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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, November 15, 2015

Tap Handle #539: Mountain Creek - FOH L. Ale

Tap size:  10.25"
Rarity: Very Rare
Mounting:  standard 3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

The FOH bartender is a really nice tap. Sporting a mustache, red vest and bow tie, and white apron over black slacks and shoes, this well-dressed character holds a frothing mug of beer in his left hand while his right hand rests behind his back. The bartender stands on a platform that has the name of the beer sculpted in red and black letters on the front. The glossy finish makes it difficult to photograph...a matte finish would have been preferred here. Probably the most curious feature on the tap is the name of the beer itself. FOH means Front-Of-House, which refers to the front of a restaurant. FOH supervisors normally deal with staff and issues that directly involve the customers. But what does the "L. Ale" mean? "L" could stand for lite or perhaps lodge, but is unlikely to be lager, as you wouldn't refer to a brew as a "Lager Ale", so this remains a mystery, as does the upside down necktie within the letter O. A few years ago these were very scarce...more recently, a small amount of them hit the secondary market, and since then the supply has dried up. Considering that the tap is used for only one contract brewed ale in a few restaurants and taverns at or near the Mountain Creek resort in New Jersey, I would expect this tap to be pretty hard to find.

Click through to read more about Mountain Creek, their FOH L. Ale, and to see more photos of this dapper tap...

Mountain Creek is a ski resort in Vernon Township, New Jersey, 47 miles (76 km) from the George Washington Bridge, making it the ski resort closest to New York City. It offers 167 acres of skiing on four mountain peaks, complete night skiing/snowboarding, and an expansive snowmaking program. Besides skiing and snowboarding, the resort offers one of the nation's largest snow tubing park, multiple zip-lines, and an alpine coaster. Mountain Creek is also home to a seasonal water park that operates from May to September.

Mountain Creek traces its roots back to the Great Gorge Resort, which was founded in 1965 by three families (Kurlander, Fitzgerald, & Baker) who had worked at the Snow Bowl Ski Resort in Milton, New Jersey. The lodge was designed by Alexander McIlvaine, who also designed the lodges at Stratton Mountain in Vermont and Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, California. The World's Fair was held in Flushing, NY in 1964-65. When the fair closed, the entire contents of the Swiss Pavilion were purchased and were transported to be incorporated into the new lodge at Great Gorge. From the start, Great Gorge was a ski racing and ski jumping mecca. Many high schools, colleges, and local NJ ski clubs held racing and ski jump events there. The US Ski Team and US Women's Freestyle Team were also known to have frequented the slopes, and many racers, snowboarders and ski jumpers there went on to become members of the US Ski & Snowboard Team and the US Ski Jumping Team. Some also went on to become Olympians with Gold, Silver and Bronze medal wins.

By 1971 Great Gorge North was built on what is now Mountain Creek's Granite Peak. Later that same year, however, the entire resort was foreclosed by their lender after a number of seasons that brought little snow to the resort that resulted in reduced revenue. After the foreclosure of Great Gorge, they were sold to Vernon Valley Ski Resort, becoming Vernon Valley and Great Gorge (VVGR). Together, Vernon Valley/Great Gorge enjoyed tremendous success for the next three decades. The VVGR resort complex was "the" place to see and be seen, on the trails or at the neighboring Playboy Club where the likes of Ann Margaret and Sammy Davis Jr. performed.  In 1974 VVGR was purchased by Great American Recreation (GAR), which invested in a large amount of snowmaking equipment that allowed the new resort to avoid the fate of the original resort. In 1978 VVGR opened Action Park, a seasonal amusement park with over 75 rides and attractions including 40 water slides, bungee jumping, go-karts, bumper boats and mini golf.

During the 1980s, Coblestone Village, a small shopping and dining village, was built, soon followed by Great Gorge Village, a condo development with hundreds of luxury housing units, and The Spa at Great Gorge, a four-star luxury resort and spa complete with an 18-hole golf course and a number of indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Under GAR, VVGR continued to upgrade its skiing operations, installing a number of new lifts, including a triple chairlift in 1981. In 1989 GAR negotiated a deal to sell the VVGR for $50 million. After carefully inspecting the property, however, the prospective buyers found the properties unsuitable and backed out of the deal.

