Tom Bedell of The Commons writes about Jason Gardner in “Getting a Handle on Tap Handles.”
Plus: the Beer Naked truth, drinking, and driving (a golf ball)
WILLIAMSVILLE—Steam was coming out of his ears the first time I saw Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead Brewery fame.
It was toward the close of the first Brattleboro Brewers Festival in 2010, his first year of operation. Hill was in angry pursuit and capture of two wobbly festival-goers who had purloined tap handles from the Hill Farmstead booth for what they thought would be nifty souvenirs.
Hill left the perpetrators with a tongue-lashing that surely helped them remember the day, and maybe for that reason he has never returned to subsequent Brattleboro festivals.
Well, who can blame him?
The cost of a single tap handle can range from $16 to $25, said Jason Gardner, who should know.
The founder of Green Mountain Taps in Hinsdale, N.H., Gardner and his company have been churning out tap handles for breweries in New England and around the country for 20 years.
In addition to the company’s work for local and Vermont clients — like Whetstone Station, Hermit Thrush, von Trapp, 14th Star, Simple Roots, Lost Nation, and Zero Gravity — GMT has long created the tap handles for Allagash of Maine, Founders of Michigan, and upwards of 200 other breweries.
After graduating from Paul Smith’s College in New York, Gardner worked at McNeill’s Brewery for a few years, becoming Ray McNeill’s first assistant brewer.
After that he sold ads for a while for the brewspaper Yankee Brew News. During that stint, McNeill asked Gardner, also a woodworker and cabinetmaker, to fashion some tap handles for the brewery.
He then used $35 to get some business cards printed up at Lotus Graphics (“Tap Handles by Jason Gardner”), handing them out while on the road selling ads.
“It just grew from there,” said Gardner.