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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, June 4, 2016

Tap Handle #611: Frankenmuth - Little Bavaria Pilsener

Tap size:  11"
Rarity:  50 or less
Mounting:  internal 3/8" nut

I really wanted this tap when it first started appearing in greater numbers last year (prior to that they were very hard to find), not just because of the dog on top, but because the original brewery building has such a storied history. It has survived Prohibition, a fire, a tornado, and multiple bankruptcies to become a great beer destination. The dog on the tap is "Frankie", a Dachshund who has been...well, I'll let the brewery tell you about him themselves:

"Frankie the Dachshund has been featured on our beer labels, advertisements, and marketing materials dating back to as early as the 1930’s, making Frankie nearly 85 years old (or almost 600 in dog years)! The history of Frankie originated with one of the brewery’s early owners, John Geyer; as legend would have it, Geyer owned a brood of purebred dachshunds and used the image of Frankie, his top dog, in ads, signs and packaging for the brewery. Frankie has made quite a name for himself as the company mascot over the years and continues to play a huge role in representing the Frankenmuth Brewery’s “dog-gone good” craft beer."

Frankie has been featured not only on ads, signs, and packaging, he also appears on some of their old ball taps (see photo to left), was a chalkware backbar statue (see photo to right), and now he adorns the top of this modern-day tap handle. Frankie is found on the very top of the tap, and the detail on him is excellent - he looks like a real Dachshund! He sits on a rug, which in turn is sitting on a pile of hops. The base features a round area just below Frankie and the hops, where the beer label is attached, and on each side is the letter "F" which stands for the Frankenmuth Brewery. This round area also sits on a pile of hops and is effectively sandwiched between them. Below the second pile of hops is a rectangular area that displays a decal of the name of the brewery and the phrase "since 1862"; a decal on the sides of the rectangular area features Frankie's profile, which has been used a s a symbol of the brewery for many years. Finally, the bottom features an elongated and beveled shaft that has more decals on the sides, this time with the name of the brewery in red letters. There is so much work and detail in the this tap, especially with the decal applications, that it does not disappoint. Lately these have increased in frequency but the price is all over the place, from very affordable to the low $300s. I've seen several different labels on the taps, although the Christmas Ale seems to be the most common for some reason.

Little Bavaria Pilsener is named after the town of Frankenmuth, or its common nickname, "Little Bavaria". See the photos below to see why the town (and thus the beer) is named the way it is...

Click through to read more about the historic Frankenmuth Brewery, their Little Bavaria Pilsener, and to see more photos of this "dog-gone good" tap...

Cousins William Knaust and Martin Heubisch founded the Cass River Brewery in Frankenmuth, Michigan in 1862, which is now known as Frankenmuth Brewery today. The Cass River Brewery was purchased by Johann Geyer in 1874 and renamed Geyer’s Brothers Brewing Company. For the next 112 years, the facility operated under many names, and for a time was owned by Carling Brewing Company. In 1986 Ferdinand “Fred” Schumacher from Duseldorf, Germany, along with Ervin Industries, purchased the brewery out of bankruptcy for $365,000 and renamed it Frankenmuth Brewery. At the time it consisted of only the brewery and a tasting room. A year later a fire destroyed part of the structure, but insurance money allowed the brewery to be rebuilt. Randall E. Heine bought majority ownership from Schumacher and Ervin Industries in 1990. The nation’s second oldest microbrewery was at peak production in 1996, distributing more than 30,000 barrels of locally produced microbrews across 25 states, and brewing beer under contract for Bad Frog Beer.

Disaster struck in 1996 when an F3 tornado tore through "Little Bavaria", as downtown Frankenmuth was known, tearing part of the roof off of the brewery and causing several millions of dollars in damage. The establishment was closed for seven years, forcing Bad Frog to move their contract brewing to Indiana. The Frankenmuth Brewery re-opened in 2003 after construction of a 28,000 square foot, 300-seat, three-story brewpub was added to the original single-level building. However, it closed again in 2006, when the Heine family turned over the property to bank after not finding a lender to refinance their $3.9 million loan. Sales had declined, according to later reports, due to "undependable service and product". In 2009, Anmar K. Sarafa, chief investment officer for Steward Capital Management Inc., bought the brewery from Bank of America, and secured a team of managers to run the brewpub.

The reopening of the brewery was a success with an attendance of over 600 people on the first day. They featured 6 beers on tap along with seasonal rotations, with a dining menu that included sandwiches and dinner entrees, and free pretzel bread. The top 3 levels housed the brewpub, while the original first level became a banquet hall. It also featured two levels of outdoor seating with heated decks overlooking the Cass River. Brewing capacity was estimated at 5,000 to 8,000 barrels per year. In 2011, the brewery celebrated its 150th anniversary by brewing a 150th Anniversary Frankenmuth Dark Lager as a limited edition. It included some of an original batch of Frankenmuth Dark, first brewed in the 1940s. The original Frankenmuth Dark - which had been kept under lock and key for a special occasion - was blended into the anniversary beer by brewmaster Jeff Coon. They filled and labeled 1,862 anniversary bottles, which were hand-labeled, numbered and signed by Coon to validate their authenticity. Also in 2011, the brewery built an expansion to house an additional 8 fermenters to supplement the 4 fermenters they already had in operation.

In 2013 the brewery hired contractors to enclose the lower level’s outdoor deck area, increasing the brewery’s seating capacity of their banquet room to about 275 people and providing ceiling to floor glass windows overlooking the river. They provide banquet and meeting facilities, along with seasonal outdoor dining, brewery tours, and a gift shop. Their beer is distributed in bars, restaurant and stores throughout Michigan and northern Ohio. The brewery has won several awards at The World Expo of Beer, a competition that takes place in the town of Frankenmuth, and is considered Michigan's biggest beer tasting event. Batch 69 American IPA won Frankenmuth Brewery a gold medal at the 2015 event.

Frankenmuth Brewery’s Little Bavaria Pilsener is a time-honored German-style pils, brewed following traditional German purity laws with only quality malt, barley, water, hops and yeast. It is named after the nickname for the town the brewery calls home, and is one of the brewery's rotating beers, available in bottles and cans as well as draft. It is also a past silver medal winner at the World Expo of Beer. Recommended food pairings are salads, seafood, beef, ham, sausage, curry dishes, and duck.

Ratebeer weighted average:  2.95 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  no score

Frankenmuth Brewery
425 S. Main St.
Frankenmuth, Michigan 48734

Source Material
Frankenmuth website

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