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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tap Handle #257: Catamount (Harpoon) - Pale Ale

Catamount prototype tap
This is an awesome tap that had long been on my wishlist. I really love the big mountain lion head, which has realistic features, including glassy green eyes. The three sides of the tap are metal, and the "labels" are really soft, flexible magnets that stick to the metal sides of the tap. I originally bought the Octoberfest version, but the magnets were really beat up - this is a problem due to the magnets being soft. Fortunately I found lots of magnets which you see pictured. I like the Pale Ale and Oatmeal Stout magnets the best - the dark colors really make the tap handle pop. There was another version that was a prototype (see photo above), but I still prefer this tap. I don't know when the tap I have was made, but Octoberfest wasn't introduced until it was owned by Harpoon, so even if the tap is from the 90's, it was still in use between 2000 and 2003.

Catamount Brewing was founded in 1986 in White River Junction, Vermont, by Stephen Mason, Alan Davis, and Steve Isreal. Mason began home brewing in 1975, and in 1981, after hearing about the establishment of microbreweries in the west, he examined the possibilities of opening a brewery in Vermont. In 1983, he traveled to England, where he apprenticed with the Swannel Brewery in Hartfordshire, near London. He returned to Vermont with a working knowledge of traditional British brewing practices, and for two years he put together a business plan, secured financing, purchased equipment, and searched for a location. Davis was a local entrepreneur who believed in Mason's idea, and Catamount became one of the first microbreweries in New England. While visiting his home town of Detroit, Mason salvaged a 28-barrel yeast tank from the Stroh Brewery for the kettle, while the mash tun was originally used in coffee making. Conditioning tanks and fermenters were custom fabricated. In its first year of production, Catamount brewed 3,000 barrels of Amber and Gold ale. Catamount Gold was a crisp blond ale that won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 1989. Catamount Amber, a full bodied British style pale ale, became the company's flagship beer. Draft was introduced in 1989, and Porter, which began as a holiday beer, joined the regular line. Contract brews, Post Road Ale and Frank Jones Ale, pushed production to 6,500 barrels.

For a while Catamount sold itself, as sales and marketing consisted of Davis driving around to accounts, but by the mid-1990's that was not enough due to increasing competition. Meanwhile, Catamount had expanded its production rapidly, going from 3,500 barrels in 1987 to 12,000 in 1993, when annual revenues reached about $3 million. Frustrated by a lack of promotional efforts, and a focus on production, Davis left the company. Catamount's board approved a $5-million state-of-the-art brewing facility in Windsor, financed mostly by a loan from a local bank. By the time the facility was completed in 1997, the market was down and Catamount was saddled with a huge debt they couldn't afford. In 2000 its assets were surrendered to its largest creditor, Chittenden Bank, who in turn sold the company to the Harpoon Brewery for a fire-sale price of $1 million.

Harpoon announced it would sell a line of beer under the Catamount label, and used the Windsor facility to make both it and their own brands. While Harpoon did continue the Catamount brand, production was a fraction of its former levels and suffered from a general lack of promotional support from Harpoon. Although Harpoon did release one or two new products, including a wassail and an Octoberfest, distribution was spotty and support non-existent. By 2004 Harpoon had phased out the storied brand, except for seasonal Maple Wheat.

Catamount Pale Ale was an American pale with the pale malt giving it a clean flavor and medium body, while the hops provided a floral aroma and a dry, hoppy finish.

Ratebeer weighted average:  3.24 out of 5
Beer Advocate (under Harpoon):  87 out of 100 (very good)

Since Catamount is defunct, no address or website is provided.

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