Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cider & Steel

If there's one thing that we are the Bottle Opener Review look forward to each Fall it is the scent of freshly chopped apples on a crisp breeze, while enjoying our perennial favorite beverage. We all know that there are innumerable ways to access that golden nectar, but sometimes it's the old-fashioned methods that work best. Our chosen opener for this autumn afternoon will be referred to as the "Keglined" opener, since that is its stated target. As we were to discover, though, it works just as well for beverages in other varieties of container.

Our particular Keglined opener claimed to be intended for opening Pabst Tapa (1) Cans. Since we've never been very good rule followers, we decided to instead test it out on some Wisconsin favorites; New Glarus Brewing's 
Staghorn Octoberfest beer and Moon Man pale ale.

(1) We are unsure of the provenance of these cans, but it did make us hungry for Spanish food.

New Glarus beer, being only available in Wisconsin, seemed an appropriate choice for a day of apple picking, chopping, and cidering; which is what we had in store for us on a sunny October morning. Staghorn and Moon Man are two of the best selections from their line-up, if you ask these two midwestern boys, and they did not disappoint. 

Moon Man, a hoppy vestige from a season ago, served us well in the sun. A warm reminder befit for an Indian summer. Yet, when the north wind blew and the sun slipped behind a cloud, your reviewers would turn up their collars and turn to the Staghorn, an Octoberfest beer meant to be sipped during these transitory times.

The Keglined opener proved to be as reliable as your grandpa's rocking chair, and probably as weathered, too. We're not sure the last time beer came in cans that required a dedicated tool, but this opener has been performing its job at least that long, and doesn't look to quit any time soon. 

We didn't have the opportunity to thoroughly test the Keglined, due to a lack of canned Pabst, but it worked exactly as well as you would expect when opening bottles, for a venerable classic such as this. 

The Keglined's design allowed us to open our beverages with thrift, threshing cap from bottle in a swift, economic movement befitting a day of cider production. Who has time to fiddle with their bottle caps when there are so many apples to process?

The Keglined liberated the beer from bottle the first time. Every time. This bottle opener was as old as Moses and twice as good at delivering its people to the promised land.

Worth its steel, the Keglined uncapped dozens of beers during Apple Cider Sunday, serving these seasonal workers through every stage of apple paring, chipping, pressing, and bottling. Tasks always made easier with a beer at hand.

As the day pressed on, friends arrived bearing apples from across two counties. Each apple variety contributed to the complex taste of the cider. Each newcomer contributed to the task at hand, relieving one from their post. Perhaps to open a new brew or check the score of the Green Bay Packer game.

Throughout a long day of work, the Keglined opener never let us down once. There's not much that can go wrong with a solid piece of stamped steel, and even the encroaching rust could not impede our bottle opening frenzy. This opener probably existed before we did, and will be passed on to further generations. The only flaw with it is that, unless cans that need openers come back into production, only half of the Keglined's purpose can be fulfilled. With that in mind, we feel that it has earned a decent 4 out of 6 bottle score. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

House Sitting

While on your next holiday away from home, won't you consider inviting the Bottle Opener Review to look after your place? We're good, clean boys with a penchant for filling your kitchen with delicious smells and recycling bins with empty glass bottles. While other, less honest, house-sitters might raid your pantry or liquor cabinet; we are after nothing of the sort. It's the contents of your kitchen drawers with which we are concerned. It's your churchkeys we're after.

So, may we advise that you prominently place your prized opener in plain sight? Even if you don't, we're enterprising lads and can usually ferret out the odd corkscrew, keychain, or otherwise make do. Such was the case on this excursion. We delved hands-first into the depths of kitchen drawers, tossing serving instruments and cutlery to the wind, seeking out the key to our libation salvation.

As fate would have it, we were in luck - with a bit of elbow grease we were able to unearth a true classic; a vintage can opener, with bottle opener prong as a designers afterthought. Swing-A-Way by name, and cherry red handled, our companion for the evening seemed like it would fit the bill.

Our communion began with that rich, majestic brew they call Rush River Nevermore Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Nevermore is the perfect compliment to a snowy Wisconsin evening spent at a friend's residence, and our opener provided us with it in a speedy fashion.

When you can open your beer this easily, why not have another?

Considering the difficulties we've faced with previous openers, the Swing-A-Way uncapped our libations expediently in two different maneuvers. The traditional forehand method is a graceful way to open your bottle, while the radical backhand approach adds a little more excitement to cocktail hour.

Using this opener was like reciting a well-known hymn - after all, who among us hasn't used one at some point in their life? For a little slice of Americana like the Swing-A-Way, we'd have to give it the average American household score of 2.55.

