You bring a possible sexual partner home from the bar one night.
"Do you want a beer?" you say.
"Sure," says your prospect.
Now, at this point, 99.9% of most of our living rooms, what follows is two cshnoook sounds and then the pink of a bottle cap on the counter. Drinking ensues, and then, hopefully, nocturnal activities to everyone's enjoyment.
Imagine my alternate scenario. When I ask a lady (as that's my sexual preference when not on the high seas. Come to think of it - it's my sexual preference even when I am on the high seas) if she wants a drink, what follows in my home is the clink of glasses, the near silence of the pull on the tap handle and then the incredulous, "you have beer on tap?!
Yes. Yes I do. And I can tell you, my status immediately jumps accordingly.
Now, the thing is, I am not rich, by any means. I don't even have a useful skill, like programming. I live in the bad beer wasteland between college and a real job. This is defined as a land where I will not pay more than $3.50 American for a sixer. Because I live in America, this means that my beer choices are basically suck or more suck. However, I have discovered a way to live in the wasteland still and yet also drink great beer. I have found an oasis, and it is called Kegged beer.
Now I'm not going to pretend - beer on tap requires an initially large outlay of cash, but if you like to drink good beer, you can make back that spent cash in two kegs (about 6 - 7 months of drinking, for me). Not do you get to pay cheaper, wasteland prices for good beer, but you also get the prestige and all the trappings which may accompany that prestige of having a keg on tap. Plus it's just damn cool.
What you will need:
I only have one full sized (15 gallons) keg at a time. This does mean I am drinking the same beer for a couple of months, but I don't have room for more refrigerators in my apartment right now. If you can get a bigger fridge, or maybe an old deep freeze, you could probably do multiple Kegs. The following is for a one keg operation.
1 - old refrigerator
1 - 5lb CO2 canister
1 - gas pressure regulator
1 - CO2 keg tap
1 - drill
1 - 1 inch drill bit or hole saw
1 - beer faucet
1 - keg of your favorite beer
This is sooooo easy it's a shame. First things first: we all like our beer cold (shut up, you limey bastards, it's not cool and temperate here year round) so let's go find an old fridge. You might be getting a new one, but have an older model that's ok. You could use it. You might convince your significant other (before telling them your beer on tap plan - hey, wait a minute... how come you're trying to pick up chicks in bars if you're married? Anyway...) that you need a new fridge. Then just move the other one to the den. If you don't have one, go garage sailing some Saturday or check out your local Salvation Army. They probably have one at a decent price.
Now my fridge looked like crap (I got it out of a house my parents were restoring). It was an old Admiral. I like brushed metal, so I sanded all the paint off with a belt sander and then clear coated it - it has a nice "I live in the desert" feel to it - but I have since been thinking of covering it in something like shag carpet or wood paneling - whatever. Right now it's covered in magnetic poetry, which is pretty cool. But I digress. Get a cheap fridge. That's going to cost you 50-100 bucks American unless you're thrifty and coniving like me, in which case you'll search around til you find a deal at $25. If you're really fly, just skip the fridge and cool your beer like this
Now, you need other beer hardware. Go to your local welding supply company and buy a 5 lb aluminum CO2 tank - you can get one used (doesn't matter, you'll be trading it out every time you need a fill up anyway, probably) for around $70 where I live. Call around! You can probably get a better deal than that, can't you? Or check out ebay. They have most of what I am trying to get you to go out and buy. If you're patient, you can get a deal, but remember to count shipping!
While you're at the gas place (or on ebay), also buy a regulator. This is necessary for not letting all your gas out of the tank at once, and will run you about 30 bucks if you search hard and buy used. Make sure you get a test on your used equipment! While you're not dealing with flammable gasses (and thus probably won't get blown up) you don't want to get screwed, either.
Hoses, keg tap, and faucet: Go to your local beer distributor. If there's liquor in your area, then there's a distributor close by. These guys are really nice, usually - they have automatic, guaranteed business and they aren't all that busy. Also, they know that if you are buying tapping stuff, that they are going to be indirectly seeing your business in the near future. Make sure to know what kind of beer you want to drink before you buy this equipment. Not all taps fit all kegs, and beers like Guinness require special taps and faucets (not to mention gas - Guinness takes a CO2/nitrogen mix which will require a steel and not aluminum tank which is going to run you a bit more money. However, if you are certain you want to drink this fine beer the way it was supposed to be drunk, buy steel in the first place. You can put CO2 in steel but you can't put nitrogen in aluminum - I found this out too late). Ask the distributor - he will know. Also, verify the information with your favorite liquor store guy - he will also likely know at least some of which taps fit which kegs. Ebay is again a good place to look up different types of keg taps and get a good deal on them.
Now, make sure to tell whoever you buy your faucet from that you will be mounting it to your fridge - that way they will give you a nice long one that will go through your fridge door. Take all this newly acquired crap home. Figure out the optimal place where, when you are standing in front of the fridge, you can comfortably pour a beer. Alternatively, since we are dealing with mass quantities, here, pick a place on the fridge that you can still reach from your knees - this is more inconvenient when sober, but utterly necessary for when blasted.
Drill a big hole in your fridge. Surely all of you can use power tools. I am not going into how to do this - but we want a hole all the way through the fridge. Now you can finally see whether or not the light stays on when you close the door!
Mount the faucet in the hole. I found, after much deliberation, that the best place to drill the hole and subsequently mount the faucet is on the door. For me, this was due to space considerations. Individual performance may vary.
You now have what looks like a kegerator. But no beer comes out! Hook the hoses to your faucet and plug in your kegerator. It needs to get cold while you go to the liquor store. At the liquor store, you may find that the exact beer you want is not carried in stock all the time in kegs. You might also find that the exact beer you want just does not come in a keg. This would have probably been a good thing to check on before you did all this work, but sod it; you have a kegerator now, and by the Gods some beer is going in there.
Order the keg you want, or, if you absolutely cannot wait, buy one of the cheap kegs that they have on hand. Once you do the math, you will find that kegged beer is usually less than half of what you would pay for an equivalent volume of bottled or canned beer. It also tastes better (in my opinion). You also get the bonus of being able to say, "I have beer on tap," which is always impressive. Imagine the next time you're at a club, saying, "Wanna come back to my place? I have beer on tap," or something to that effect.
This is the key to drinking good beer at wasteland prices. Of course, it's up to you to set your own wasteland price - maybe it will be higher or lower than mine. If you figure up costs, by your third keg you should have made back everything you spent on the kegerator and will just be saving money from then on. What you are taking advantage of here is the buy-in-bulk-and-save principle. Oh, and don't worry about your beer going bad. As long as you keep it pressurized with CO2 and keep it at a steady, cool, temperature, a keg of beer should still taste good 3-4 months after purchase at least (I haven't had one last longer than that, yet, but it was about as good at the end as at the end).