In the early 1990s VVGR  suffered from a combination of poor attendance and poor management, which sent the Great Gorge Resort on a downward spiral. Great American Recreation's stock was traded through shady investment fronts and behind the scenes. Eventually the stock collapsed, and in 1995 GAR filed for bankruptcy. In 1996 Vernon Valley was opened, but a year later it joined Great Gorge in closure due to the bankruptcy. In early 1998 the remaining assets of Great American Recreation were divided and sold. Eugene Mulvihill Sr. retained control of the Great Gorge golf and hotel area of the resort, which was renamed Crystal Springs. The three ski areas and Action Park were sold to Intrawest, a Canadian owner operator of such notable resorts as Whistler Blackcomb, Tremblant and Steamboat.

Intrawest renamed its holdings Mountain Creek, and began pouring money into its new investment to refurbish the resort. They upgraded the lifts, including adding an open-air gondola. The Great Gorge Lodge, which hadn't been refurbished in nearly 30 years, underwent an update. Intrawest made investments in the mountain's snowmaking, installing more than 1,600 new snow guns throughout the mountain. The new resort opened in the winter of 1998. Intrawest had also began construction on Action Park, removing all the amusement rides except for the Alpine Slide and Bungee Tower, as well as the Motorworld section of the park, and began work on the Waterworld section of the park. The water park reopened as Mountain Creek Waterpark in the summer of 1998.

In 1999, the 31-year-old Vernon base lodge was destroyed in a fire just weeks before the 1999-2000 ski season. A complex of prefabricated tents was quickly constructed in order to continue operations for the upcoming season. In 2002 Mountain Creek opened the first phase of its master-planned resort village, Black Creek Sanctuary, a luxury condo community. In winter 2003 construction began on The Appalachian, a luxury condominium and hotel built on the former parking lot of the Vernon base lodge. Parking was moved to the other side of Rt. 94 to the former location of Action Park's amusement ride and bumper boat area. The Appalachian condo/hotel opened for the 2006-07 season. For summer 2006 Intrawest opened the Diablo Mountain Bike Park on Vernon Peak, which featured numerous downhill trails serviced by the Cabriolet gondola.

Mountain Creek opened its 2007-08 winter sports season with a few notable changes to the trail map. The eastern side of Vernon Peak, which used to be home to its freestyle terrain park, was converted into intermediate slopes. The entire Mountain Creek South area (South Peak and Bear Peak) was converted to freestyle terrain park. This angered many long-time season pass holders and many did not renew their passes. The resort was now known to be filled with crazy and wild snowboarders and skiers. The accident rates increased and so did the trips to the local hospitals. In 2008 these factors, combined with a softening of the real estate market, forced Intrawest to file for bankruptcy protection, and they sold off many of the resorts that they owned. The Mountain Creek resort was sold to a group that included Mulvihill, and it became part of the Crystal Springs resort in 2010. The new owners immediately went to work on improving the mountain, replacing the tent complex at Vernon with a new lodge called Red Tail Lodge, and upgrading equipment and attractions.

In 2015 HSK-MC, owned by the Koffman family and one of the partners in the group that purchased Mountain Creek in 2010, became the sole owner of the Mountain Creek properties. The Koffmans were involved in numerous investments in the hospitality industry including successful construction of hotels and resorts in the Caribbean and the United States. They have an earlier history with Mountain Creek, having been partners in Great Gorge for a short period of time before it merged with Vernon Valley in the 1970s. Mountain Creek and Crystal Springs remain strategic resort partners in many aspects of developing the recreation resources of the Vernon Valley region.

FOH L. Ale is Mountain Creek's signature brew and is designed to be a full flavored, session beer. Amber in color, brewed with select malts and sterling, golden, and nugget hops to provide a rich floral aroma and a crisp slightly tart finish. This beer accentuates food flavors and pairs well with barbecue cuisine. It is served in Schuss, a restaurant located on the mezzanine level of the Red Tail Lodge, and in Kink, a restaurant located on the second floor of the South Lodge. It can also be found at the Crystal Springs resort and some taverns in Vernon. It is contract brewed for Mountain Creek by Cricket Hill Brewery. 

There is no listing for FOH L. Ale or Mountain Creek on Ratebeer or Beer Advocate, nor does the beer appear under Crcket Hill's listings.

Source Material
Mountain Creek website

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