WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
For many Michiganders, summertime is all about enjoying the outdoors. An outdoor bar can enhance the experience by providing a central gathering space for family and friends. The proximity of seating at a bar enables intimate conversations amid the open air.
Design options and amenities are limitless. An extensive array of innovative, creative, and highly functional products is available at all price points, whether custom made of durable stone and masonry, conveniently movable, or even a freestanding pub shed.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating a beloved backyard pub shed bar. As part of this popular trend, repurposed sheds are elaborately decked out in imaginative themes and brimming with novel accouterments, such as chandeliers, French doors, skylights, and even fully stocked bars with pricey stemware. Choose barstools that swivel for ease in navigating the cozy environment.
Any number of interesting new wood or pellet stoves, gas fireplaces, fire tables, or warmers may take center stage. For example, Arteflame Grills are described as “functional pieces of art.” These can be enjoyed as a fire bowl or function as a wood-burning grill and plancha (a specialty grilling method for small, delicate items like shrimp). Whether the carbon steel cooktop is on or off, the Arteflame contributes to a beautiful gathering space.
Popular decorative themes include the perpetual favorite Tiki bar bedecked with Polynesian-style furnishings. Outdoor furniture retailers are a great resource for teak, rattan, and wicker bar tables and sturdy, functional bar-height stools. Manufacturer Pelican Reef offers many Tiki-style minibars. Be transported to the islands in your own backyard with traditional rum-based cocktails such as the Painkiller (see recipe) or Mai Tai, complemented by a tiny, colorful umbrella.
Another popular theme is the cabin retreat, where a ‘beer-cation’ awaits along with lawn games and a sunken firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs. Serve a traditional Old Fashioned or Highball, or choose a Hell or High Watermelon Wheat summer seasonal beer from 21st Amendment Brewery, fermented with fresh watermelons.
Those who prefer the more traditional comforts of home might install a high-end bar constructed of masonry and natural stone over brick pavers and equipped with state-of-the-art appliances. Products from top-of-the-line indoor kitchens, such as under-counter refrigerators and ice makers, are now commonplace at permanent outdoor bars.
Recent innovations include outdoor dishwashers, artisan pizza ovens, and even the Hybrid Fire Grill introduced by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, which is the only gas grill that also burns wood and charcoal.
“Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet can cover every aspect of outdoor bars,” stated Clayton Woirol, sales professional at Bekins. Grand Haven-based Bekins is the exclusive authorized retail showroom for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet in West Michigan.
Modular bars are less expensive – plus they offer flexibility, a perk not available with a brick-and-mortar bar. The Arcadia Series is among the premier modular lines offered by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.
These bars are composed of interchangeable, preconstructed segments that can be moved to almost any area of the yard and tailored to changing entertainment needs. Also, they are well suited to small spaces that might be unable to support a masonry bar, such as a deck or rooftop.
And for the smallest of spaces and budgets, select from among a wide range of bar carts to create an intimate gathering space. Today’s carts are attractive, sturdy, and durable. They are weather-resistant and feature heavy-duty wheels and locking casters. For added fun and functionality, select a cart that can host a gas grill or Kamado-style cooking.
Challenger Designs is one of many providers offering a myriad of mobile cabinetry options to support the Big Green Egg and similar grills. The carts’ structures can vary from simple open shelves to a host of elaborate storage/usage applications.
Wolf also provides mobile bars to host its quality-constructed gas grills, which are sculpted in double-wall stainless steel and are precision-welded so they will not rust or hold water. Of course, these could be built into a permanent outdoor space as well.
The options are many. Why not dream up your ideal bar this summer?