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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, February 20, 2016

Tap Handle #571: Big Ditch

Tap size:  13.75"
Rarity:  Very Rare
Mounting:  internal 3/8" nut

I really dig this tap. Big Ditch's shovel-shaped tap is wonderful in its simplicity, appearing as an antique shovel that represents a tool used to help construct the Erie Canal, back before heavy construction was available. Note the "dirt" stains applied to the blade of the shovel, most likely done through a sponge-painting technique. The name of the brewery appears on the "wooden" handle, which is actually resin made to look like wood. The tap is not variety specific and used for all of Big Ditch's varieties; it is pretty rare and hard to come by, meaning its secondary market price is high.

"Big Ditch" is the nickname given to the Eire Canal. The canal is part of the east-west, cross-state route of the New York State Canal System (formerly known as the New York State Barge Canal). Originally it ran about 363 miles from Albany, on the Hudson River to Buffalo, at Lake Erie. It was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. First proposed in 1807, its construction began in 1817. The canal contains 36 locks and a total elevation differential of about 565 feet. It opened in 1825 and changed regional commerce and distribution, giving faster access to bulk goods. With an innovative lock system, the Erie Canal allowed ships to carry cargo across various canal depths. In a time when bulk goods were limited to pack animals, and there were no steamships or railways, water was the most cost-effective way to ship bulk goods. The canal was the first transportation system between the eastern seaboard (New York City) and the western interior (Great Lakes) of the United States that did not require portage. It was faster than carts pulled by draft animals, and cut transport costs by about 95%.

In 2000, the United States Congress designated the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor to recognize the national significance of the canal system as the most successful and influential human-built waterway and one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America. Mainly used by recreational watercraft since the retirement of the last large commercial ship in 1994, the canal saw a recovery in commercial traffic in 2008.

Click through to read more about Big Ditch Brewing Company and to see more photos of this hard-working tap...

Big Ditch Brewing Company was founded in Buffalo, New York in 2011 by Matt Kahn and Corey Catalano. Kahn and Catalano were two aspiring scientists working in a biotech lab that loved beer, and wanted to start a new business for themselves. They used a food-grade bucket as their first fermenter, creating beers in a garage. Over the next two years, while they were perfecting their craft, they met Wes Froebel, himself a previous co-owner of other breweries, who was also interested in starting a new brewery project. The trio’s pursuit of a building to house their brewery intersected with Iskalo Development Corp.’s redevelopment of a former fleet maintenance facility.  The two groups worked intently for more than a year planning the brewery and tap room, with Paul Iskalo joining the Big Ditch team as its principal investor. They chose the name as a reference to the working name of the Erie Canal, the historic waterway that brought big changes to Buffalo. Big Ditch Brewing opened for business in 2014 with distribution to establishments throughout Western New York. 

Big Ditch Brewing Company makes its beer using a 20-barrel Criveller brewhouse, with a 2-vessel brewing system consisting of a mash-lauter tun, a boil kettle-whirlpool, and five 40-barrel fermenters. In 2015 they finished expansion of their 15,000-square-foot brewery, which included a tap room and restaurant. The tap room is divided into three main sections. The front area features a large bar with two 12-tap towers and seating for diners located around the bar. The back area is set up in a ‘beer hall’ arrangement, with long communal tables, a lounge area, shuffleboard and darts. An upstairs section overlooks the entire restaurant and also holds both a bar and restaurant seating. Overhead doors can be opened to allow fresh air in and add to the open-air vibe of a true beer hall. Seating is available for about 200 people.

The brewery has three year round beers, with Hayburner American IPA being their flagship beer. They also offer seasonals such as Cinnamon-Apple Amber Ale and Vanilla Oatmeal Stout (made with real vanilla beans).  Big Ditch has already collaborated with local coffee start-up Public Espresso on the "Ex-cafe-tor", where the brewers added cold-brewed coffee to their Excavator Rye Brown Ale and served it in a cask. Free tours of the facility are available.

Hayburner is an American IPA named for the mules, known long ago as “Hayburners”, that were the workhorses behind the construction of the Erie Canal. This IPA is equally dependable, and is extremely satisfying at the end of a hard day’s work. Hayburner is a luscious and citrusy IPA, with primary notes of orange, melon, grapefruit, and a slightly earthy finish. It packs a firm bitterness but remains balanced by abundant late hop additions and a soft, airy malt base.

Ratebeer weighted average: 3.37 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  no score

Big Ditch Brewing Company
55 E. Huron Street
Buffalo, New York 14203

Source Material
Big Ditch Brewing website

Erie Canal information and photo from Wikipedia

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