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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, April 15, 2016

Tap Handle #593: Chili's (Chilihead) - Rusty's Road Knight Amber Ale

Tap size:  13.25"
Rarity:  Scarce
Mounting:  internal 3/8" nut

The first thing you notice about this tap when holding it is the weight - it is at least 2-3 pounds! It's got to be one of the heaviest taps in the collection. It's also fairly tall at over 13". It features an armadillo perched on top of a cactus. The cactus is rather crudely sculpted and painted, but the artist did put some effort into the armadillo - it is very cartoonish and, dare I say, cute, painted a copper color, with sunglasses that have purple shades. Below the armadillo is a sign that is sculpted to resemble weathered wood, but is also painted a copper color, with the name of the beer in recessed letters. The beer and tap were custom made for Chili's in 1995 by Chilihead Brewery, when there were only 400 Chili's restaurants in existence. The production on these handles was a maximum of 400-500, and may have been significantly less. Due to its bulk and weight, the ease in which they were damaged (broken ears and snouts were the most common), and the lack of sales for the beer, most of the taps ended up in landfills when Chili's discontinued producing Rusty's Amber. As a result, this is one of scarcest taps you will see - I've never seen another.

Click through to read more about Chili's, what little I could find about their Rusty's Road Knight Amber Ale, and to see more photos of this elusive tap...

Chili's was founded in Dallas, Texas in 1975 by Larry Lavine. In 1967 Lavine attended the inaugural Terlingua Chili Cook-off hosted in Terlingua, Texas, by famous race car legend and Lavine’s father-in-law, Carroll Shelby. Lavine fell in love with chili cook-offs and that in turn had him thinking about a restaurant themed around cook-offs, with an initial focus on burgers, and later, fajitas and ribs. In 1975, Lavine opened the first Chili’s Grill & Bar in Dallas in a former postal station. It was among the first of its kind, pioneering the world of casual dining, with a full-service restaurant boasting a fun, funky and laid back atmosphere. The restaurant was known for serving mouth-watering, napkin-soaking gourmet burgers out of baskets and having a line of customers around the corner.

In 1976 Chili’s opened a second location in Houston in a remodeled flower shop. Between 1976 and 1983 Chili's expanded rapidly, opening several restaurants on a yearly basis. The original Chili's location in Dallas moved to a new building on the same site in 1981 (it relocating again in 2007). In 1983 Norman Brinker, known as the father of the restaurant industry, bought Chili’s 23 restaurant locations and listed Chili's on the NASDAQ with an Initial Public Offering. However, in 1990 the company did an about face and moved to the New York Stock Exchange, renaming the parent company from Chili's Inc. to Brinker International Inc. a year later.

The next several years saw Brinker acquire Romano’s Macaroni Grill, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, and Maggiano’s Little Italy, while opening locations in Canada, Mexico, Egypt, and South Korea, and across the U.S. In 1994 Norman Brinker retired, appointing Ron McDougall as the new CEO of Brinker International. Norman Brinker remained on as Chairman of the Board. In 2004 McDougall stepped down as Brinker CEO. Doug Brooks was appointed as Chairman of the Board and CEO of Brinker in addition to his President title. That same year Chili’s opened its 1,000th restaurant, and the next year it celebrated its 30th anniversary. Expansion continued into India, Russia, Brazil, and Costa Rica, while Brinker sold off Macaroni Grill and On the Border. In 2009 Norman Brinker passed away at the age of 78. In 2013 Brooks left the company.

Over the years Chili's and Brinker have participated in numerous charitable events, and have a long-standing commitment to children's charities, namely St. Jude's and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Rusty's Road Knight Amber represented Chili's attempt to enter the craft beer market by creating their own brewing company, Chilihead Brewing, to serve house beer in 1995. The ale was actually contract brewed in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, most likely by the Point Brewery. However, customers weren't ready for this craft beer and it was discontinued after only a couple of years. This year (2016), for Chili's 40th anniversary, a special edition version of the beer was released for an internal event. The branding was updated to give Rusty a fresh new look, and the anniversary ale was brewed by Rahr & Sons.

There is no entry for Rusty's Road Knight, nor for Chilihead Brewing, on Ratebeer or Beer Advocate.

Brinker International
6820 LBJ Freeway
Dallas, TX 75240

Source Material
Brinker International website

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