It takes effort to become a Tapper at Het Walhalla

Visiting the student bar of study association Thor

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It takes effort to become a Tapper at Het Walhalla

Their white shirts, their flair for creating a party atmosphere, and their very special beer glasses, these are the hallmarks of the Tappers at Het Walhalla, the student bar run by study association e.t.s.v. Thor, attached to Electrical Engineering and Automotive Technology. Every week they volunteer their services for free - and some have done so for years - to ensure a good time is had by other students in their department. This is no part-time job and Tapper status has to be worked for. A Tapper is born into a family of Tappers, a very large family that has been growing for more than 45 years.

Starting out with no more than a fridge in the basement of E-Hoog, it became a busy student bar in Flux with its own roof terrace. Unique among student watering holes, Het Walhalla is open five days a week, and has been since its founding almost fifty years ago. Even through the summer months, Het Walhalla remains open, sending those on its mailing list a daily invitation to come by. But it’s the Tapper’s Guild that sets this bar apart from all others. The Tappers at Het Walhalla don’t just give their time, they are invested in the bar, heart and soul.

The barstools are still stacked in a corner when Meeuwis van den Hoek, Roel Wijnands, Mike Zanderink, Jasper Beerentemfel and Norine Rijksen sit down at the large round table usually reserved for Thor board members. Four of the five are Tappers, and Van den Hoek, ‘born’ as a Tapper in 2017, has the honor of being the longest-serving Tapper. Rijksen, as føt (foetus or first-year novice), is still a trainee. The tappers jokingly say that - like any other føt - she will “never” be born a Tapper. “Every time I drop a glass, I hear shouts of ‘Wait another month!’” Het Walhalla website tells the same tale, that her Tapper’s initiation task will never happen.


This teasing is all part part of the deal, for the course when you are a ‘føt’. After all, it’s not easy to become a Tapper. Before you can wear the white shirt and drink from a special Tapper’s glass, there are hurdles to be crossed. The process starts with enrolment, which is open to complete strangers to Het Walhalla, provided they are studying at Electrical Engineering or Automotive Technology, as Beerentemfel knows. He enrolled as a total unknown three years ago. “All we knew was that he was ‘the guy from the Spar’,” explains Wijnands, then Walhalla’s commissioner. “He was such an unknown that I went there looking for him.” Beerentemfel was still living at home and knew no one in Eindhoven. He thought Het Walhalla would be “a bit of fun”. Now he’s behind the bar every Friday.

Anyone who enrolls is expected to go to the Tappers’ meeting and introduce themselves. “You show us who you are, and that you’re interested in Het Walhalla. Good jokes go down well, as does knowing the colors of the days,” says Zanderink (see the panel below, ed). Typically, by the end of the meeting about three people will be able to call themselves a føt for that year. These individuals then embark on nine months of Tapper training. They shadow a Tapper on different days of the week, learn the technical skills involved, like changing the kegs, and learn how to run an orderly bar.

Bar manager

And in a bar that’s run wholly by students, this management aspect is very important. “In a regular hospitality setting, you wouldn’t normally be running the bar straight away. But you are here. When you’re behind the bar, you’re also in charge of the bar,” says Rijksen. So Tappers need to be able to keep an eye on everything, and take action if anything untoward happens.

Social control

What distinguishes Het Walhalla from regular bars is the high degree of social control. “It’s an important thing for a student bar,” says Rijksen. “We’re not here to make a profit.” The students and university staff who come in for a drink are under the care of the Tappers, especially when they’re drinking a little too much. Zanderink: “Just recently, for example, I was here with a friend who’d had a bit too much to drink at the Intro. A Tapper came up to me and asked me to personally keep an eye on him. From then on, he was my responsibility, and if he’d misbehaved, I’d have had to answer for it.”

Wijnands recalls an instance when he spoke to two first-years about their drinking. “I thought they were downing their drinks too quickly, so I asked them if anything was the matter, whether maybe they’d gotten some exam results.” It proved a good guess: one student had passed the exam, the other hadn’t and was upset. “I offered some reassurance. It was the Calculus midterm, so not that critical. I suggested he slow down a little. Drowning your sorrows, I said, is not the solution. For the rest of the evening he drank cola.”


To learn how to deal with alcohol-related situations, all Tappers take the Verantwoord Alcoholschenken course on how to serve alcohol responsibly. “One of the things the IVA course teaches you is how to say no when someone is drunk,” says Rijksen. When a Tapper decides to stop serving someone alcohol because they are drunk, that person is ‘IVA’d’. “For the rest of the evening, we make sure he or she gets no more alcohol from us. If we see them with a beer, they’re asked to leave.” The Tappers have never needed to take this step twice with the same person, Wijnands realizes. “It sticks in people’s memories. They’ll ask, ‘You aren’t going to get IVA’d again, are you?’” So the bar staff aren't alone in exercising social control.

With a new campus-wide alcohol policy in the offing, Het Walhalla is taking its aftercare of heavy drinkers one step further. “We ask Confidential Contact Persons (CCP) to get involved. We don’t just IVA someone, we also schedule a chat for them with CCP,” says Rijksen. “The counselor asks what made them drink too much, whether there’s a reason behind it.” This way, if there’s an underlying problem, it can be addressed, instead of things going no further than our intervention in the bar, Zanderink adds.

