Next time you're at your local bar, take a look at the art work.
No, not that painting of somewhat questionable taste behind the bar, but the beer taps. The many, many, many beer taps, if the watering holes around you are similar to those near me.
The rise of craft beer making in the United States is leading to bars introducing more and more locally brewed beers. To make themselves stand out, those craft beer makers turn to a Wisconsin company that is turning out hundreds — if not thousands — of beer tap handles.
Some of these handles are hand-crafted wood, but the company also uses urethane molding and injection molding to make both custom tap handles and standard shapes that can be individualized through paint and stickers.
The result, says AJS General Manager Mark Steinhardt in the NPR piece: “We like to think that the tap handle will sell the first beer for the brewery. Of course, then it's up to the beer itself to sell the second beer.”
So how important is it for a beer to stand out? Very.
Consider the numbers from the Brewers Association. In 2015, overall beer sales in the U.S. dropped slightly, by 0.2 percent. But craft beer sales climbed 12.8 percent.
The number of barrels of craft beer made in the U.S. has climbed from 4 billion barrels in 2005 to more than 19 billion barrels in 2015, according to the association.
(And in case you're thinking that means AJS is serving a niche market — after all, giant brand names like Budweiser and Miller still dominate overall sales — AJS also sells to those international giant players.)
With all that new business coming in, its no surprise that AJS is growing too. The company is in the process of adding 16,470 square feet to its operations in Random Lake for warehouse, production and offices.
So next time you're out, take a look at those taps and raise a glass to AJS.