Sunday, April 28, 2013

In Praise of the Humble Churchkey

When I was a kid, beer came in a bottle or a steel can. Both vessels required a special opener to get to the beer. I clearly remember my pops calling those openers "churchkeys". As in "Where the f**k is that g-damned churchkey?!" Actually, he had them strategically planted all over the house--in his fishing tackle box, tied to the beer cooler, in the side pocket of his La-Z-Boy. If the old man was anything, it was prepared. God forbid my drunk uncles showed up at the house with a case of Schlitz and no way to get the cans opened. There would be fisticuffs for certain.

The churchkeys I remember were typically made of stamped metal with a can opener on one end and a bottle opener on the other. They all looked the same, except for a few that had a beer logo engraved on them. Mom had one in her kitchen, but that was STRICTLY reserved for opening cans of evaporated milk.

With the advent of the aluminum can and the pop-top, (I often wonder how many people still get the "stepped on a pop-top" reference in Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville) we saw less and less of those churchkeys around the house. When the screw-off bottlecap came into existence, those openers were relegated to back of the junk drawer. The only time a churchkey was needed was when somebody got all highfalutin and brought a six pack of some European import beer to the house--which wasn't very often. Pops had high suspicions about the sanitation standards in those "foreign" breweries.

Of course, everything old becomes new again. The craftbeer and homebrewing revolutions resulted in more and more beers bottled with old-fashioned, non-screw-off caps. I suppose because the equipment for bottling the old way is far cheaper and can be easily done by hand. Also, there's a certain cool factor involved. If the beer is worth drinking, it worth finding a way to get the bottle open. There's even a brewer out there canning beer in old-fashioned steel cans. Fittingly called Churchkey, six packs of the beer come with an old-fashioned opener. Their moto "it's worth the effort", pretty much tells the whole story.

The end result is that the old familiar churchkey has had a dramatic resurrection over the past few years. Not including those circus geeks who open bottles with their teeth, most of us beer geeks carry some kind of opener with us wherever we go. Mine is firmly attached to my keychain. (See on the top in photo above.) It's actually shaped like a key and waits covertly in my pocket until needed.

Bottle openers now come in a wide variety of cool shapes, sizes and designs. I have my eye on Mjolnir  from ThinkGeek. This Butterfly Knife Opener is pretty damn cool, too. (Dropping Father's Day hints like anvils.)

What do you use to open your beer bottles? Send me a message, or leave a comment. I'd like to know!

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