It’s happened so many times: You belly up to the bar, intending to request a pint of your stand-by lager or stout, when suddenly, something catches your eye among the beer taps. Is that a garden gnome peering out from under a stack of pancakes? And wait — is that a maniacal, mustachioed pumpkin next to him?!
We’re suckers for zany, unusual beer tap handles. A creative tap handle is almost magical, and can compel you to order something new or offbeat that you wouldn’t normally request.
Beer tap handles have become an art form; they’re a way for beer-makers to introduce you to the true spirit of their brews before you even take a sip. They come in every conceivable shape, material, and color, and they have grown more and more outlandish over the past few decades.
We recently set out to see how many one-of-a-kind tap handles we could track down. Perhaps impractical, but certainly spectacular, these pieces of art really stand out from the crowd. As Benjamin Franklin said, “There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.” These inventive beer tap handles will certainly point you in the right direction.
This brewery was once the site of a Wigwam sock factory. They like to make beers no one else does (hello, ghost pepper), and their beer tap handles follow suit. Local tattoo artist Steve Bossler sculpted the iconic tap handles. Keep an eye-out for the fluffy white creatures sitting on each other’s shoulders, if you want to get “three sheeps to the wind.”
All things northern are represented on Alaskan’s tap handles, including fishing boats, polar bears, snowboarders, and bald eagles. Catch a glimpse of this toothy cetacean and there’s no confusing what he’s telling you to do: Order an Alaskan Summer Ale. And if you’re looking for the real thing, check out these best destinations for whale watching around the world. Just don’t forget to bring a beer.
Zone in on juicy, tropical Gamma Ray Pale Ale from this English brewery by simply looking for the skeleton spacemen shooting lasers while under attack from UFOs on Mars. But who wouldn’t already be keeping an eye out for such a thing, anyway?
Sidle up to the bar and request a pint of the rotating selection of brews flowing from one of these sturdy bronze scuba squids. The tap handles are made for Blue Island Oyster Bar by sculptor Ron Lee, and they pour beers brewed specifically for the bar by sister company Boulder Beer. It's not only the tap handles, but the entire bar that makes you feel like you’re under the sea.
This Belgian-style brewery teamed up with HBO to create a limited-release Game of Thrones beer series coinciding with each new season of the hit show. A special beer deserves a special tap handle, and these handles each feature five carved swords, which represent the five houses struggling for the throne of Westeros. As they say in High Valyrian, “Valar dohaeris,” or: All men (and women) must serve… another pint. Hungry for kidney pie or stallion heart? Check out the best food moments from Game of Thrones.
This tatted, burly bloke and his wild beard watch with a discerning eye over the bar crowd while Charlie Wells’ Triple Hopped IPA flows from this wacky tap. The beer is made with three types of hops, one of which is Goldings, the original British hops with which English IPAs were brewed in the 1800s. Did you know that hops are actually good for you? Here are nine other medical reasons to drink more beer.
One of Dirty Robot’s brew-masters has a doctorate in robotics, so it comes as no surprise that a) robots (including one named Annabelle) are involved in the brewing process, and b) Dirty Robot’s tap handles feature giant robot hands.
Dogfish Head really flexed its creative muscles with this mega-rare, limited edition 2010 Steampunk tap handle. It’s a brilliant tangle of metal gears and cogs, and its steam-punk design is based on a treehouse located in the back of the brewery. It’s perfect for pouring “analog beer for the digital age.”
“Call” out for this beer when you catch a glimpse of the 312 Urban Wheat Ale tap handle across the bar. This crisp, fruity ale is inspired by the city of Chicago, home to the 312 telephone area code. If you happen to be in the 312, check out Boxville, Chicago’s first mall built entirely from shipping containers.
This dog-friendly brewery has a definite ski-town vibe, and even the tap handles are made from ski poles. To quote them directly: “Our tap handles are direct descendants of Hot Dog… The Movie.” Keep your tips up.
You can now buy Lost Coast’s beer in cans, but pulling a pint from one of these campy, colorful tap handles is half the fun. The toothy Great White IPA shark and the Arghh! Pale Ale drunken parrot look like trippy half-cousins of some of the figures in Picasso paintings.
