AMAZING TAP HANDLES!!!

About This Site

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.

Copyright Legalities

Photos or tap descriptions used in this blog may not be misrepresented as your own. Photos may not be used for financial gain whatsoever, as the uniqueness of the photo would unfairly associate a seller's product and reputation with this site. Tap descriptions may be used word for word as long as this blog is cited as the source, and a link is provided to this site.

Brewery history may not be used for any reason without citing the blog post or original source from which it was taken, and providing a link to such.

Failure to follow the guidelines above is a violation of Copyright Law, which protects original works of ownership.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Downtime

I'm without Internet for a day or 2 longer (I'm posting this from my cell phone), after that I should be able to resume posting. Check back soon, I have lots more taps to share...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tap Handle #302: Coors - Bobblehead Rodeo Clown (PRCA)

This is a great tap. The barrel is on a spring which allows it to bobble. The clown is actually a separate piece that fits inside the barrel. These were used at PRCA rodeo events and distributed to bars that support those events.

For more about Coors, see this post.

Tap Handle #301: Budweiser - Basketball

This is another tap that arrived as part of a group. It is somewhat rare. There's another similar tap featuring a football instead of a basketball.

For more about Budweiser, see this post.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tap Handle #300: Aviator - Amber Ale

In my "Blog Turns One Year Old" post last October, I questioned whether I would go past 300 taps or not. The answer is of course yes; in fact, I'm almost halfway to 400. For tap #300, I'd like to profile a special tap. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, my grandfather was pilot, and owns a Meyers Open Cockpit Biplane (OCB). When he moved out of his house into an assisted living center, I came across this tap in his garage and my dad agreed that we should add this to the collection.

What's unclear is if this tap handle is real or homemade. My grandfather didn't remember anything about it, but his memory isn't what it used to be. My dad tried to contact someone from the brewery in Woodinville and get in touch with the former owner, but he didn't hear back from them, and the brewery has been closed for a long time. I did find some photos of other taps from Aviator Ales (pictured to the right). They are basically a wooden tap with a label and a small propeller attached to the finial. If you'll notice, one of the taps has an Amber Ale label. It is similar but different from my tap's label. When you factor in the long white Aviator Ale label on the base of my tap, it suggests to me that this tap is real, and it's possibly one of only a few made, maybe even a prototype.

Aviator Ales was a brand of the Seattle Brewing Company, founded in 1994 in Woodinville, Washington by James Bernau. In 1988, shortly before stepping down from an eight-year tenure as director of the Oregon Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, Bernau launched Willamette Valley Vineyards, building it up quickly into the second largest winery in Oregon. In late 1992, Bernau turned his attention to microbrewing. The Willamette Valley Brewing Co., which would change its name to the Nor'Wester Brewing Co., launched an immediately oversubscribed $1.8 million DPO. With the successful launch of Nor'Wester, Bernau sold investors on expansion, and formed 3 affiliate breweries of which he was president and chairman: Aviator Ales, Mile High Brewing in Denver, Colorado, and Bayhawk Ales in Irvine, California (which I profiled here).

Initially, business was good for Nor"wester. Bernau gave $500,000 of Nor'Wester stock to the OSU Foundation to establish a professorship dedicated to fermentation science in the College of Agriculture Sciences Department of Food Science and Technology. Established in 1995, it was the first professorship of its kind in the country. He also began looking around for a place to build a fourth brewery, with ambitious plans to expand along the East Coast. He settled on Saratoga Springs, New York, and decided to build a 50 barrel brewery called North Country. However, he soon changed the plans to a more costly 100 barrel brewhouse. At the same time, competition was heating up among Portland breweries, with Widmer, Portland Brewing, Bridgeport, and Full Sail slowly squeezing out Nor'Wester as the overall market began to decline, and by 2006 Nor'Western sales had dropped 27%. With money becoming tight, to complete construction of North Country, Bernau turned to securing additional financing through bridge loans and investment funds from United Breweries of America (UBA), led by Ijay Mallya, India's largest beer baron. Mallya wanted to build a network of microbreweries in the United States through UBA, and had already purchased the Mendocino Brewery in California. The North Country brewery, along with Bernau's personal assets, were offered as collateral for the loan.

