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We’re not sure how much there’s to say about Benjamin Lewis and his Raintraps beer handle umbrellas that we didn’t cover in the interview, so let’s just get right to it…
Where did this ridiculous idea come from? What was the first one you made?
I had the idea on a rainy day last summer. I had brought an umbrella with me when I left the house, but by the middle of the day the sun came out. I was still carrying the umbrella around, I looked down at my umbrella and thought, “Why can’t you be something cool?” At that point it struck me, it would be really awesome if the handle was a beer tap. The tap that immediately came to mind was Pretty Things [Ed. note: RIP]; it was such a stylish design I thought it would be perfect as an umbrella handle.
I made a couple of prototypes with taps from MGD and Wachusett when I was figuring out the design. The one that I used when I finally had a fully working umbrella design was a tap from Goose Island. I’ve always been a fan of their beer, and the tap is just so natural as an umbrella handle, a lot of people don’t even realize it’s a beer tap.
What’s with the basement in your videos? Have you been kidnapped?
I’m totally staying in my basement on my own free will. I can leave at any time. There aren’t people standing next to me right now forcing me to stay here. You definitely shouldn’t get help immediately. It’s just that it’s where I do most of my work. I have my hand tools and other equipment set up in the basement, so when I’m doing a quick video it’s just where all my gear is. I’m also just a guy making custom umbrellas, I’m cool with people knowing that I’m not working out of some fancy factory. I should note that I have the most amazing roommates that put up with all the work I do at home.
Where did you steal all of these tap handles from? Is there a bar somewhere in Boston where they can’t run their kegs?
I hear so many stories about people trying to steal tap handles. It’s like, if you’re draped across the bar yanking on a tap handle, do you think the bartender isn’t going to notice? I actually get most of my taps from other collectors or from auctions when bars go out of business. There are some collectors that have entire rooms where the walls are lined with rows of tap handles. I’ve also been lucky enough to partner up with some breweries; I’ll typically make some umbrellas for them and get some taps that I can offer to my customers. The first brewery I partnered with was Down the Road Brewing, and since that I’ve also worked with Shipyard Brewery in Portland and even made umbrellas for places like Noble Cider in North Carolina. With other breweries like Brooklyn Brewery or Downeast Cider I just buy the taps directly from the brewery when I get an order from a customer.
Are you much of a beer drinker yourself? What’s your favorite local microbrewery?
I’m a bit of a beer drinker. I definitely enjoy kicking back with a craft beer or keeping it simple with a High Life or Narragansett.
It’s hard to pick a single favorite local brewery, so I’ll give you three of the ones I love. Night Shift is great for their consistently fantastic beers, Down the Road keeps surprising me with unusual beers (did you try their pickle beer?), and I rather like the dark beers Lamplighter does and how easy it is to swing by their brewery.
Do you have any plans to make umbrellas out of bongs now that cannabis is legal?
No plans for bong umbrellas just yet. I have been trying to think of ways that I could do an umbrella pipe—just imagine an umbrella transforming into some crazy Gandalf pipe. On that note, I have come across a number of very appropriate tap handles like Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake.
Where can people find you and your products—both online and around here?
The quickest way to find my umbrellas, and other beer gifts, is on raintaps.com. Even if you don’t see the umbrella you’re looking for, you can always make a special request. People can also buy my umbrellas at D2 and Arlington Centered, as well as at partner breweries like Down the Road and Shipyard. To chat with me in person it’s best to swing by SOWA Open Market, I try to be there whenever there’s an open spot.