PAUL FICHTER DOESN’T brew beer. He doesn’t grow hops or barley. And he has never made one of those ads lousy with cleavage. But that doesn’t mean his product isn’t essential to spreading beer and good cheer. Over the past nine years Fichter’s Renton-based Taphandles has evolved from one man (Fichter) hand-sawing and hand-painting tap handles for home brewers into the nation’s largest producer of custom beer dispensers. The company, which will move its offices to Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle this summer, is set to make almost half a million levers in 2008, totaling $6 million in sales.
Yet Fichter still clings to his artisan roots. His favorite levers are those designed for smaller brewers. He’s inordinately fond of the Pimp Cane, a gold-plated Dogfish Head Beer lever studded with fake jewels and a sinister shark encased in a snow globe.
When the Seattle Met Bar Hop Squad begged for a handle of our own, Fichter’s team dreamed up a design within hours (left). We love our Met Tap, but we wish we’d held out. After we chatted, Fichter hopped a plane—bound for a manufacturing plant in China to explore options for decking levers with flashing lights.