When friends come over to the Brenneman house, they know how to pick a beer on tap in the basement bar.
“I’ll have a knee,” Rodney Brenneman says with a smile.
The tap handles are shiny joints: a knee, a hip and a shoulder, just like the ones he places in patients.
The tap system is one of the many details in the basement bar that reflects Brenneman’s career as an orthopedic surgeon, his interests and his family roots. With a background in construction, Brenneman started this renovation. Hiring contractors helped move the project along. Together they created an updated space for parties and board meetings.
When Brenneman, his wife, Michele, and their daughters, Leah, Emily and Claire, moved in to the home in East Hempfield Township seven years ago, the basement had a corner bar. The space was outdated, Brenneman says, and had other issues.
The only way behind the bar was one narrow entrance. The beer taps were a few feet from that opening, creating a traffic jam for people who wanted a refill. The plumbing was exposed and part of the bar extended in front of a window.
A few years ago, after wet spots appeared on the floor of the bar and a wall, a leak was discovered in an outdoor faucet.
Once a remediation company removed mold, it was the perfect time to fix the bar area. Brenneman, who worked in construction before going to medical school, handled the electrical, plumbing, framing and insulation.
Removing the fireplace behind the bar freed up space to move the sink to that wall, along with an icemaker and dishwasher. Across from these appliances are a new kegerator and fridge, which fit under the new bar.
The front of the bar is anchored with barn beams from Northeast Reclaimed Lumber in Ephrata.
“I grew up on a farm,” Brenneman says. “It just kind of reminds me of the barn that I grew up playing in.”
The barn wood had notches which add character but also a challenge. It was like a big puzzle trying to figure out which sides of each timber should be on display and where exactly to cut the tall timbers.
All of this came together on nights and weekends. Brenneman’s a surgeon specializing in joint replacement at Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster and chief of Lancaster General Hospital’s orthopedics division. Now 44, he started running marathons when he turned 40. He also loves cycling and has a unicycle and a penny-farthing.
“I don’t have a lot of extra time,” he says, so he hired a contractor to finish the project.
The first pick didn’t work out so more experts were called in. For the bar cabinets, Brenneman turned to KT Highland, a Lancaster contractor that completed other renovations for the family, including a revamped mudroom.
The cabinets under the bar had to look just right and they needed to fit the appliances Brenneman selected. A Perlick kegerator fits three sixtel kegs and isn’t as noisy as other commercial-grade versions. A Miele dishwasher keeps things clean. A Scotsman ice maker makes restaurant-quality ice without bubbles. The appliances were selected for quality and to last a while.
“We do all of this so things fit exactly,” says Jean Buchen, vice president at KT Highland. “If it goes bad in five to six years, you might be re-doing a bunch of things.”
The cabinets came from Prevo in West Earl Township. KT brought in Jared Wallace of SunWorks Decorative Concrete, Annville, to create the concrete countertops.
Wallace poured a gray concrete countertop and added a stone pattern.
“I always tell people the different little imperfections add character and I don’t charge for it,” he says with a laugh.
The surface is sealed with a countertop sealer that’s food-grade and scratch-resistant.
Wallace handled the backsplash, making concrete look like wood. He did that by pouring concrete into a mold made from wood siding, creating a wood grain pattern.
Beneath it all, Martin’s Flooring installed long-plank wood pattern ceramic tile.
The bar was finished just before the pandemic. While the family hasn’t hosted many parties, the bar is still a space that’s functional while fitting Brenneman’s personality.
“Every detail that went into this project was specific and hand-picked,” he says. There’s bicycle art on the wall. Marathon medals aren’t too far away.
His favorite detail is the tap handles, joints that give people movement and freedom. Here, they’re the key to a beer. (No, these bar accessories were not implanted in patients, he says.)
There’s still one more detail to finish: a wine rack to hang above the wine bar in the corner. Brenneman has cherry wood from his grandfather’s home in Virginia that would be perfect, as soon as he finds the time.