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The Beer Circle » Beer Facts » What is a “Church Key”? And why do we call it that?

What is a “Church Key”? And why do we call it that?

We craft beer enthusiasts certainly have a lot of drinking accessories.  We pride ourselves on the varieties of glassware that we collect for enjoying different types of beer, and collect brewery swag (coasters, beer coozies, and the like) at every single beer event.  But of the myriad of drinking accessories out there, there exists one that, without it, none of our craft beer enjoyment would be possible.

Meet the Churchkey!

Meet the church key!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the church key-type bottle opener.  Far more capable than the flimsy, cheap, pocket bottle openers (or bottle opener flip flops, if you so prefer), these things have some serious leverage for opening even the most firmly-capped of brews.  There are a number of theories surrounding how this enabler of our craft got its name, though there doesn’t seem to be one agreed-upon origin for the term.

The first and simplest explanation is that this beverage entry tool gained its name from its appearance.  It is very possible that the name caught on because the devices looked like large, simple keys – the kind that would open a similarly-large door, such as one found on a church.  Furthermore, others suggest that it may have served as a way of thumbing your nose at religious institutions that abhorred the idea of drinking, and served as proponents of Prohibition-era anti-drinking legislation.

Yet another theory is a bit more intricate, but still based in religious roots.  Much of brewing can trace its origins back to monastic circles.  As the monk-crafted beers aged, they had to be protected in locked lagering cellars.  The monks retained the keys to these cellars, which may have opened other doors in the monastery as well.

Several vintage church key-style openers.
(from www.just-for-openers.org)

So go forth, and open your next beer however you deem fit.  But ponder if you will the history behind your beverage-opening tool of choice.  Everything’s got a story.  In the meantime, what’s your preferred tool or method for opening your favorite brews?  The Beer Circle wants to know – and stay tuned for a future post to show off your beer-opening creativity!

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Written by Garrett Miller

Garrett brings a somewhat different perspective on beer to the table. While always thrilled to try any new, exotic brew that finds itself his way, Garrett finds that he's often quite satisfied with reliable, common craft choices. As such, Garrett is a fan of trying and reviewing these (admittedly less expensive) beers, and using them to introduce the exciting, flavorful world of craft beer to those not-yet-acquainted. Garrett’s favorite styles are IPAs and bourbon stouts, but won’t turn his nose up at anything. Find Garrett Miller on Google Plus

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