We hear a lot about how the craft beer industry is such a crowded market, and it makes us wonder how an enterprising beer lover can even break into the business, especially when all the “good” beer names are already taken? Well, for some, looking to the past for a fresh new concept is the answer. Case in point: Churchkey Can Co. founders Justin Hawkins and Adrian Grenier—yes, the guy with the dreamy eyes from Entourage —really loved the flat-top beer cans from the ’30s. They loved them so much, in fact, that for their new Northwest-based company, the can concept had priority over the actual beer.
For those unfamiliar with what a churchkey is (no relation to L.A. restaurant The Church Key) it’s the can/bottle opener people back in the 1930s until the ’50s had to use to unlock their beer. And, no, it wasn’t even attached to the can. Gasp! I know! You stored it in your kitchen drawer or tied it on a string to your cooler.
One day about four years ago, Hawkins and Grenier were feeling nostalgic for that era and they decided to bring the churchkey back.
“It’s kind of selfish. We were both sitting around chatting about it and thought, ‘Hey, that would be really fun,'” says Hawkins during the beer’s L.A. launch party at Grandpa Johnson’s in Hollywood. “We wanted to do it. If at least the two of us get to crack one open, and that’s as far as it goes, then great. