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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, May 22, 2016

Tap Handle #607: Heileman (Pabst) - Old Style Traditional Lager

Tap size:  10.75"
Rarity:  50 or less, readily available
Mounting:  3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

Pabst has recently heightened its marketing efforts of its brands in the last few years, with taps being one of the areas they have focused on. Like the Pink Elephants, Octopabst, and Pepper the Unicorn from the previous post, Old Style's tap has also received a re-design. This tap is three sided, featuring a sculpting of the downtown Chicago skyline. The classic Old Style red and blue badge, which dates back to 1902, appears on all three sides, along with sculpted ribbons above and below it that proclaim Old Style is "Chicago's Beer Since 1902". The striped decal on the base and gold-colored ferrule completes the look. Since all three sides of the tap look the same except for the skyline, I have taken more photos of the top of the tap than the base. It is fairly easy to find and affordable on the secondary market, although occasionally one will sell for around $100.

For more about Heileman, see this post.

Click through to read more about the historic Old Style brand and to see more photos of this high-rising tap...

Old Style was first brewed in 1902 by the G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin under the name Old Style Lager. Originally called Golden Leaf Lager in the 1890's, it was popular in Wisconsin, the Chicago metro area, Minnesota, eastern Iowa, Lincoln, Nebraska, southwestern Michigan, Upper Michigan, and Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota. For nearly a century, Old Style was the top selling brand for Heileman, which advertised the beer as "fully kraeusened" and made with pure artesian well water from "God's country," meaning western Wisconsin. Kraeusening is a double fermentation process that increases carbonation and richness and makes the beer lighter.

Old Style has long been known as "Chicago's Beer". In its first year of production in 1902, Heileman took advantage of a nationwide bottlers strike and subsequent product rationing by a competitor to move Old Style came across the state line into Illinois, where sales were brisk. Over the years, Chicago locals accepted Old Style as "their" beer, despite the fact that it was being made in Wisconsin. This bond became stronger when Old Style began sponsoring the Chicago Cubs in 1950. In the early 1990s, Chicago-born actor Dennis Farina made a series of commercials for Old Style beer, mentioning that it was "our great beer... and they can't have it." When Heileman was purchased in 1996 by Stroh, Old Style became a Stroh brand. But with Stroh undergoing its own struggles, they discontinued the kraeusening process due to cost, which changed the taste of the beer and lead to a decline in sales. Old Style was heavily discounted to improve sales, and became a bargain brand that sold based solely on its name.

Pabst bought Stroh in 1999, which included the Old Style brand. For several years they continued to produce the beer using the modified Stroh recipe, which was being brewed under contract by MillerCoors at plants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Trenton, Ohio; and Fort Worth, Texas. In 2009, a year after Pabst successfully relaunched Schlitz by going back to that beer's 1960s formula, Pabst decided to restore the kraeusening process to Old Style, which costed more to produce and resulted in a higher price. Pabst also re-branded the label to remove the Heileman name and add the phrase "Chicago's Beer Since 1902". The new yet classic formulation won silver medals at the 2011 and 2013 Great American Beer Festivals, as well as medals at the World Beer Cup: a silver in 2012 and a gold medal in 2014. Despite the gold medal, however, the Chicago Cubs ended their sponsorship with Old Style after signing a lucrative new deal with Anheuser-Busch.

As a result, Old Style turned its focus to supporting the Ende, Menzer, Walsh and Quinn (EMWQ) Retirees’, Widows’ and Children’s Assistance Fund, a local organization which provides financial assistance annually to the neediest widows and orphans of members of the Chicago Fire Department. Old Style launched a Chicago Heroes commemorative can, the sales of which benefited the EMWQ, with proceeds from every purchase donated to the organization. Old Style has been prominently featured on several recent and popular television shows: the Showtime series Shameless; the AMC series Better Call Saul; and AMC's series Mad Men. Old Style was chosen for its iconic heritage and to maintain historical accuracy to the time period and geographic locations of the settings of the shows.

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