But the question still remained - what might we buffer these beverages with? Well, we eat food besides pizza, right? Checking... wait, we might only eat pizza. However, please credit us for experimenting with different kinds of pizza. Before, we've shared our When the Cubs Win the Pennant pizza, topped with sauerkraut, pineapple, pepper, and barbeque sauce. Craziness.

Now, we are unveiling a saner pizza with less energy devoted to the toppings and more devoted to the crust. Tonight, we dabbled with the Chicago-style pizza - with flaky, buttery crust made hours earlier. (1)

If you want Chicago-style pizza, then you go to Chicago. But, we implore you to cut down on your travel time and try making this pizza at home instead. Heck, you can spend the extra time sampling bottle openers.

(1) You can find the recipe here.

Our Chicago-style pizza is both decadent and filling. A few pieces combined with the Nevermore Oatmeal Stout and a rolling fireplace had our reflexes slowed and our wits addled. Thankfully, the Swing-A-Way opener is easy to yield. It forgave our cabin-cozy, slothful selves and dispatched the top of our Green Flash Brewing Co. West Coast IPA with ease.

The zesty brew ignited our spirits, sending us out into the frigid night to gaze at all the stars of Downsville. And, like good house sitters, we walked the property line to ensure no riff-raff we stealing into the outbuildings. We doubly inspected the greenhouse.

So, let us look after your house, will ya? Your Reviewers will take good care of your kitchen, your recycling, and of course, whichever churchkey we find first.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cast Iron

After the extended holiday season, we are are left to pick up the scraps of wrapping paper and cookie crumbs, take down festive decorations, and settle in to the new year with the help of gifts we received from friends and family. Today we would like to share with you our thoughts on a few of those gifts. 

Appropriately enough, three of them happen to be a perfect match  for your faithful authors, and this blog. First up is a bottle opener that we will refer to simply as "the pliers bottle opener." Cast from iron in a facsimile of a pair of pliers, it is neither pliers, nor bottle opener, as we quickly discovered. Our initial attempts were to try to open another gift from the season, a bottle of home-brew from a friend named Jeremy (who runs St. Paul Pet Supply), and were swiftly thwarted by the pliers. While it has the trappings of a serious beer tool, it seems to have been crafted by a group of teetotaling blacksmiths, or perhaps an industrious chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Try as we might to remove the completely ordinary, standard-sized bottle cap from our much anticipated brew, we were unable to do so with the obvious mechanism. Being the resourceful fellows that we are, we experimented with various "alternative methods," using the many potential angles and openings available. (1)

(1) We did, however, apply the rule that we would not utilize the classic "lighter-trick" style of opening, since nearly any object can be successful with that method.

Eventually we were able to beat the cap into submission, and it resigned its duty as protector of the golden nectar - but not without a fight.  Despite the struggle to gain access to the brew, it was worth the fight. Being unlabeled and home-brewed, we weren't sure what to expect to pour out of that bomber, but were pleasantly surprised to find a lovely belgian ale. Heavy with bubble-gum overtones and well balanced hops, you couldn't ask for a better reward.

Having successfully retrieved our beverage, the next step of the plan was to utilize the third gift in question - a shiny new Lodge cast iron grill-pan. The natural choice of meals to break it in with was smoked-swiss, basil, kalamata and mushroom paninis. After that combo, we were forced to ask ourselves, "Why would anyone make a sandwich that wasn't a panini?"

Most bottle-opener review blogs would be content to end there. Not us, good reader, not us. We would not be satisfied until we had a fully working bottle opener in our hands. As luck would have it, we had a set of files at the ready, and the willpower to make this opener work.
After several minutes of filing, checking, and repeating we seemed to be getting close. The rasp of the files only made us thirstier, and we became anxious to utilize the pliers on our next round. (2)

(2) We would not be deterred by the taste of iron filings in our beer, either. 

Finally, we were able to use the pliers opener for its intended purpose, and it did a surprisingly good job! Even though we were able to redeem this opener, and transform it into a decent tool, our professional ethics dictate that we score it on its original form. Based on our rigorous testing and our complex (and secretive) rubrik for scoring openers, we give the pliers opener a resounding
0 out of 6 bottle score.
Even though it was initially inept at removing caps, with a little bit of work, the pliers is a solid addition to the Bottle Opener Review's arsenal, not to mention the fact that it is visually appealing and solidly constructed. It will serve us well for years to come.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Your humble reviewers would like to take a moment to give a big cheers to the end of the 2012 Election season. Any reason to utilize our favorite tool is a good reason!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The dark alleyways of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Exhibit A : The defendants in question
Rarely does such a well matched set of items meet under the watchful eyes of our writers, but on occasion fate smiles upon us, and today's review provided just that sort of opportunity; the Wolski's branded "Milwaukee" cast brass bottle opener, and a six-pack of Milwaukee Brewing Company's Polish Moon milk stout. The only thing left to add was some entertainment.