It was estimated that North Country Brewery would need $4 million to get up and running. A $2.2 million stock offering to cover part of the cost of establishing the facility was called off. The brewery was unable to secure $2.5 million in planned bank financing, and there was a $200,000 cost overrun in construction. Nor'Wester had to bear the entire $8.7 million cost itself. In late 1996 Bernau struck a deal with Mallya to sell all Nor'Western assets to UBA, in which all the breweries were to be rolled into one company called United Craft Breweries. Under the deal, Aviator Ales investors would only get 25% of their original investment back. But the deal fell through when UBA claimed that Nor'Wester had failed to meet financial targets. Mallya extended the deadline by 10 days, but Nor'Wester still couldn't meet a minimum operating performance goal and renegotiate terms with other lenders, despite closing the Mile High Brewery. UBA demanded that Nor'Wester immediately repay the bridge loan, but, unable to pay the loan, Nor'Wester defaulted, and UBA seized the North Country brewery, allowing Nor'Wester and its other assets to fail.

It's likely that Mallya didn't really want the struggling brewery and had designs on North Country from the start. During a visit to North Country earlier in 2006, Mallya fell in love with the brewery. Later, after Nor'Wester's collapse, Mallya had the opportunity to expand his brewery empire by buying the strugglin Pete's Brewing in California, but he claimed he was looking for opportunity, not trouble.

The fallout from the failed operation was widespread. Nor'Wester and Aviator Ales were closed, with Saxer Brewing purchasing the Nor'Wester brand (Saxer later merged with Portland Brewing, and the Nor'Wester brand was eventually retired). With over 1000 investors, Bayhawk was able to spin off and survive on its own. The North Country Brewery was renamed to Relata Brewing and produced Ten Springs (which was eventually retired), along with the Mendocino and Kingfisher brands (Kingfisher is Mallya's Indian brand that is also popular in American Indian restaurants). Mallya later tried to acquire Full Sail; although he appeared to be the frontrunner, he eventually lost to a Full Sail employee buyout. As for Bernau, he lost his personal assets, but went back to running the struggling Willamette Valley Vineyards, immediately turning it back into a powerhouse.

I could find very little information on Aviator Ales Amber Ale, other than the fact that it was an American amber ale. Aviator brewed four varieties, but one person describes their IPA as a bland pale ale without any hop presence, suggesting that the brewery could not afford to offend any potential customers with bitter beers due to high financial expectations resulting from their IPO. They did have some gorgeous labels featuring different airplanes. No rating exists on ratebeer.com.

There is an Aviator Ales website, but it seems to have no affiliation with the original brand. It is brewed and bottled under contract by Hale's Ales in Seattle.




Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tap Handle #299: Coors Light - NFL Football

This is kind of a strange tap - it's textured like a football and has laces, but it's elongated and shaped like a remote control. And it's not leather colored; instead, it's silver (for the Silver Bullet). A very unusual tap that I got as part of a group purchase.

For more about Coors and Coors Light, see this post.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tap Handle #298: Michelob - AmberBock Pool Cue

From my understanding, Michelob created this tap exclusively for billiard halls. It is very well done, although the handle markings are a decal and not painted on, so they can peel off pretty easily. Although it is not rare, it is not one of the more common Michelob taps. Bud and Miller also made pool cue taps but I like this one the best.

For more about AmberBock, see this post.

For more about Michelob, see this post.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tap Handle #297: Olde Burnside - Hop't Scot

Like the Killian's and MacTarnahan's daggers, this Olde Burnside blade is great addition to the collection. It's got even less detail than those other two taps, but I still love it. They are pretty rare.

