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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tip, Tap, Tow: Pedal Tour of MN Breweries

Occasionally, we take a break from our fascination with bottle openers in order to hit the streets and meet the brewmasters where the pedalist meets the road. This week we will recap a recent excursion into the streets of Minneapolis, on a search for beers, atop our bikes, and equipped with local booty. And, ironically enough, not a single bottle opener was required.

A bike parked outside Harriet Brewing proudly bears 2 St. Valentine's Day Hustle spoke cards - Bomb City, represented.
Our destinations for the day included fabled Flat Earth Brewery, scenic Harriet Brewing, the mighty Fulton Brewery, and Indeed Brewing Company (Indeed). 

West Side Belgium-Style IPA, Harriet Brewing.
Why did we choose these four breweries? Because they offer Free Saturday Tours, obviously (1).

Cruisin' from Northeast Minneapolis to St. Paul, we arrived 40 minutes late to Flat Earth Brewery. As we had been required to book a tour spot, we figured we had missed the boat. Not so! The boat was still at the dock, bobbing leisurely, its' captain telling us that everyone was free to scour the decks and sample the cargo until 7 PM that night; making the Flat Earth Brewery tour an official 9 hour event for those who could keep their sealegs that long... we welcome the stories of any that do.

(1) Our Sakajawea of SudsAnusha, planned the tour and led us along like pioneers seeking the calming shores of each brewery by direct and practical bike route.

Local lady/picnic lunch at Harriet Brewery.
Our Indian(2)-by-way-of-New-Jersey guide next led us north along the Mississippi until we reached Harriet Brewing in South Minneapolis.

Harriet provided us with the proverbial shelter from the storm. While sipping tasty twists on Belgian style beers, we partook in our rations (imported from Wisconsin, of course), and dodged the harsh rays of the sun under the conveniently placed umbrellas. While the selection is small, Harriet brews up some delightful beer, and the outdoor seating - complete with Hammerschlagen stations - is a must for any voyage. Plan a stop there on a fair day, and you won't be disappointed.

(2) Continent.
At last, a stop where we enjoy the same view as our parked bikes.

The next hop was downtown to Fulton Brewery, albeit a brief one. (3) Suffice it to say that we don't envy the brave barmen and barmaids that draw the short straw to work shifts before the mighty Minnesota Twins display their prowess at nearby Metrodome Stadium.

(3) The beers were delicious but the crowds rowdy, too much so for these weary sailors to stay in port for long.

The Midnight Ryder atop a table carved with names from antiquity.
The capstone to our travels around the fair city of lakes was at what could only be described as a sight for sore eyes and tender calf muscles - otherwise known as Indeed Brewing Company. The beverage selection was a modest 3 taps - but emboldened with 2 casked, dry hopped varieties. As luck would have it, we also had the good fortune to encounter a wandering sea-gypsy food-caravan (know to the layman as a food truck), with which to re-supply rations - both vegetarian and otherwise. While being beguiled by the house ales and lulled by the gentle sounds of trains rolling past, we sunk into the comfortable chairs and rich antique wood environment of the taproom. It was enough to make any seafaring band consider calling home. Who knows? Maybe next time we might not escape the siren call of hops, well restored architecture, and fresh tattoo ink.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Stealth Opener

Gather 'round, friends - I'd like to introduce you to a new tool in the Review's arsenal of bottle liberating devices, what we like to call the "stealth" opener. When consuming your favorite bottled beverage outside of your home or local establishment, there are often many impediments you might encounter; such as the prying eyes of law enforcement or misguided citizens. To help alleviate these problems, the fine folks at Vaughan U.S.A. have developed a technologically advanced new (circa 1950) tool - the "Quad Fold."

What is the Quad-fold, you might ask? It is the worlds first folding bottle opener, with dual bottle cap and can-punch implements. It ingeniously folds at the middle, converting to a compact and inconspicuous "stealth" mode. Where are the other three folds referred to in the name? Well, they are too subtle for even us two well-trained and seasoned bottle opening veterans to discern. (1)

(1) Bonus shout-out to any reader that can find them hiding in there somewhere.
Two pieces, two tools, one hinge - four folds? You do the math. 

Being the intrepid reviewers we are, we decided to put the "Quad Fold" to the test in some real-world situations. The natural choice for this was to bring our own refreshments to the budget theater, and try out this opener's mettle, while using the sounds of explosions and gunfire to mask our mischief. The feature film chosen was Joss Whedon's The Avengers.

