Spaceships and hockey sticks: Craft beer boom echoes in custom taps
A B.C. ceramics company's business has doubled as Canada's craft beer market continues to swell.
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TORONTO — In the past five years, beer tap maker Chrislan Ceramics has seen its business double thanks to a boom in the Canadian craft beer industry.
The Maple Ridge, B.C., manufacturer says it produces between 1,000 to 1,500 beer taps a week, up from around the 600 mark in 2012.
Chrislan has designed beer taps featuring rocket ships, dog bones and hockey sticks for juggernauts like Guinness and Labatt as well as smaller breweries like Granville Island Brewing and Lake of Bays Brewing. But not everyone's a winner.
"A lot of the craft brewers come to us with designs that doesn't really represent their beer," says Chrislan sales manager Phil Thatcher. "Whether it's cream ale or an IPA, we really want that prominent on the tap handle."
According to the latest statistics from industry association Beer Canada, there were nearly 650 breweries operating across the country, with the majority situated in Ontario, as of 2015.
What's driving the growth in beer taps, says Thatcher, are the number of craft breweries opening up shop looking to differentiate themselves.
Thatcher said breweries often come with pie-in-the-sky designs that aren't practical for the bartender or the patron.
Beer taps typically should be about 12 to 14 inches tall, three inches wide with the brewery's name legible about 10 feet away, Thatcher said. Along with unique shapes, breweries have also approached Chrislan to experiment more with brighter and bolder colours.
It typically takes the company about four weeks to finalize a design to do a minimum order of 25 taps. Costs start at $18 per tap, and can go up from there depending on whether the shape needs to be custom-made. Most tap handles are made out of ceramic, resin or wood.
Thatcher said the biggest tip he has for breweries wanting to catch a customer's eye with a tap is to be consistent with the design.
"At the end of the day, they have to sell beer," he said. "And unless they have the brand on there or the company name, people don't know what they are. A spaceship may look cool but you have no idea what kind of flavour that is. It's not very appetizing."
At Toronto bar C'est What, patrons can find everything from a giant turkey baster syringe filled with hops to a decommissioned telephone handle used as a beer tap.
Owner George Milbrandt says one-of-a-kind beer tap designs definitely draw customers to the beer — many times even before they have tasted it.
"There's really no rhyme or reason (to tap design)," said Milbrandt, whose bar has more than 40 beers on tap. "It's a very individual thing. Kind of like beer is."
— With files from Dane Coote in Toronto.
Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.