Single Chair Pilsner was brewed in honor of one of the last two single-chair ski lifts operating in the United States, located at Mad River Glen in northern Vermont. This unique tap handle perfectly reflects the independent spirit of both the beer and Mad River’s skiing community. Long day on the slopes? Check out these hearty après ski snacks to make at home.
Since opening in 2005, North Country Brewing has created over 100 different types of beer with wacky tap handles to match, like the Slimy Pebble Pilsner. The gnome and elf theme runs throughout the brewery, with hidden faces, a howling dog, and other delights carved into the woodwork of the bar, walls, and furniture. The Paleo IPA is the black sheep of the North Country family, as this tap handle displays no elfin creatures but instead pays tribute to owner Bob McCafferty’s previous occupation by bearing an archaeologist’s trowel and piece of polished stone.
These self-proclaimed Viking enthusiasts have created awesome tap handles that are custom-carved to look like ancient Viking longships, with imposing dragon figureheads. Just like the god Odin, the each dragon’s right eye has no pupil, rendering them blind, so you don’t have to worry about judgement when you order your sixth pint. Ever wonder what the Vikings ate? Click here to find out.
If you’re looking to tie one on, you’ll be in good company with PBR’s loopy pink pachyderms. This tap handle is inspired by a piece of art called "Pink Elephants Come Home," from the annual PBR National Art Contest. Did they ever actually win a blue ribbon? Here are five things you didn’t know about Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Individually painted in bright, psychedelic colors by local artists, these tall palmetto fronds are easy to spot when you belly up to the bar. As each handle tips back, taste one of the award-winning beers from South Carolina’s oldest brewery, which was inspired by a wind-surfing trip. The brewery’s motto says it all: “Our beer doesn’t care if you wear skinny jeans. Or even pants.”
Paloma Rocket’s tap handles are so unique because they’re, well, not exactly just taps… they’re computer screens. This self-service beer bar on New York City’s Lower East Side features rotating selections sold by the ounce, such as Burial Skillet’s Donut Stout and Avery Brewing Company’s El Gose. Brews currently range from 51 to 86 cents per ounce. These are most likely the only beer tap handles that allow credit card swipes and require absolutely zero human interaction.
Seek out these macabre tap handles “once upon a midnight dreary,” from the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired craft brewery. They each feature a sculpture of Poe on top of a copy of one of his classic works, including The Raven and Annabel Lee. These limited-run handles were crafted by sculptor Danielle Craven-Slaski and won a gold medal in the 2014 Tastings Tap Handle Awards. Kind of into creepy things? We are too. Check out the ten most haunted places in the world.
This life-like remote control for Redhook’s Game Changer Ale was made in collaboration with Buffalo Wild Wings, a restaurant and sports bar known not just for hot wings but for sporting events and trivia nights. Since it only has an ABV of 4.6%, fans can “stay in the game all game long.” This pale ale is no longer produced, so the tap handle has become increasingly valuable.
There’s no way you can miss this one. Rising up from its fellow tap handles is the replica of an ancient Japanese katana samurai sword. Sapporo USA consulted with the Japanese Cultural Society to design the handle, which features Japanese characters engraved on its polished blade (the characters translate to "Sapporo Beer" in Japanese). Sapporo USA notes that "the katana shaped handle was chosen because it faithfully represented the Sapporo brand — an object steeped in tradition with polish and precision that could represent the brand's crisp flagship lager."
Saranac’s vintage canoe tap handles are full of detail and vary slightly in color and label, depending on the particular brew each one is representing. You certainly won’t capsize (ouch!) after trying one of the beers from this Utica, New York, brewery, the second-oldest family brewery in the country.
Sweetwater’s motto “Don’t Float the Mainstream” also extends to their unique tap handles. The open-mouthed rainbow trout practically begs you to pour a pint of their tasty brew and drink like, well, a fish. To read more about SweetWater and our other choices for the best craft breweries of 2017, click here.
These guys were certainly thinking outside the box when it came time to design their unique, industrial tap handles. A noticeable handyman-vibe is apparent in these tap handles that are created out of recycled hammers, awls, saw handles, and various other tools.
Only at Trophy could you ask for a pint of the surly footballer or tarnished golfer and they’d know what you mean. Their tap handles consist of the tops of old trophies whose heydays have been given new meaning by pouring out delicious Double Death Spiral and Brave Little Grisette. Crazy for beer? Check out our list of the world’s 50 best beers.