Mark Hargarten starts with real fruit when designing his
beer tap prototypes.
Photo by Mark Justesen
CEDARBURG — When Mark Hargarten walks into a bar in
southeastern Wisconsin, or rather any bar that serves
Sprecher beer, he’s likely to see something familiar: a
tapper handle that was conceived, designed and crafted
in his own Cedarburg back yard, with his own hands.
artist, who founded Replica Masters full-service
mold-making, casting, design and sculpting facility in
1990, has been creating beer tappers for Sprecher for
about a decade. It was a job that all but fell into his
lap at a friend’s bonfire several years ago, where he
found himself talking with a stranger who turned out to
be Jeff Hamilton, then-vice president (now president) of
Sprecher Brewing Co.
was just a guy next to me that I started chatting with,”
recalled Hargarten. “We talked about what we both did,
and he said, well, do you ever make any tapper handles?
I had just made a few for a company up in Random Lake.
Jeff said, well, let’s put something together. I’ve been
their tapper handle guy ever since.”
Hargarten has created various designs of handles for
different Sprecher brews, many featuring the company’s
famous griffin logo, others customized for a specialty
real time and effort goes into coming up with the design
and original sculpture, he said. Usually, this first
sculpture will be made out of wood or clay, although for
designs that feature fruit (for Sprecher’s
fruit-flavored brews), he will often just use the real
thing. A rubber mold of the design is then made, cast
into polyurethane or resin, and hand-painted.
“You can get pretty snazzy and pretty eye-popping,” he
said. “That’s what I’ve been going for — something
bright and colorful that catches the eye.”
Hargarten has also done tapper handles for St. Francis
Brewery in St. Francis and Lithia Beer in West Bend. The
tappers are a perfect size to create in his shop,
located 50 feet behind his back door — in contrast to
the larger-scale architectural features he is sometimes
asked to make.
those, he’s worked with The Kubala Washatko Architects
on a number of projects, such as recreating vintage air
conditioner vents for St. Sebastian’s Church in
Wauwatosa. He’s also done work for the Danbury Mint
design house and the Milwaukee Public Museum.
particularly enjoyable collaboration in his career came
with Creative Confection Concepts, a candy-making
company employed by many famous Hollywood producers.
Replica Masters had a contract with the company to
create candy containers featuring licensed designs from
was during the time of ‘Jurassic Park’ and Jim Carrey’s
‘Pet Detective,’ and ‘Space Jam’ with Michael Jordan,”
he recalled. “I was creating all kinds of crazy candy
containers — ones that looked like Michael Jordan, or
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in the ‘Batman’
movies. It was a really fun time.”
always something different’
Hargarten has a degree in sculpture from the Milwaukee
Institute of Art and Design, and began his career
working at a fine arts foundry as an apprentice. He
later worked as a mold-maker at a polyurethane plant
before striking out on his own with Replica Masters.
doesn’t get boring — it’s always something different,”
he said of his job. “The creative process is what I
love. I’ve been trying to do my own artwork as well and
playing around with a lot of fun stuff there, and just
experimenting and trying new techniques.” Hargarten is
also a member of the Cedarburg Artists Guild and, in his
free time, enjoys snow sculpting, and will participate
in several events each winter.
“It’s fun because of the monumental scale we get to work
in, and the people you meet from all over the world,” he
as one who would be in a position to know, what does
Hargarten consider to be the most outstanding Sprecher
demurs from the question. “That’s a tough one, but
Sprecher makes many fine beers,” he said.
far as I’m concerned, they have the best!” he replied.
more information about Hargarten, go to