The Milwaukee opener is a grossly oversized and ominously heavy utensil, and looks every inch the brawler that its name implies. What is the reasoning behind this design, you might ask? Perhaps it has to do with the over six thousand violent crimes committed in Milwaukee every year. The Polish Moon milk-stout is definitely potent enough to fuel such violent behavior, and the Milwaukee opener there to spark the flame. (1)

(1) For the record, this blog, nor its reviewers endorse any form of violent action, nor do we believe delicious craft beer to be the cause of said violence.

With the 5 pounds (2) of brass in hand, and a fully capped six pack of beer at the ready, we cased our location, and began preparing for an uncharacteristically lighthearted round of Kubb.(3) The Milwaukee opener made quick work of the puny steel caps separating us from the midnight black and honey thick stash of milk-stout. It's going to be hard to put this opener away because putting this beer away in our bellies was so easy. The sounds of the Kubb lumber colliding might just have well been the clamor of chairs striking skulls in a bar fight, but there was no substitute for the creamy, bitter and ever so slightly sweet flavor of that brew.

(2) In lieu of actually having a scale, we used our editorial judgement to estimate the weight of this opener.

(3) Needless to say, we felt immeasurably safer with the Milwaukee in hand, and any passing thugs or ruffians who had thought to shake us down must have beat a hasty retreat after catching its menacing glint.

As for the question we're sure is on everyone's mind - the Milwaukee does indeed open bottles. As it is easily large enough to act as a replacement axle for your getaway car or a crowbar in a pinch, you can imagine that there is no lack of leverage when opening a beer. Aesthetically speaking, it is a sight to behold, recalling the glorious days of American industry - memories almost forgotten under layers of barroom sawdust. We were as tempted to mount it on the wall as we were to use it to open beer.

The Milwaukee opener stays true to its roots, and much like the blue-collar workers that crafted it, it does its nine-to-five as a bottle opener, but without making a big fuss of it. It might not open a bottle in a hurry, but it'll get the job done one way or another. For that, we give it a middle-of-the-road 3 out of 6 bottle score.
However, when dusk falls and ne'er-do-wells abound, the Milwaukee truly shines, providing much needed intimidation, and the muscle to back up that threat. So, as a blunt-object or brass-knuckles stand-in, we give it a solid 6 out of 6 score.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

B.O.R. Abroad (Nederlands): Brouwerij't IJ

Should you find yourself in Amsterdam, congratulate yourself with kaas, bier, and many pats on your back. Indeed, that's what the Bottle Opener Review does when on holiday. While the Netherlands may not strike you as a bottle opener / beer destination (1), the international city, canal-crossed countryside, and maritime culture inspired the consumption of more than a few adult beverages.

(1) Belgium has the best beer and Germany the best beer culture, but guess what lower-than-sealevel country touches them both!

While Dutch beer might be synonymous with Heineken, we casually skipped their tour, floated down the canal, and docked ourselves at the Brouwerij't IJ, shadowed by the De Gooier windmill in Amsterdam. This brewery holds all the appeal of a micro establishment with its rotating small-batch taps, clean design, surly bartenders, and oh-so scrumptious cheese / beer combinations. Not only could you sample their beer on tap, you could buy any combination of their suds in bottle form - the form we like best!

They of course offer tours: in Dutch at 2PM, English at 3PM, and never in French, as a sign on the wall proudly proclaimed. But we didn't need a tour as much as we needed 12 beer samples and 1 bowl of stinky cheese.

Our flight, from lightest to darkest, included the Plzen blond, IJ Bok, Natte double, Struis organic, and Columbus double IPA. These beers proved to be a hit for our crew's varying tastes and having two flights meant we could trade beers like fisherman trade tall tales(2). And, the alcohol content of these brews rose steeply into the 8-9% range after the first draft (3). Not surprisingly, the memories of the rest of the afternoon remain cloudy.

(2) Which is freely. 
(3) Making "beer for lunch" the best idea we've had while in the Netherlands! Our plea for startchy salvation at the brewpub went unanswered and we careened home like a landed crew on leave.

2 flights of beer and stinky muenster with celery salt.