Tavern Trove: Breweriana Glossary

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Breweriana Glossary




Back Bar Sign:
Back Bar Signs are pretty self-explanatory.  They are signs that hung or sat behind the counter of a bar.  Signs from the 1930s-60s were made of chalk, wood, metal, glass, Bakelite or similar materials.  They were quite graphic, made to get a drinker?s attention from a distance of 5-10 feet.  They are quite collectible today.

Bakelite      
Was developed around 1908 by American Chemist Leo Baekeland.  It was the first mass-marketed product in the plastics revolution of the 20th century.  It?s durability, versatility, and insulating properties made it perfect for use in telephones, radios and other electronic devices.  As prices came down, Bakelite began to be used in more decorative ways.  In the 1920s - 1940s it was used in items as diverse as coffins and jewelry.  In breweriana Bakelite was used in signs, trays and most commonly, ball style tap knobs.  Bakelite items are generally dark, as the resin itself is gray.  It is often colored in shades of brown, gray and black.  After WWII, a new generation of plastic was introduced to the civilian community.  These thermoplastics were lighter and far easier to mold and could be made in all colors. In the face of this competition, Bakelite became obsolete.

Ball Knob   
The gaudy tap handles of today are descendants of the modest ball knob of the 1930s. After the Repeal of Prohibition, new laws regulated the sale of beer.  One requirement was that tap handles had to have the names of the beer they were dispensing.  This was the birth of the tap knob.  Companies were quick to get into the tap knob market, yet what they produced was remarkably uniform; a small stemmed ball about three inches tall.  So uniform were their products in fact, that it is often difficult to tell manufacturers apart.  The Ball knob lasted from 1933 to around 1955.

Billhead
Billheads were released to taverns as bills for kegs and bottles, and suppliers as receipts for brewing supplies.  Older, graphic billheads from small breweries are the most sought after.  Billheads from the 1930s and later can be valuable, but can be found more readily, sometimes in great quantity.
<p>Bottling Co. vs. Brewing Co.

Before the start of Prohibition, Brewers were required by law to have a separate bottling company.  From the casks, the beer would be put into kegs.  The kegs would be trucked to their bottling department, sometimes just across the street, and emptied into bottles.  Large brewers would ship kegs - some times great distances - to bottlers who would then distribute the bottles to local taverns.  In some cases the bottler was owned by the brewery.  In other cases the bottler was a private contractor who may have bottled beer for many brewers.  To confuse matters more, some bottlers contracted their own beer (Jos. Gahm & Sons, of Boston being among the most prolific) and most bottlers of this era made their own soda pop.  This all contributes to a confusing mess when it comes to identifying old bottles and letterhead. 

Breweriana  
Breweriana is all collectible items having to do with beer. 

Catalin       
Catalin was introduced in th