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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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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tap Handle #451: Williams Orchards (Sunshine Imports) - Excalibur Hard Apple Cider

Tap size:  10"
Rarity:  Scarce
Mounting:  standard 3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

When I first obtained this tap, I mistakenly thought it was from England. It was only after I did the research for this post that I discovered it was used to dispense Williams Hard Cider in the Southern California area. However, the majority of the imported cider goes into a canning line, so very few of these taps were made. Featuring the legendary sword of Arthurian legend, it depicts Excalibur in its most famous state - stuck in a stone, waiting to be pulled out by King Arthur. The banner wrapped around the sword is a nice touch, as is the apple symbol on the hilt. The rarity of the tap, when combined with the loss of some taps due to breakage, makes this one quite rare indeed, and the high secondary market price reflects that.

Click through to read more about Williams Hard Cider and Sunshine Imports, their Excalibur brand, and to see more photos of this legendary tap...

Williams Orchards founded their cidery in the 1950s in Glastonbury, England and was part of a number of orchards supplying Matthew Clark Cider, jointly owned by Constellation Group and Punch Taverns. In 1997 Paul Quackenbush made a trip to Glastonbury from Southern California, determined to bring English cider to the U.S. While there, in addition to striking a deal with Williams, he drew inspiration from the many local legends relating to Arthurian lore, deciding to name his future cider Excalibur, after the legendary sword.

In 1998 Quackenbush began importing concentrated fermented apple cider from Williams to Southern California under the name Sunshine Imports. After the cider arrived, Sunshine Imports would add liquid sugar, citric acid, sodium metabisulphite, caramel, water, glucose, and carbon dioxide to the concentrate. The finished product was then canned and kegged. Quackenbush added a perry product (hard pear cider) called Sir Perry, and a second cider called Blackthorne, to his import lineup.

In 2009 the production side of Matthew Clark Cider was sold to C & C Group (owners of Bulmer Ireland & the Magners brand) and is now operated by Magners GB Limited using the trading name Shepton Mallet Cider Mill. Matthew Clark is now purely a wholesale & distribution company under different ownership. The sale had no effect on Sunshine Import's agreement with Williams.

Excalibur is 100% fermented apple juice, made with real cane sugar, and is gluten and GMO free. It pours with a clear and fizzy, deeper golden hued body. There is minimal head retention after the initial rush of carbonation. Aromas are sharp apple, mild sulfur, doughy, medium sweetness, and medium-low acid. Some earthy notes can be detected, but nothing too funky. Flavors are medium sweet, apple, and light acid (both natural and artificial). It has a medium body, low tannin, and very fizzy carbonation with harsher, bigger bubbles.

Ratebeer weighted average:  2.89 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  no entry

Source Material
Sunshine Imports website

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