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The Art of the Tap Handles

The beer isn’t the only work of art at these local breweries 

One of the most unexpected places to encounter art within the community comes in the form of the tap handles at local breweries. Each brewery showcases their unique style and brand through the tappers’ designs. From rawhide bones to a family crest, these tappers all tell stories about the businesses themselves.

Bare Bones Brewery, Oshkosh 

Open since May 2015, this dog-themed craft brewery was founded by Dan and Patti Dringoli. The couple is proud of their large-scale brewery, featuring a dog-friendly outdoor patio where humans can enjoy a beer with their canines. The Dringolis rescued pit bulls as pets and their logo features a pit bull, so it’s only natural that the dog theme is present in all aspects of the brewery. Their tap handles pay homage to this theme. Made by AJS Tap Handles in Random Lake, Wisconsin, the wooden tap handles are shaped like rawhide bones. “I was going to use a real rawhide bone as the tap handle,” Dan Dringoli says. “Then I called AJS and they created a mock-up of a design and finished it for us. That rawhide bone is recognizable in the community, you know it’s us by the tapper handle.”

Appleton Beer Factory

The tap handles at Appleton Beer Factory have gone through a metamorphosis throughout the years since the brewery opened in 2013. Their original design featured gears in the shape of a pilsner glass, made from clear acrylic. “The gears represented the factory part of the name,” says Head Brewer Ben Fogle. After four years, they refreshed their brand logo, switching to an “A” with the outline of a hammer. Likewise, the tap handle changed to feature a hammer with the logo set into it. The new handle is made entirely out of wood, a change from the usual urethane of which most handles are made. “We knew we wanted a hammer shape, it would stick out amongst other handles on the market,” Fogle says.

Lion’s Tail Brewing Co., Neenah

Lion’s Tail Brewing Co. celebrated its three year anniversary last November. The brewery is instantly recognizable by its logo, a two-tailed lion wearing a crown. “The logo is a unique interpretation of the owner’s family crest,” says General Manager Eric Henzel. Alex Wenzel, owner of Lion’s Tail, says the lion logo itself originates from the iconic bohemian lion, which is also the Wenzel family crest. Wenzel took the crest and added his own spin to it for the brewery’s logo. As the bohemian lion has two tails, the Lion’s Tail logo likewise has two interlocking tails, made up of the barley and hops necessary to brew beer. The wooden handles feature this logo, and were all hand-turned by Wenzel’s late father.

Stone Arch Brewpub, Appleton

Opened in 2004 by father-son partners Tom and Steve Lonsway, Stone Arch Brewpub specializes in locally sourced ingredients for both their food and beer, and includes a full menu bar and restaurant. Their tap handles feature the stacked Stone Arch logo, and include a chalk paint label that displays the type of beer. “We wanted to make sure the stone was incorporated, to get the story across,” Steve Lonsway says. Currently, their handles are made by Alexander Global in Washington, but Lonsway says they’re looking to switch to a local business for their tap handle needs. “We believe in shopping locally,” he says. Lonsway plans to work with AJ’s Tap Handles in Random Lake in the future.

Fox River Brewing Co., Appleton & Oshkosh

Fox River Brewing Co.’s tap handles are unique in that they are officially trademarked and patented by co-owner and CEO Jay Supple and co-designed by Scott Steffin of Fond du Lac. Featuring a Zebco fishing reel, the tap handle looks like a fishing pole, in reference to their Oshkosh waterfront location. “You can see one of our tap handles from here to Chippewa Falls to Eagle River,” Supple says. “They’re all over the state.” Supple says the fishing theme was partially influenced by their waterfront location and their desire to have a tap handle unlike any other.

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