Opening Act: Prying Into the History of Bottle Openers
INNOVATIVE OPENERS: Modern-Day Designs, From Haute to Handmade
Producer: Monopol (Germany)
Highlight: Hermetically reseals an open bottle.
Specifics: The Hermetus Opener and Sealer—in addition to handling both standard and twist-off caps—has chrome prongs and a rubberized gasket along its underside that allow it to be slipped over the top of an open bottle, creating an airtight seal. Helps maintain carbonation, though using it as a bottle re-sealer does render it somewhat less useful as an actual opener.
Provenance: Though lacking the rubber-gasket snazziness, Martin Trollen’s “Combined Bottle Cap and Opener” design patent from 1936 was perhaps 80 years ahead of its time. It didn’t have a twist-off-cap remover either, because people had hands back then.
See Also: Other openers + Beer Savers bottle caps, Rabbit Wine & Champagne Sealer
Producer: Anzen Markets (Seattle, WA)
Highlights: Can-shaped design, nontraditional movement, minimized cap-crimping?
Specifics: Founder and president Paul Cifka was fascinated by a similarly designed opener he’d encountered in Japan. The cylinder is pushed directly down onto a sealed bottle, a lever pops out from the downward pressure, and a magnet keeps the freed cap from rolling away.
Provenance: Possibly ninjas.
See Also: Alessi’s mirror-polished Pop-Up Bottle Opener, Brookstone’s Easy-Open
Producer: BBbarfly Inc. (Ontario, Canada)
Highlights: Butterfly-knife design sans knife, “flair beer-tending.”
Specifics: It’s based on the butterfly knife, or balisong, which allows users to unsheathe it one-handed, requiring only a flick of the wrist. BBbarfly’s website offers trick tutorials for moves like “Skull & Bones,” “Chopsticks” and the “Transformer.” (Try not to break anything.)
Provenance: The Philippines or 18th-ish-century France, depending upon whom you ask.
See Also: Bottlefly Knife, Lagunitas’ Butterfly Bottle Opener and advanced-training videos
Producer: Beer Stick Bottle Opening Co. (Denver, CO)
Highlights: Simplicity, heavy-duty construction
Specifics: Thick, 8-inch wooden handle + metal bit + leather strap = a reliable opener that doubles as home protection. Company’s philosophic stance: “If counter tops were supposed to open beer, they would have called them bottle openers.”
Provenance: Simpler times.
See Also: Areaware Bottle Opener (similar premise, plus two magnets: one for catching caps, one for fridge adherence); alternately, the Art of Manliness site has detailed DIY instructions.
Producer: GrOpener (Denver, CO)
Highlights: One-handed opener, slightly unfortunate name.
Specifics: This patent-pending “grab opener” is arguably one of the more elegant designs out there: It has a circle for one’s index finger, a front notch lets the middle finger balance things, and one simply reaches the opener over a bottle while catching its cap with the back hook. A firm trigger motion pops the cap off.
Provenance: Inspired by a leverage approach that the GrOpener’s inventor, Mark Manger, saw while doing Peace Corps work in Ghana. Launched in 2012 through Indiegogo fundraising.
See Also: Rush3’s Kebo (inspired by Theodore Low’s 1939 patent), EZ Botop from Belgium.
Producer: The BROpener Bottle Opener (San Francisco, CA)
Highlights: Minimalist design, magnetic personality.
Specifics: The BROpener (also patent pending) takes a notable approach: It’s basically a hard, thin square of anodized aluminum. Its strong 3M adhesive attaches it to most surfaces, and bottles are opened by resting each cap against the BROpener’s ledge and pounding with a closed fist. Less mechanical advantage—but more fun. Its rare-earth magnet snags the cap.
See Also: Metal workbench edges, the furniture of your enemies.
• Etsy.com sellers hammeronsteel (BMW Ironworks) and Wayfarer Forge offer a wide range of hand-forged iron openers, as do folks like Imperiale Forge (on Facebook).
• If you can imagine functionally combining anything with a bottle opener, it probably exists. Today, products with built-in openers cover everything from baseball caps to belt buckles, carabiners to crowbars, iPhone cases to USB flash drives.
• Last (but not least): Look to the past. Visit local flea markets, second-hand shops and eBay for antique openers offering a sense of locale and brewing history.
Ken Weaver is author of The Northern California Craft Beer Guide and editor of RateBeer Weekly. More at kenweaver.com.