Hop't Scot is a Scottish version of an English ale. It is unfiltered with a nice malt backbone and a variety of English hops, which help give it a nice and balanced hop character. It is available year-round. Weighted average on ratebeer.com is 2.87 out of 5.

For more about Olde Burnside, see this post.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tap Handle #296: Beck's - Oktoberfest

This is a nice tap that reminds me of the Samuel Adams Octoberfest tap which also features a mug. It's got some weight to it, too. Sometimes the ribbon at the bottom of the mug is colored blue, but I don't know what the significance of this alternate color is.

Beck's Brewery, also known as Brauerei Beck & Co., was founded in the northern German city of Bremen under the name Kaiserbrauerei Beck & May o.H.G. in 1873 by Lüder Rutenberg, Heinrich Beck and Thomas May. In 1875, Thomas May left the brewery, which then became known as Kaiserbrauerei Beck & Co. Beck's logo, a key, is the mirror image of the coat of arms of Bremen. Since Beck's is located on the river of a port city, it was easy to ship out its beer to the world at large and become an international beer powerhouse. Beck's is known for its pilsner consisting of two row spring barley from the south of England, yeast, crystal water from the "Rotenburger Rinne" and Hallertau hops from southern Germany.

Although Beck's marketing material claims that it follows the strict Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law of 1516 by the Duke Albrecht the Fifth of Bavaria, as with virtually all modern beers, cultured yeast is an ingredient, which was later approved in an amendment to the original purity law. The brewery was owned by local families until 2002, when it was sold to Interbrew for 1.8 billion euros. Beck's is the world's best selling German beer, sold in nearly 90 countries, although it ranks fifth in its own country. The largest markets for Beck's outside Germany are the United Kingdom, the USA, Italy, Australia, Ukraine, Romania and Russia. U.S. manufacture of Beck's Brew has been based in St. Louis, Missouri since early 2012 when, in an effort to cut costs, InBev shifted production stateside rather than importing (but continued to sell it at import prices). However, some customers have rebelled against the cheaper quality introduced to the US market version by AB InBev, including launching a Facebook page called Import Beck's from Germany.

Beck’s Oktoberfest is clear and bronze colored. The light brown head is thick and rocky and its aroma is malty sweet with hints of apple and roasted nuts. It won a gold medal at the 2002 World Beer Cup. Weighted average on ratebeer.com is 2.81 out of 5.

Beck's Official English Website


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tap Handle #295: Hook & Ladder - Golden Ale

This is my third Hook & Ladder tap and the one I wanted the most. Some versions say Golden Ale on the handle, while others (like mine) simply say Hook & Ladder. It is surprisingly lightweight, I expected it to be heavier.

Hook & Ladder Golden Ale is a blond ale brewed under contract by Genesee. It has a crisp, clean flavor that is a step up from the lighter style American and imported beers. Weighted average on ratebeer.com is 2.72 out of 5.

For more about Hook & Ladder, see this post.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tap Handle #294: Latrobe - Rolling Rock

I wasn't really looking to acquire this tap, but it showed up in a group purchase, was cheap, and I kind of like it. The green metallic paint job is definitely pretty. There are several similar versions of this tap, including an older version that does not have a bottle cap, a smaller "pony" version, and a light up version (there are screws in the back of the light up version that allow access to the battery).

The Latrobe Brewery was founded in 1893 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania by Benedictine Monks (according to local legend). The brewery was run as an extension of the Pittsburgh Brewing Company until 1920, when operation was suspended and the 18th Amendment established Prohibition. Some time later, four local brothers, Frank, Robert, Ralph, and Anthony Tito, took a gamble and purchased the facility in hopes that Prohibition would be repealed. The gamble paid off and in 1933, the Latrobe Brewery was back in business. For six years, the Tito brothers brewed Latrobe Old German and Latrobe Pilsner varieties. In 1939, Rolling Rock was brewed for the first time.