"There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could..." Or perhaps open the bottles we never could? Our night at the budget theater would have been incomplete were it not for the Quad-fold. It was our gateway into another universe of movie-watching experience: one that included Dave's BrewFarm Matacabras Ale.

"His secrets have secrets." And our stealth opener ushered us through the one hundred forty odd minutes of opulent action scenes and quip-cracking one-liners with the clandestine touch that only a folding bottle opener could make. This whisper-quiet opener was essential for keeping up with Joss Whedon's Gatling gun dialogue and gliding camera work.

"You put those people together, you can't expect what's going to happen..." Despite the Quad-fold's power to open beers discretely, it could not account for your humble reviewer's hulkish feet kicking over empty bottles, sending them clattering underneath two rows of seats. So much for secrecy.

The "Quad Fold" performed even better than expected, easily dispatching four bottles in quick succession, with only the dim light of a cheap projector to guide it. It folds up and fits perfectly in the change pocket of a pair of jeans, and no-one but us was any wiser to the action taking place off-screen - although this might have more to do with the ineptitude of the movie theater staff than our stealthiness.

Despite its misleading title, and obvious age, the "Quad Fold" is a worthy companion on any excursion. The cap removal is swift due to the extended leverage provided when you unfold it, and it has the additional advantage of having a can-punch, in case vintage flat-top cans start to make a come-back to appease the hipster market-share. All-in-all, we give it a resounding 5 out of 6 bottle score.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Kingdom of Norway

For today's Review, we will be taking a (metaphorical) trip to the Kingdom of Norway.
This bottle opener was a gift from Courtney's mother, and it's origin, brand, and other identifying information are all unknown. All we do know about it is that it has what appears to be a bone (perhaps whale bone?) or horn handle, inscribed with the word Norge (Norwegian for Norway), and decorated with an idyllic scene of a small hut against the backdrop of a misty mountain.

Opener in action
What we lack in history for this tool, we make up for with first-hand experience. This opener has a pleasant heft and using it conjures visions of salty seawater spraying across the bow of some old wooden fishing vessel as we wield the only tool available to us against the impending storm - a hearty brew.

While on the face of things, it may seem that this is merely a novelty souvenir, or tourist trap fare, we choose to believe that this is an ancient heirloom - passed down from generation to generation of broad-shouldered viking descendants, perhaps from Harald Fairhair himself.

But we digress. The important thing about this tool is that it opens bottles! Perhaps not so spectacularly as our description so far might lead you to believe, but nonetheless well enough to dispatch our beers for the evening; Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial Pale Ale, Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout, and Rogue John John Ale. An eclectic bunch, if we've ever seen one.

Beers of the night

To accompany our historic opener, and the assemblage of beers we used to test it, we crafted a decidedly un-vikinglike meal of sauerkraut, pineapple, peppers and barbecue sauce pizza AKA When the Cubs Win the Pennant Pizza (1).

(1) The toppings of this pizza were inspired by a trip to Cubby's Bar in downtown Downsville, WI where the owner makes pizzas behind the bar and freely recommends a sauerkraut, pineapple, and bacon pizza. We left out the bacon, but kept the craziness - hence the name. 

The resulting pizza was smoother than a Whitest Boy Alive lick, (2) and lick our fingers we did. Let's start from the top: red onions, pineapple, and pickled peppers riding a wave of fresh mozzarella with sauerkraut and barbecue sauce lurking below the surface. All atop a hand made crust, from dough raised, relaxed, and baked earlier that day. The kind of crust with a crisp that invited you to take another slice and crack another brew.

(2) The author spent the next fifteen minutes watching Whitest Boy Alive videos, the smashingest of which you can see here:

We at the Bottle Opener Review attest that the best beer is one that is freely given. And while each beer consumed this evening had it's own mass, the one with a planet's worth of gravity and a celestial body to boot was the Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout, which was a gift from a seasoned couch surfer who biked to Menomonie the weekend prior. This brew followed the pizza dinner in a manner that was fitting for a few travelers returning home to the hearth, with a warm oaky aroma and plenty of sweet-tart cherry.

When all was said and done, the night was a success, and no-one was thrown overboard. The Norge opener did a fine job, and will remain in our arsenal, and the pizza was some of the finest this town has to offer.

As far as the opener; the Norge scored points in our book for it's style, and imaginary history, and on top of that - it opens beers. Overall we give it a score of 4 out of 6 bottles.

We'd like to thank everyone for joining us on the journey to Scandinavia tonight, and hope you'll make it back for the next one. Until then, keep it classy.