The History of Beer Towers (Beer Giraffes)

The History of Beer Towers (Beer Giraffes)

No one actually knows this for sure but we can speculate, human beings have been brewing beer for between 10,000 to 25,000 years and we do know that the first beer brewers, the Babylonians, brewed their beer in clay vases.  And we also know that they poured the beer out of the top of the vase as the sediment settled at the bottom, so this is not where the story starts. We also know that any liquid needs to be kept in a controlled environment i.e. in a cup or container. So by this we can deduce that liquid containers have been around since the dawn of the human being.

Now it becomes interesting, let me ask the question, what changes a beer container into a beer tower/dispenser?

The tap (valve).

Now all we need to do is find out when the tap/valve was invented, basic corkscrew tap/valve not just the engineering marvels of today.

The very first taps/valves where invented by the Egyptians and Greeks but these were in no way small enough to fit on the end on a beer tower/dispenser. They were very large and made of brass and where used throughout the Mediterranean for thousands of years.

Fast forward to 1705 and this is where the modern valve/tap was invented, during the industrial revolution, by a man named Thomas Newcomen. Thomas Newcomen was the man who invented the first steam engine and he needed small enough valves to regulate steam pressure.

From this step, many years later, people started using these amazing smaller taps on everything they could, of which one of them was a wine barrel. This was great news as the flow of the wine could now be regulated and not controlled by just one big cork plugging in and out the hole. While this was catching on internationally, in the early 20th century, the beer brewers realize that this is possibly the best thing since the invention of beer itself. Beer and cider could now be served in a bar tapped straight from the barrel with no mess no loss and no fuss. These were the first ever beer/cider dispensers, soon to become the beer towers we all know.Richard Spikes invented and patented the first beer tap in 1910, the patent was later purchased by the Milwaukee Brewing Company. The UK, the last to change over, only started using taps for beer barrels in the 1950s.

The ancestor to the beer tower as we know it today was called a portable keg tap or a picnic tap. As this device was often used at picnics or outdoor events. They were much larger than beer towers we have today and worked by pumping air into the container manually and allowing the pressure inside the container build up and force the beer out the tap. There were also lager and root beer barrels that stood upright and allowed gravity to force the beer out the tap, much like our modern day system.

From this we now know that the modern beer dispensers where initially invented around 1910 and have evolved from wooden barrels to ceramic beer dispensers and now recently into plastic injection and extrusion dispensers in all different shapes and sizes, hope you have all enjoyed the journey through time investigating the mystery of the origin of modern beer towers/dispensers. Check out pictures of some of the models we found at markets:

 

 

 

References:

http://www.ifood.tv/network/beer_tap   (24 april 2014)

http://www.valvias.com/history.php    (24 april 2014)

http://www.cublea.net/beer/history/prehistory.html    (24 april 2014)

http://www.canadianpickers.com/appraisals/hires-root-beer-dispenser    (24 april 2014)

Author

I am the co-owner and director of TheBeerGiraffe, a company manufacturing beer towers. When I tell people that I manufacture and distribute "beer giraffes" as a living I tend to receive more attention from the guys than the girls. Didn't I choose the wrong industry...?

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