It takes almost a full academic year to become a Tapper. During this period a føt shadows a Walhalla bartender on various days in the week. Every now and then, a fellow Tapper hides the bell that hangs beside the bar, which customers use to order a round. The aspiring Tapper must first realize that the bell has gone, then find out who has it hidden about their person. Then in return for a ‘forfeit’, the bell can be won back. As Rijksen explains: “A while back, for instance, I did impersonations of all the guild members, and the bar staff had to guess who each one was. You can also plant someone in Het Walhalla and have the blindfolded føt look for them, things like that.”

Anyone who manages to survive the months of training and teasing is set a Tapper’s initiation task. Normally, this involves organizing a themed party, including the promotion and entertainment. During Corona, the party was replaced with a day of separate tasks on a theme. Beerentemfel was given a theme inspired by Bob the Builder (‘Can we vomit?’). “I was wearing a construction worker’s hard hat, with two cans of beer attached to it. And I got a construction worker to let me sit on his digger.” Zanderink had to organize something on the theme of ‘Farmer Geert and the Quest for Emission Rights in the Achterhoek’. “I got hold of a kid’s pedal tractor and some banners. I had to go and demonstrate outside city hall.” He’s keen to emphasize that at the time the farmers’ protest was still small potatoes.


A novel Tapper’s task is deemed successful if enough people come to the party and have a good time. The decor and entertainment are also important. At the end of the party, the føt’s polo shirt is torn from their body, and in return they are given a white shirt, making them officially a Tapper. At the same time, the student is granted the privileges associated with being a Tapper, albeit diminished by their lack of seniority. So, for example, all the Tappers are allowed to drink from what is known as a ‘stiefel’, a glass shaped like a boot. But there are only six of these glasses. If another Tapper joins in, the most recently appointed Tapper must give up their glass.

So what defines a Walhalla Tapper? “Study delay,” jokes Van den Hoek. Then, more seriously: “It’s a vertical friendship group. There’s seven years between me and Norine.” Rijksen says the guild is a huge source of information. “Everyone is genuinely interested in everything to do with the bar. Together, we all keep the bar running.” Beerentemfel agrees. “We even polish everything ourselves; just recently we took up the entire floor.”

It’s simple, says Wijnands. “We’re just a group of friends who are very fond of Het Walhalla. Which means wanting to give everyone a good, sociable time, wanting everyone to feel good. And we want to have a good time ourselves. Staffing the bar and being part of the guild, for me it’s all super cool.” Although, as Beerentemfel admits, the Tappers don’t actually like ‘pulling pints’. “There you are, just starting to sink a beer, when customers walk in and you have to get to work.”

Different every day

At Het Walhalla the days of the week each have their own color, their own ambiance, and even their own drinks that can only be ordered on that particular day. Every Tapper thinks that his or her day is the best day, and it is traditional for them all to trash-talk the other days of the week. As there are no Thursday Tappers present during the interview, the waistcoats they wear, the way they address each other by their surname, and the color of their day, which “really isn’t blood red but bubble-gum pink”, all get a belly laugh.


Color: sky blue

Mondays revolve around ‘the Monday crate’ and a special sign hangs in the window announcing it. The Tappers choose a craft beer that is really special, Rijksen explains. “A crate of it goes in the fridge.” So on Mondays the bar is often full of craft beer fans, says Van den Hoek. “People app ahead of time to ask which beer it is. At four thirty everyone is seated, ready for the crate.” The Tappers themselves drink in a special way on a Monday: in sync. They all drink the same beer, and the first Tapper to empty their glass gets to choose the next one. Anyone who lags behind soon has a row of beers waiting for them.


Color: paradise minty green

On Tuesdays people come specially for the cocktails, Van den Hoek tells us. “As well as having the regular cocktails, every month we choose a special one. We also have a Hawaiian theme, and our new shirt has been designed to match.” Zanderink, who also tends bar Tuesdays, pulls out his cellphone. “Look, by chance the design was finalized today.” The Tuesday Tappers really like making liqueurs, and hold tasting events among themselves.


Color: sunset reddish orange / autumn leaf orangey gold

On Wednesdays a lot of people drink meters of beer, Wijnands says. “And we have Jup d’Orange, our special drink. That’s Jupiler with Bacardi and orange juice. You may well look disgusted, but people who pull a face like that usually order a second once they’ve tasted it.” Wednesday is the day that Fontys’ students often drop by.


Color: blood red / bubble-gum pink

For students, Thursday is a day for going out, and so this is the busiest day in Het Walhalla, Van den Hoek explains. “The Tappers have to be able to pull one glass of beer after the next, sometimes keeping the tap working nonstop all evening.” Zanderink says he thinks the Thursday Tappers are the most student-like.


Color: autumn leaf orangey red / disco

Friday is “shirt not tucked into pants” day, and during exam weeks it’s “sweatpants Friday,” says Beerentemfel. “A lot of former members and workers (university staff, ed.) drop in on a Friday. You shoot the breeze with them.” Sometimes people come in who used to pull pints at Het Walhalla twenty years ago, Wijnands says. “It’s fun to hear their stories. They say: a lot’s changed in Het Walhalla, but nothing’s really changed.”

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