​Cider Corner: Letting Your Tap Handles Speak​

​A tap handle — whether in your taproom or an on-premise location somewhere else — is your cidery’s voice and marketing campaign to an extent.

It’s also an expenditure that must be figured in as a part of the marketing budget.

“You pretty much give a handle up for lost as soon as you bring it to an account,” said Meriwether Cider‘s Molly Leadbetter. “We do get some back, but ultimately there isn’t a good way in ensuring you get your handle back from accounts.

“If the account stops carrying you, usually the handle gets lost deep in a box of other broken and unused handles.”

Mary Paulson, the founder of Poochie’s Hootch Urban Cidery, said she handcrafts every handle. It began that way because she needed to keep busy while waiting for permits to come through during the building phase of the San Diego cidery.

“I just started building and making things I knew I would need and I could save money doing myself,” she said. “No one handle is the same, except they have my branded logo burned into each. I will sell them right off the tap wall.”

Appropriately, Neil Kennedy of Turquoise Barn Cider uses a lot of the brand’s favorite color. But they learned a lesson in handcrafting their handles at first.

“We started out making them … out of little birdhouses and hand burning the specific flavor into each one,” he explained. “They looked awesome, and were way taller than everyone else’s, but they were very labor-intensive.”

Even worse, they were too big to fit on some direct draw systems.

Now, TBC has gone with something made outside of the cidery and is more of a standard size and not dedicated by flavor.

“We kept with our sustainable barn theme, and they are made out of reclaimed wood, using laser-etched aluminum that really pops in low light conditions,” he said.

Meriwether uses the same handle for every cider it makes

“We have a label maker that we use to change the flavor on the handle,” Leadbetter explained. “Even though our handles aren’t nearly as expensive as some out there we knew we wouldn’t be able to create one for each of our cider flavors. So we landed on a basic but eye-catching handle that can work for all our ciders.”

​The handles are made from hatchet handles that are painted red on the end and then branded with ​the Meriweather logo. ​Leadbetter said they chose the hatchet handle to represent ​the family’s past as Wildland Firefighters.

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