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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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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tap #387: Pony Express

Tap size: 14"
Rarity: Scarce
Mounting:  large 3/8" ferrule on 5/16 anchor bolt

This is a one of the tallest taps I've profiled so far, and it proved difficult to photograph because the sculpted top piece is so dark while the base is bright white. The horse and rider are resin but are painted metallic, giving it an aged dark pewter look. The tap is very rare, as the brewery had a limited distribution area, and parts of the horse and rider are very fragile and prone to breaking. In fact, the only other one I've seen was broken. I believe that the tap dates back to the co-op ownership days.

Click through to read more about the sad tale of Pony Express and see more photos of the tap...

Pony Express was founded in Olathe, Kansas in 1995 by Joe Effertz, Jr. Originally a farmer with a degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri, Effertz decided to leave his company farm to try something different. After opening a retail liquor store, Effertz noticed a rise in popularity of micro-brewed beers. He studied craft brewing techniques, and in 1994 he met Ed Nelson. The two joined forces, eventually opening two restaurants and a brewery in the Overland Park area of Kansas. They purchased the Olathe building for the brewery and began working on what would become the highly successful Pony Express brand. Effertz got the name for the brewery when he was on his way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance and someone said, “drive fast like the Pony Express!”. He used the wheat grown on his family’s own farm in his beers and sold the by-product grains to cattle farmers to use as feed.

The Pony Express lineup included Rattlesnake Pale Ale, Honey Blonde Ale and Tornado Ale, and their products were sold in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma and Nebraska. In 1998, a flood wreaked havoc and left the Flying Monkey brewery sitting under about five feet of water. The losses were huge, and Flying Monkey was unable to fix the damage. So, Pony Express began handling the actual production of the Flying Monkey beers. They also bottled Royal Raspberry Wheat for the 75th Street Brewery. Pony Express beers were well-received and highly rated - in 2002 they were still winning awards, with their Unfiltered Wheat beer winning a silver medal (their third national award) at the World Beer Championships. But low sales thanks in part to market oversaturation forced the brewery to close in mid 2002.

The company put everything up for sale, including recipes, trademarks and equipment. In 2003 they were purchased by TransCon AG, an agricultural cooperative with 150 members. The organization, formed earlier that year, was looking for products to add value to the crops grown by its members. A member of TransCon had been one of the original investors in Pony Express and recommended that they acquire the company. They offered four beers: Pony Express Gold, Rattlesnake Pale Ale, Original Wheat, and Tornado Red Ale, with distribution in Missouri and Kansas, and sales at Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. They were also the first American microbrewery to market in China, due to the cooperative's ties there and the fact that Pony Express used soybeans, a big part of the Chinese diet that didn't affect the flavor, but provided all the attributes soy was known for. Because the cost of transporting the beer to China added so much to the end price, Pony Express focused on China's upscale market through restaurants and hotels.

Although Pony Express went public with a stock offering, they weren't able to sustain their initial success and satisfy investors, and once again the brewery closed. This time it was acquired by Flying Monkey, who Pony Express had contract brewed for. Flying Monkey brewed their own brands but continued to produce Pony Express Gold. Yet they too could not find success and closed the brewery, moving back to contract brewing, this time through Weston Brewing, and the Pony Express brand was discontinued.

Pony Express Gold was the company's flagship beer, a golden blonde ale with fresh lemon grass and citrus notes. Light, smooth and finishing cleanly, the beer was enhanced with soy.

Ratebeer weighted average:  2.54 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  76 out of 100 (okay)

Since Pony Express is no longer in business, there is no website to link to.

Source Material

1 comment:

  1. My mother is the artist responsible for the horse and rider sculpture. Her name is Julie Forsyth and she lives in Kansas City. I remember watching her work on the original wax piece as a little kid.