BEER BALL KNOBS
a/k/a Beer Tap Markers
THE EVOLUTION OF BEER TAP HANDLES
It took decades after Prohibition for the current beer tap handles, shown on the wallpaper of this page, to emerge. Before prohibition, brewers either owned taverns and saloons that served only their beer, or had arrangements with tavern owners to just sell their beer. Since there wasn't usually a choice of beers in a drinking establishment before Prohibition, there wasn't a need to have names on a spigot or beer tap before Prohibition. However, after Prohibition, establishments serving beer were able to serve beer from different brewers. To identify the draft beer that was being dispensed from a keg and assure customers they were obtaining the beer they wanted, there were regulations that required what was officially known as "beer tap markers" to be used. They made it necessary to have a tap marker of a certain size and ball like shape. Consequently, they were also called "beer ball knobs." Such knobs for Bavarian Brewing, as well as other markers, are presented below.
A Video of Cincinnati Area Beer Ball Knobs & Markers
To enlarge this video, please select the square in the lower right corner. The presentation will advance at your own pace by touching the space bar. To view a presentation of only Bavarian & Heidelberg markers, select here.
Much more information about these knobs and markers is provided in two publications by George Baley, "Beer Tap Markers" published in 2003 and "Beer Tap Markers Vol. 2" published in 2019. (For both, please see this link.) Each provides about 2,000 photos with price guides for all tap markers covered from the early 1930s into the mid-1960s. In addition, to view a presentation of the beer tap markers in the Cincinnati area, including Northern Kentucky and the Bavarian Brewery, please view the video above.
The earliest beer ball knobs were made of Baekelite, also referred to as Bakelite. This was the first plastic made from synthetic components and it was usually offered only in dark colors. It was developed by Leo Baekleand in 1907, and the name of this material is referred to after his name. It was revolutionary because it was an electrical nonconductor that was also heat resistant and well suited for electrical insulators. After some litigation was resolved, the Baekelite Corporation was formed around1920, however, some of Baeklite's patents expired in 1927. This allowed some other resins to be produced by other firms, such as Catalin Co. under the Prystal name, which provided more and brighter colors. Nevertheless, because of their similar qualities, these other resins are often associated with the name Baekelite. This material was used for the exteriors of radios and telephones by the 1930's, as well as for such diverse products as kitchenware, jewelry, toys, firearms and, of course, ball knobs.
Bavarian Ball Knob
c. 1935 - 1937. This is thought to be the first beer tap marker, or ball knob, used by Bavarian Brewing Co., possibly beginning around 1935. Since the use of Bavarian in italics, shown below, may not have appeared until around 1938. It appears that this knob preceded the other knobs shown below.
Bavarian Beer Knob c. 1938
c. Late 1930s to Early-1940s. These ball knobs with Bavarian in italics are believed to have been used shortly after the brewery emerged out of bankruptcy in late 1937 and before the Bavarian's Old Style Beer name became used in 1946. They are very similar, except they were made by different companies and the insert backgrounds had slightly different levels darkness.
Schott Select (Ale) & Bavarian Ball Knobs
Schott Select knob was for an ale named after the Schott Brothers, who operated the brewery beginning in 1938. Schott Select Ale was introduced in about 1940 and may have continued into the early 1950s.
The Bavarian Beer knob was probably used in the early or mid 1940s, just before the Old Style logo began in 1946, as shown on the knobs below.
Bavarian's Old Style Ball Knobs
c. 1946 - Mid 1950s. These Old Style Bakelite knobs began in 1946. It wasn't until this year that Bavarian's (with an apostrophe s) was also used. These knobs were used until probably the early 1950's. The most common of the three similar "Old Style" knobs are the first and third. The other knob in the center with different color variations is more unusual.