Aesthetic Exploration 2019: Beer Tap Handles

The aesthetic I have chosen to explore is the aesthetic of beer tap handles, and how they can range from incredibly minimalistic to functional works of art.

Until the early 20th century, beer was typically served directly from the barrel, until artificial carbonation was introduced in 1936 thus beginning what we know as draught beer.  By the early 70’s, draught beer had become commonplace around the world.

Today, there are a record number of breweries opening around the country and I have always been fascinated by the variety of tap handles I see from different brands when I go out to a bar or brewery.  Craft breweries have surpassed 10% of the US beer market, and there is lots of competition especially here in the Denver area.  Often times at individual breweries, I have noticed that their tap handles are minimal and interchangeable, often utilizing numbers or a small chalk surface where they can change what beer is on what tap, so they can accommodate a more frequent rotation of what is on tap.

Blank slate tap handles that allow bartenders to rewrite which beer is on a specific tap

However, when at bars that carry multiple brands of beer, I always take interest in how different brands design their tap handles.  Some are very basic and large, typically more common beers (Coors, Miller, Budweiser, etc.) that rely on brand recognition and familiarity for their design.  Others however, can really get creative with their designs and I sometimes even decide on what to drink based on the tap handle if I am not familiar with the brands.  

Additionally, the rise in home brewing has driven a rise in personalized handles for those who have taps in their home. More than 1.2 million home brewers are crafting their own beers at home.  Whether it be personalized with their name or some sort of interest, beer enthusiasts often enjoy customizing their taps to add a sense of uniqueness to their home brewing apparatus.

Custom lightsaber tap handle for a home brewer

Beer tap handles are an important part of the marketing for beer handles, and the aesthetically pleasing tap handles can be a key selling point for unfamiliar customers.  With the rise in beer production in the US, tap handles have become more intricate to appeal to customers looking to try something new.

3D Printed tap handles made from full body scans of brewers from each brewery

Information sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draught_beer

https://www.brewbound.com/news/record-number-breweries-opened-2017-closures-rise

Images:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/244384847/chalkboard-tap-handle?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=tap+handle+chalkboard&ref=sr_gallery-1-17&organic_search_click=1

https://www.etsy.com/listing/257979831/lightsaber-tap-handle?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=tap+handle+lightsaber&ref=sr_gallery-1-1&organic_search_click=1&frs=1&col=1

https://www.amazon.com/Coors-Light-Inch-Draft-Handle/dp/B00IEKGAUM

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2 Comments. Leave new

Ibrahim Alhajji
February 1, 2019 3:51 pm

Very good topic. I often look at the beer taps and as you mentioned I choose the handle I like. I never thought of the process that they use to design the handles or even using them to attract customers. I like that you wrote about this subject. I would like to suggest adding more of the process of the design and less of the history.

Reply

I am not sure that you have fully developed the idea of an aesthetic for beer tap handles.
What do you think drives tap handle design for small breweries when they do not have the brand recognition of Coors or Miller? In my experience, some breweries have handles that display their reverence for the craft (Avery), while others show arrogance (Stone) or even irreverence (4 noses).
Many tap rooms rotate their beer selection and will often serve from breweries that locals may not be familiar with. What do you think these breweries can do to draw the bar patron’s eye to their handle? You mentioned that you will order a beer because you like the handle. What is it about a handle that can convince you to try the beer it’s selling?

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