Richmond Designer Tom Brickman on the Craft of Making Ardent’s Tap Handles


It takes more than 85 different steps to make one Ardent Craft Ale beer tap handle.

“I made a bunch of different prototypes for them,” designer and fabricator Tom Brickman says. Once the decision-making process was over, the final design turned out to be extremely labor-intensive.

“They’re made of maple on the sides, bamboo in the middle, and they’re tapered on all four sides,” Brickman says. The Ardent rosette is inset and is silkscreened twice — and the Ardent brand is silkscreened twice on the sides well. Each handle also has a slot so that the names of the different varieties of beer can be inserted and switched.

In other words, there’s a lot of precision cutting, gluing, sanding and custom fitting going on.

“I was trying to keep the same feel as the interior of the pouring room of the brewery,” he says. “I wanted it to jibe with the space.”

He went into it with his eyes open — after all, he came up with the complicated design. To streamline the process, he arranged an assembly line and fabricated 200 handles at the same time.

“It’s pretty intense,” Brickman says, “but I wouldn’t want to leave any one of those steps out or it would just be a different thing.”