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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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Friday, March 27, 2015

Tap Handle #480: Steamworks (U.S.) - Steam Engine Lager

Tap size: 11.25"
Rarity:  Scarce
Mounting:  internal 3/8" nut

Not to be confused with the Steamworks Brewing from Canada that I profiled in post #430, this tap comes from the Steamworks Brewery in Durango, Colorado in the U.S. It is very unique, because most of the taps I have seen from the brewery simply feature a metal pipe and a metal-backed label featuring the brewery name and beer variety, with a flared top. In this case, there is a gauge attached to the pipe under the label, and at the top is a small cage that screws on to the pipe. Inside the cage is an LED that flashes when it detects motion (I have tried to capture the effect in the last few photos). I'm not sure whether the brewery actually did all this work, or someone else decided to do it on their own, but either way it is a pretty cool effect, and since I've never seen another like it, it appears to be one-of-a-kind. I love the brewery's industrial-looking labels, and the fact that the pipe has flaws and solder joints only adds to that great industrial look.

Click through to read more about Steamworks Brewing, their Steam Engine Lager, and to see more photos of this unique tap...

Steamworks Brewing (U.S.) was founded in Durango, Colorado in 1996 by Kris Oyler and Brian McEachron. Oyler grew up on the Colorado Front Range and acquired an appreciation for good beer through homebrewing and by visiting the handful of Denver-area breweries that were open in the early 1990s. He had plans to open a brewery, but hadn't pinpointed a location when he visited Durango in 1994 to have a look around. He fell in love with the area, especially the hiking and skiing areas. Plans for the brewpub gained momentum when a space was found in a former car dealership dating from the 1920s. Oyler and McEachron opened Steamworks in 1996, making it the fourth of Durango's five hometown breweries. Oyler now holds the title of CEO, while McEachron is the director of marketing. There are also seventeen employees with ownership shares, and there are a total of seventy-five investors in the company.

The name Steamworks was chosen for dual meanings. First, it refers to the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which has been operating steam locomotives through the San Juan Mountains since 1882. The train is Durango's most popular tourist draw. Second, it relates to the brewpub's steam-jacketed brewing vessels. The facility is quite large, with several interior dining rooms, a bar for about 20. The long bar includes footrests made from former train rails. A large covered patio resides in back of the building, and during the summer, when outdoor seating is available, the brewpub can accommodate 400 guests. The brewhouse itself sits behind walls of glass in the middle of the pub. The kitchen and brewery both strive to accommodate a wide range of tastes. Pub favorites and pizza share the menu with southwestern dishes, steaks, seafood, and pasta. The signature dish is the Cajun Boil, a spicy medley of crab, shrimp, andouille sausage, potatoes, and corn.

From the start, Steamworks has placed an emphasis on creating balanced, sessionable beers. Drinkability is the keyword in the crisp. quaffable Colorado Kolsch and in the amber-hued Stearn Lager, brewed in the California Common style. Other full-time selections cover a spectrum of pale, hoppy. and dark fermentations. Rotating specialty beers, including some barrel-aged creations, add interest and uniqueness to the lineup. All Steamworks servers, whether food server or bartender, are required to pass the cicerone certification first-level exam, the beer equivalent to wine's sommelier certification. More than fifty Steam-works employees have passed the exam. Over the years, Steamworks beers have been awarded a combined fifteen Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup medals. In 2012, Steamworks' Berliner Weiss was a WBC gold medal winner, while the brewery's Slain Dunkel took home gold at the 2013 GABF.

Steamworks selected the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, Long Island, N.Y., and Wisconsin as its first areas for expansion, after establishing markets throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Originally they had focused distribution in the regional area, but with success in the Texas market, the mindset changed. Steamworks opened its second, expanded, 5,000-barrel capacity brewery in Bayfield, Colorado in 2004 with the explicit purpose of meeting the expected demand in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. However, financial problems in 2010 forced the brewery to close its canning plant. As a result, Steamworks went to its neighbor, Ska Brewing, which began brewing and canning Steamworks's beer on a contract basis. But Ska had grown so much that it no longer had the capacity to brew the Steamworks beers, so Steamworks hired Dry Dock Brewing to take over, since Dry Dock had a lot of extra capacity at their new facility.

An American classic, noted for its malt sweetness and hop spice with a smooth, dry finish, the Steam Engine Lager is arguably the best American-style amber lager in the world. It has received numerous accolades, including a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 1997 and 2000, and a silver medal at the World Beer Cup in Rio de Janeiro in 1998.

Ratebeer weighted average:  2.98 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  77 out of 100 (Okay)

Steamworks Brewing
801 East 2nd Avenue
Durango, Colorado, USA 81301

Source Material
Colorado Breweries by Dan Rabin

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