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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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Monday, April 27, 2015

Tap Handle #488: Hawaii Brewing/Schlitz (Pabst) - Primo Tiki

Tap size:  11.25"
Rarity:  Scarce
Mounting:  standard 3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

Despite the fact that I had two different Primo taps near the top of my wishlist over 4 years ago, both of them proved to be difficult to acquire, with this first one not appearing on the site until now. This tap is made to look like wood, but is actually resin; the wood grain look is achieved through specific painting techniques. I have seen other taps painted to resemble mahogany; this one emulates wood from what I would guess to be the painted gum tree. I love tiki items, and for me this tap was a must-have. It actually has a date and copyright printing on one side that says "1972 Hawaii Brewing Co. Honolulu, Hawaii".  This dates the tap to the Schlitz ownership days, at the height of Primo's popularity and before the brewery in Hawaii was closed. As a result, this tap is very scarce, as there are probably very few of these remaining that are intact. In fact, in all the time I've been acquiring taps, this is one of six I've ever seen. This scarcity is also why it took me so long to acquire one, as the price has risen over the years.

Click through to read more about the Primo brand and beer, and to see more photos of this exotic tap...

Honolulu Brewing & Malting Company was founded in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1897 by Honolulu industrialist Alfred Hocking. The Primo brand, the fifth brand ever produced in Hawaii, was launched by the brewery in 1901 and was identified with a "blue-collar image" and a dark brown bottle.. Many early ads in Hawaii newspapers touted Primo as a healthy tonic that made people stronger and was a cure-all for many ailments. From 1920 to 1933, Prohibition caused Primo to halt operations, despite the fact that Hawaii was not a state at the time. After Prohibition ended, Primo came under the ownership of the Hawaii Brewing Corporation.

Over the next few decades, Primo Beer dominated Hawaii's regional beer market, becoming the best-selling beer of the Islands. Primo was also the first American brewery to package its beer in aluminum cans in 1958. However, the aluminum cans, or "Shiny Steiny," didn't last very long, as they weren't popular with the customers. In 1963 Schlitz Brewing Company saw Primo as an attractive cash cow and acquired the Hawaii Brewing Company as a subsidiary. Primo had become so popular that retailers had to ration sales to two six-packs per customer. To keep up with demand, in 1966 Schlitz built a new 8.8 acre-brewery in 'Aiea, which at its height was producing 400,000 barrels a year. By 1969 Primo had captured 70% of the market share in Hawaii and was also popular in California.

Industry consolidations and national marketing campaigns took a toll on Schlitz during the 1970s. In 1979 Schlitz closed the 'Aiea brewery and moved production to Los Angeles, California to cut costs. When Stroh purchashed Schlitz in 1982, they also acquired the Primo brand. For a time during the 1980s, Stroh switched from brown bottles to green ones, but consumers failed to identify Primo with green bottles, and lagging sales forced them to switch back to brown bottles by 1990. In 1997, under the weight of its own struggles, Stroh discontinued manufacturing Primo beer, and when it broke up in 1999, Primo was one of the brands that Pabst acquired. For years the brand remained dormant during Pabst's struggles, but when the company made a successful turnaround, they brought back Primo in 2007.

Pabst began revitilizing the Primo brand by focusing on distribution and marketing, appealing to its iconery of the islands and sponsoring events such as surf contests. While the name and imagery of the iconic Primo brand stayed the same, the flavor was updated to be more in line with modern beer consumers. The recipe was derived by two award-winning brewmasters, Phil Markowski and Bob Newman. Markowski brewed at Southampton Publick House, while Newman was a two-time "Brewmaster of the Year" recipient at the Great American Beer Festival. The two consulted with native Hawaiians to help refine the new taste of Primo. Big wave champions Shane Dorian and Keoni Watson, along with other Hawaiian watermen, helped the brewmasters determine the taste of the new beer during numerous beach-tasting sessions that led to the final recipe. Pabst tapped a brewery on the island of on Kauai, Keoki Brewing Company, to produce draft beer for the islands, but bottled Primo was produced by Pabst at their Irwindale, California brewery. Keoki was bought by Hawaii Nui Brewing Company soon after they started brewing Primo. Currently, portions of the island-based proceeds go to the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation and toward preserving Hawaiian culture, land and heritage.

The new Primo Island Lager has the rare combination of craft-brewed richness with the smooth taste of traditional American lagers. Primo's recipe is entirely unique, using a blend of 95 percent malt and five percent raw Hawaiian cane from Maui Sugar Co., the last raw-cane producing company in Hawaii. This blend delivers a brew that is more flavorful and at the same time, still very refreshing. Primo also uses two distinct varieties of noble hops that impart a subtle spicy aroma, setting the beer apart from leading import brands and other domestic lagers. It is likely very different from the original version, which was described as pale yellow-gold and light bodied, with a vegetable-like malt aroma and flavor with a bit of sweet malt in front and in finish.

Ratebeer weighted average:  2.31 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  68 out of 100 (poor)

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1 comment:

  1. I have recently acquired one of these from a garage sale, and Im curious..anyone know how much its worth?