Rolling Rock, since its creation, has been bottled in distinctive green glass bottles with white painted lettering. On the back reads the slogan: "Rolling Rock. From the glass lined-tanks of Old Latrobe we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment, as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you. '33' ". The "33" is what has puzzled its loyal followers for years and the theories as to what it means are numerous. James Tito, a descendant of one of the founding brothers and CEO in the 1980's, suggested it was a number for the printer indicating how many words were in the slogan that was somehow forgotten to be removed. There are many other theories: 33 steps from the first floor to the second in the Latrobe Brewery; 33 letters in the list of ingredients; 1933 is the year Prohibition was repealed; 33 mountain springs that feed the brewing reservoir, and more. No one knows for certain. (My guess is that it's the year 1933 - not so much because Prohibition was repealed, but rather the date the Tito family opened for business. It is a pledge from the brewers, after all.)

Rolling Rock's production peaked in 1974 at 720,000 barrels on the 35th anniversary of the beer's birth. The lack of focus in marketing by the Tito's eventually hurt them due to the mass marketing of competitors. While it never was a truly national brand, much of the demand outside of southwestern Pennsylvania shifted towards trendier beers, and sales fell. By 1985, the Tito family sold the business as production had dropped and two labor strikes caused turmoil. A buyout firm named The Sundor Group purchased the brewery and began to inject a much needed marketing budget into the dying brewery, hoping to flip it for quick profit. However, Sundor Group had spread itself too thin financially and was forced to boost marketing efforts at the expense of capital expenditures. Awareness and accessibility increased, but quality suffered.

In 1987 Labatt acquired the brewery, and their expertise in marketing and distribution revitalized Rolling Rock and brought its popularity to a national scale. The next fifteen years saw double digit growth, helped by purchasing brewing equipment from G. Heileman Brewing. The new equipment lifted the brewery's capacity to 1.5 million barrels in 1994, allowing the introduction of Rolling Rock Bock and Rolling Rock Ice. Things looked bright until Interbrew purchased Labatt in 1995. Interbrew (which later became Inbev) eventually sold the brands to Anheuser-Busch in 2006. Anheuser-Busch decided to move production to Newark, NJ, costing hundreds of workers their jobs. The brewery lay dormant until it was purchased by City Brewing Company. City Brewing contracted with the Boston Beer Company to brew Sam Adams brand beer there in 2007. Boston Beer invested significantly in the expansion and modernization of the facility, but in 2008 moved their operations to an old Pabst brewery they purchased near Allentown, PA., forcing a temporary shutdown of Latrobe. In 2009, Iron City Brewing signed a deal with City Brewing Co to begin contract brewing at the plant, along with some Southampton brands which were moved to Latrobe from Lion Brewing, as well as Stoney's and Stoney's Light, and Red Stripe.

Rolling Rock is a pale lager with the ingredients printed right on the label (water, malt, rice, corn, hops, and brewer's yeast). Anheuser Busch claims they continue to use the same recipe, even to the extent that AB brewmasters said that they would "learn" how to brew it to high levels of DMS (normally considered a defect) to duplicate the signature Rolling Rock taste, although many drinkers remain unconvinced. Weighted average on ratebeer.com is 1.99 out of 5.

Rolling Rock Official Website

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tap Handle #293: Finch's - Cut Throat Pale Ale

I had been trying to acquire a Finch Golden Wing Blonde Ale tap for quite some time. When I finally got one, it ended up being broken. Instead, I obtained this Cut Throat Pale Ale tap, and I have to admit I like it even better. The green finch is beautifully sculpted, and even the ferrule is a striking metallic green to match. The differences between the taps are in the labels and the color of the bird.

Finch's Beer Company was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 2011 by Ben Finch, along with his father Paul Finch and brewmaster Richard Grant. They started planning in 2009 for what would become Finch's Beer Co. Ben Finch was owner and executive of The Killswitch Collective, a design and development studio in Chicago, and a self-described “Stella/Blue Moon drinker” who didn't know anything about making the beer, but Grant did. A love of home brewing led Grant to enroll at Siebel Institute’s World Brewing Academy in Chicago, which led to an assistant-brewer gig at Rock Bottom and then a similar position at Flossmoor Station. Paul Finch aided with the financing.

