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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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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tap Handle #534: Fordham (Coastal) - Rams Head IPA

Tap size:  12"
Rarity:  Rare
Mounting:  standard 3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

This is a really interesting tap. Oh, we've seen plenty of taps with a ram's head on them, but what makes this one unusual is the color scheme. The half-red, half-creme colored head with a blue "V" on the forehead and a blue nose, the black stripes on the horns, the blue and red sunken stripes on the shaft, and the metallic blue ferrule make this tap truly unique. I'm certain the color scheme has some significance but I have no idea what that significance is. Even the lettering of the brewery's name and the beer variety are different - blue letters with a red outline (which is reversed on the Rams Head decal). When it first appeared a couple of years ago the uniqueness commanded a high price, but with the growth of the brewery and an increase in production the tap has become less rare and more affordable.

Click through to read more about Fordham Brewing, their Rams Head IPA, and to see more photos of this colorful tap...

Fordham Brewing was founded in Annapolis, Maryland in 1995 by Bill Muehlhauser. Muehlhauser was a car salesman that wanted to own a bar or small restaurant instead. He purchased the historic Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis in 1989. In 1995 he made the decision to turn the Rams Head into a brewpub. The roof of the tavern was removed and a brewhouse was lowered in, and soon after Muehlhauser was making Bavarian ales and lagers under the name of Fordham Brewing. During the formative stages of the brewing operation, Muehlhauser researched the history of Annapolis area breweries and discovered the story of the once famed Fordham Brewery. Under charter from Queen Anne (whom the city was named after), Benjamin Fordham opened the brewery in 1703, which became very popular. As his brewing endeavor flourished along with the budding port city, Fordham secured his own place in the history of the region, becoming one of the city's first aldermen. When Fordham died in 1716, the brewery closed and did not reopen.

Muehlhauser contacted the Fordham family and asked them if the new brewery could resurrect their great-great-great-grandfathers name. The family was happy to oblige. The brewery's ales proved to be immediately popular, so much so that they began looking at expanding operations. Due to restrictive Prohibition-era laws in Maryland that limited the production of brewpubs, in order to expand, Fordham had to move out of the brewpub and become a brewery instead. A proposed deal that would have located the brewery in Middleton fell through. Frustrated with the inaction of Maryland's legislature, Muehlhauser moved his brewery to a new facility located in Alexandria, Virginia. Then, in 2003, in another effort to meet ever-growing demand, he moved to a 42 acre brewing and bottling facility in Dover, Delaware.

In 2007 the brewery decided to expand not by moving but through acquisition and investment. Old Dominion had been for sale since the mid 2000s but had no takers. Fordham wanted to buy Old Dominion but needed help. Muehlhauser created a parent company called Coastal Brewing, of which Old Dominion and Fordham became a subsidiary. They turned to Anheuser-Busch, who became a minority investor. A-B's stake gave them no control of either of the two breweries, nor any input or influence on brewery recipes, nor oversight of any day-to-day management. The brewery also owned its own distribution rights. Immediately after the sale, the brewers at Old Dominion worked with the brewers at Fordham for several months to ensure a consistent recipe transition. In 2010, Muehlhauser's son Kyle took over operation of the breweries. Old Dominion was eventually renamed as simply Dominion.

Today they are the sixth fastest growing brewery in the country, with no plans of scaling back their rapid growth. Weekly tours and samples of their beers are available. Fordham currently brews six year-round beers, a seasonal harvest ale, and exports some of their ales to England, finding their way into Whole Foods Markets in London.

In 2015 Kyle Muehlhauser pleaded guilty to surveillance of women in the restrooms in various Rams Head properties, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He took an indefinite leave of absence from all brewery and property operations. Bill Muehlhauser came out of semi-retirement to take over day-to-day operations.

Rams Head IPA is an American IPA with a hop profile that is complimented by an ample amount of malt flavor. It’s cold-conditioned on New Zealand hops, creating an unmistakable citrus-like aroma.

Ratebeer weighted average:  3.28 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  83 out of 100 (good)

Fordham Brewing Company
1284 McD Drive
Dover, Delaware 19901

Source Material
Brewing in Delaware by John Medkeff, Jr.
Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing by Rob Kasper

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