein: The Man and his Brewery ($20). I haven’t checked this out yet but am looking forward to reading it and will post my thoughts when I do.

Switching tracks from Cincinnati beer to beer in general are the two following books.

Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink ($12 dead tree/$9 kindle) – It covers the history of beer, ingredients, styles, glasses, pairings and much more. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it helped me expand my knowledge of styles and what to expect from them. This is great for beginner craft beer lovers or the advanced folks who want to up their knowledge. My full review is here.

The Oxford Companion to Beer ($40 for dead tree/$12 for kindle) – I use this as a reference on almost every post I write. Not really for the beginner getting into beer but definitely good for your family/friendly advanced imbiber or home brewer. Now I’m mostly an ebook guy, hence referring to all these paper versions as “dead tree” editions. In this case I would NOT want an electronic version (though searching it could be easier…). It’s nice to have the heft and feel of a real encyclopedia like this.

Audacity of hops ($15 book/$10 kindle) – I’m currently in the process of reading this, about half way through and digging it. You probably want to be somewhat of a history junkie since there isn’t loads of indepth beer information in here, at least so far. It’s packed with great stories of what caused John Doe to found brewery ABC and how hard/easy it was, etc…

Magazines

Beer Advocate ($15/year) – Lots of people know about the beeradvocate.com site and check it out for quick reviews or info about styles but many I speak to weren’t aware there was a monthly magazine. I’ve been receving this for about 2 years and look forward to it every month. It’s mostly short articles about various facets of beer or the industry. There is always an interview with a brewer and 2 – 3 pages of reviews of new beers. They also just released a digital version on the Google Play Store.

All About Beer ($20/year) – I’ve been getting this for a while as well. I used to prefer Beer Advocate for their articles but All About Beer has stepped up their game recently and rolled out some really great feature articles.

Other Stuff

Beers not bombs bottle opener ($15) – I think this is a really cool idea. They take cables from old nuke launch silos, melt it down, and turn them into bottle openers! Plus 20% of their profits go to peace organizations. Kinda hippyish but you always need a bottle opener so you might as well have a bad ass one that goes to a good cause.

If recycled nuclear material is a bit off putting and not-your-style then check out Brewsees Sunglasses. They’re sleek looking sunglasses w/ bottle openers on the end! ($30)- Thanks to Sud Savant for this idea.

Growler on board ($30) – Being a 1-growler man I personally have no use for this… yet. But if you’ve ever tried to keep a growler up-right in the passenger seat on the way home from the brewery you already know the value this brings.

Home brewing start kit ($50 on Amazon) – I’m no home brewer nor do I have an interest in becoming one. But this is an ambition that is shared by many beer enthusiasts so I think it’d make a great present. I’m semi-hesitant linking to Amazon for something like this and I, personally, would be more apt to head to a local home brew store for their recommendations. So check out Listermann’s, Osborne Brewing, or Brew Monkey’s.

Beercation (beer-vacation)

Prices on this could vary tremendously. When I first did this list I said “getting a DD to spend a day driving from Rivertown to Mt. Carmel and end with dinner at the Moerlein Lager house”. Well we can now scratch that and you, your dad/grad, and your friends can get torn up thanks to Cincinnati’s own Tonic Tours (full disclosure: Tonic Tours is run by Ginny Tonic, a writer for this blog, and I have provided some advice for her). A step up would be a stop in Columbus for lunch at the Columbus Brewing Company (order the Bodhi) then heading on to Cleveland for Fat Heads & Great Lakes. Farther out would be a trip to Three Floyd’s and a night in Chicago.

From there the USA awaits you can hit the  Denver-Longmont-Ft. Collins area or head down to So.Cal and see Russian River, Stone, Lagunitas, 21st Amendment and all the other awesomeness around there. A personal favorite of mine that I can speak to from experience is Asheville, NC. I prefer mountains over cities and Asheville is nicely nestled in the Appalachians. Asheville also nets you some Colorado experience as Oskar Blues as a brewery setup near there and New Belgium should be up next year (assuming there aren’t more delays).

If you’re in a higher income bracket then myself the world opens up with London, Belgium, Dublin, and all the old brewing cities in Germany.

oh, and 1 more thing BEER!

Right, that stuff that we talk about all the time. I’m not gonna say what to get because everyone’s tastes differ but I don’t think anyone would be disappointed to get a new brew as a gift. If you have no idea what to get your family member then I’d suggest a gift card to one of the bigger stores that sell good beer like Jungle Jim’s or Party source. Better yet how about a gift card to one of the new smaller beer stores like Everything d’Vine. Other places may have gift cards but I’m not sure.

If you’ve got no idea what beer to buy and don’t like giving gift cards then I’d suggest a Beer of the month club ($40/month). There are a lot of different websites out there offering varying packages and prices but the gist is all the same. They send you new beers every month. From the poking around that I’ve done online halftimebeverage.com is what I would go with but I encourage you to shop around and decide what works for, and interests, you best.

What’s on your list?

If a lot of this seems familiar that’s because it’s based on my holiday post from last year. I’ll probably be doing this type of thing twice a year in summer and winter. So to help out me and all our readers out in the future please add any great gift ideas you’ve seen lately in the comments below! I’ll be sure to give you credit for your discover just like I did with Sud Savant.

Gifts for the beer lover in your family

It’s getting cold out (well, not today it’s 57), Christmas music is playing in every store, and winter ales abound. That all means the holiday season is upon us. Since this is QCD’s first holiday season and because I love shopping for beer and beer stuff I present the following post about beer gifts for yourself or the beer lover in your family.

Continue reading “Gifts for the beer lover in your family”