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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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Photos or tap descriptions used in this blog may not be misrepresented as your own. Photos may not be used for financial gain whatsoever, as the uniqueness of the photo would unfairly associate a seller's product and reputation with this site. Tap descriptions may be used word for word as long as this blog is cited as the source, and a link is provided to this site.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Tap Handle #645: Monterey Bay Brewing - Mad Otter Pale Ale

Tap size:  10.25"
Rarity:  less than 10 seen, hand-made
Mounting:  3/8" large ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

This tap comes with a great story. I've shared the long version with my Collectors Club members, but I'm going to give you the short version here.

Every year my dad spends a couple of months in Palm Springs, and on the return trip home he stops to see me for my birthday, usually bearing a tap I've never seen before as a present. Last year it was the Figueroa Mountain 101 and the year before that it was the La Quinta (and before that it was the Vancouver Island Killer Whale). This year he couldn't find anything for me, and he asked me if there was a brewery along the way that might have a tap I'd want. It took me a few minutes of thinking before I asked him if his trip was going through Monterey, which it was. I asked him to stop at the Monterey Bay Brewing Company to see if he could pick me up a Mad Otter tap. When he arrived in Monterey he called the brewery, but got an answering machine. After following some leads, he was able to get in contact to one of the owners, Mark Fitch. My dad explained to Mark about my museum and the blog and how he wanted to get me the tap for my birthday. Mark was very adamant that the brewery did not sell their taps. In fact, only 2 taps, both damaged, had ever got away from their control. It takes a long time to get them because they are hand made and painted by one guy in the U.S. Disappointed, my dad left his contact information and my blog address in case Mark decided to change his mind.

As my dad was almost out of town, he got a phone call back from Mark, telling my dad he had looked at my site and was wondering if my dad was still in town. My dad said yes, so Mark agreed to meet him at a nearby mall. When they met, they hit it off right away, and Mark sold my dad a tap handle. When my dad presented me with the tap and the accompanying story on my birthday, I was stunned. I never imagined he would be able to get me one of these Mad Otter Ale taps. It features a blue otter in a top hat that's right out of Alice in Wonderland. The otter's eyes and partial grin look a little crazy. He holds on to the front of his jacket with white gloved hands. Although the brewery's name does not appear on the tap, a yellow label with black letters bearing the name of the beer is prominent at the bottom. The round base is a newer re-design of the tap; an older version has a blocky base that has the beer name and the brewery name on the label. Another difference is that the older version has a blue hatband while this newer version is white. Since these taps are hand-made in small numbers and the brewery keeps tight control over them, this is one of the scarcest taps you will see here on the site.

Click through to read more about Monterey Bay Brewing, their Mad Otter Ale, and to see more photos of this insanely awesome tap...

Monterey Brewing Company was founded in 2008 in Monterey, California by Mark Fitch and Scott Coming. Fitch, an accountant, and Coming, a real estate agent, had met through a mutual friend in 2005. Fitch had attended the Mammoth Mountain Blues and Brews festival, camping out for the two day event and experiencing how everyone was going "Mad" over craft beer. The next year Fitch and Coming both went to the festival, and Fitch, recognizing that there was a void in the Monterey area of local breweries, did some research and secured the Monterey Bay Brewing Company name. After presenting the idea of opening a brewery and brewing beer to Coming, the two men began a number of sessions of brewing in their kitchens and garages.

Realizing that in order to move more quickly on a finished product they needed more advanced techniques and equipment, Fitch got reacquainted with the owner of a successful brewery in San Luis Obispo. Fitch and Coming used their equipment and some of their expertise a half dozen times until they came up with the recipe that became their flagship American Pale Ale, Mad Otter Ale. The Mad Otter brand came to Fitch one day while out on a golf course, combining the "Mad" demand for craft beer with a local connection to Monterey - which has one of the highest concentrations of the California Southern Sea Otter along the Pacific Coast. Their aim was to create a beer that was in the middle of the craft beer spectrum so that it would appeal to novices and experienced craft beer consumers alike, with a brand that had strong local attachment since their strategy was purely local.

Once they had their recipe and the commitment from the contract brewery, they set down the path of business formation and permits. This process took quite a bit of time since they were doing something different than most other small craft brewers. Their approach was to build the brand first and then build the facility later.  After about 2 years they finally had the permission of the authorities to sell beer, and they rapidly located a bonded cold storage site and set about promoting Mad Otter Ale, distributing to local venues. Since there was still a void in the area for a local product, they experienced a large amount of initial interest. That interest grew so much, they moved their production to a much larger facility in San Jose in order to keep up with the demand.  Although they have been besieged with requests to expand their product line, they are waiting until they open the doors on their own brewing facility/tasting room, which is currently in the works and should be realized within the next 12 months.

Fitch is slowly transitioning from his day job as an accountant in order to tend to the growing responsibilities of the operation. The two owners have brought on another partner, who currently works with Fitch at his day job, to help with operations and support. They've also added several people to their sales and promotions team in order to grow their footprint. Exciting things are in store for Monterey Bay Brewing, and they are looking forward to the many challenges that they will have to face as they attempt to solidify their position in the market. Currently Mad Otter can be found in local bars and restaurants, at local festivals, and is also available in cans - Monterey Bay Brewing was the first local craft brewery to can its beer.

Mad Otter Ale is the flagship beer of Monterey Bay Brewing. At its heart, Mad Otter Ale is a classic American style pale ale packed with notes of tangerines and grapefruits that last from first aroma to the final sip. Showcasing American hops, Mad Otter Ale is brewed with a considerable amount of pale and caramel malts, creating a steady malt profile to balance the bitterness of the hops. A true crowd pleaser, Mad Otter Ale is not overly bitter but is packed with hop flavor. This hand-crafted beer is refreshing enough to cut through the heaviest of dishes while the firm malt notes help to accentuate the caramelization of grilled foods. The citrus notes make it a natural choice for Latin or spicier cuisines; the hops temper the spiciness while accentuating the lime and citrus flavors and cutting through creamy cheese toppings. It is also a great choice to pair with grilled meats and juicy burgers. Because Mad Otter Ale pairs so well with a wide array of foods, it’s a great beer to keep on hand.

There is no entry on Ratebeer or Beer Advocate for Monterey Bay Brewing.

Monterey Bay Brewing Company
2965 Monterey-Salinas Highway
Monterey, CA 93940

Source Material
Amazing Tap Handles interview with Mark Fitch

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