Within a year, the brewery's experienced quick growth. Today, in addition to their Illinois-based headquarters, Finch's Beer Co. boasts limited distribution in five states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Georgia. To help spread the word, Finch's Beer Co. has relied heavily on social media to communicate important brand news and messages. In the short time it took to get their brewery headquarters up and running the team had already worked to build buzz online, making Finch's one of the first to successfully build a beer company from the ground up by utilizing less traditional forms of media. Finch's Beer Co. has fostered additional fan growth by offering brewery tours and giving a behind the scenes look at their brewing process, along with beer tasting. Currently, Finch has 5 beers in their lineup.

Finch’s Cut Throat Pale Ale has a late kettle addition of American hop varieties and dry hopping techniques. The citrus hop character balanced with a malty backbone creates a delicious, accessible pale ale. Weighted average on ratebeer.com is 3.27 out of 5.

Finch's Beer Company Official Website

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Updated NOLA Mechahopzilla and Bottle Tree Blonde posts

I've updated the NOLA Mechahopzilla post by adding some artwork I stumbled across.

You can check it out here (or just scroll down the page).

Same thing for Bottle Tree Blonde, which you can find here.

Tap Handle #292: Thomas Hooker - Chocolate Truffle Stout

Like the Weiss Cream from Pyramid, this tap depicts a realistic looking dessert, a chocolate truffle candy bar. An amazing tap that seems to be very rare. Simply a great looking tap!

Click through to read more about Thomas Hooker Brewing and their Chocolate Truffle Stout...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tap Handle #291: Anthony Martin Brewery - Timmermans Framboise Lambic

This tap bears a strong resemblance to the Stella Artois tap, except for the cherubs on each side of the tap holding on to a raspberry. Since it is from a Belgian brewer, these taps are pretty hard to come by. There are a few variations of this tap, with slightly different labels and also small differences in the appearance of the cherubs.

Timmermans was founded in Brussels, Belgium in 1702 by Jacobus Walravens (another site lists Jan Vandermeulen as the founder). Nicknamed “The Mole Brewery” (“Brasserie de la Taupe”), it included a farm, an orchard, a cafe and a malt-house. Early in the 20th century, Paul Van Cutsem, the son-in-law of Frans Timmermans, and the fifth generation of Timmermans to run the brewery, changed the name to Timmermans Brewery. Timmermans is primarily known for its Lambic, which it has been brewing for more than two centuries, making it the oldest Belgian Lambic brewery.

Most beers are produced by the introduction of a cultured yeast to a malted grain in a tightly controlled environment.  Lambic beer is a product of “wild yeast” which is believed to native to the Senne Valley, in which Brussels lies, in a process called spontaneous fermentation.  This process may only be performed from October to May as the summer months present too many impurities in the air which may spoil the beer.  Gueuze Lambic is a mixture of young (one year old) and old (two or three year old) Lambics which is then bottled.  The young portion re-ferments the beer increasing its alcohol content and producing carbon dioxide.  These bottles may be aged a year to twenty years.

About the time of the brewery's name change, Bourgogne des Flandres was developed. Called “infusion of lambic,” a selection of the best lambic is mixed with high-fermentation ale. Timmermans began brewing Bourgogne des Flandres in 1985, and now uses a sweetener in their Lambics, except for the "Traditional" line which uses real fruit. In 1993, the Anthony Martin Brewery bought Timmermans.

Timmermans Framboise is a fruit Lambic made by adding 100% natural raspberry flavouring to lambic. After a period of maturation in oak barrels, the beer turns a red-amber in color, with a fresh raspberry aroma and a sweet-sour taste. Weighted average on ratebeer.com is 2.84 out of 5.

Anthony Martin's Timmerman Webpage (English)