Beer taps: ‘Behold, a new form of art’

The Seattle Times asks, “Does the tap handle tell you anything about what the beer tastes like? Or what’s in it? What the alcohol content is?”

Perhaps not, but tap handles are hot and this story profiles Renton-based Taphandles Inc., one of the country’s largest producers, which expects to ship half a million tap handles this year, mostly to American and Canadian brewers. It employs four designers at its Renton office who spend their days dreaming up designs to be made at its production facility in Guangdong province, China.

They can get a little crazy.

Some bartenders also think brewers might be going overboard. One tap handle for Maudite, a Belgian strong dark ale brewed in Quebec with a logo featuring a smug-looking devil, actually lit up when pulled. Another brewer offered an illuminated, working clock. “That was a little excessive,” says Ian Roberts of Brouwer’s Cafe in Fremont. “But think about it — it was the one lit handle on the entire bar.”

There is, of course, a bottom line. Notes one bartender: “Any attention-grabbing you can do is good. But if your beer’s no good, nobody’s gonna give you a second look.”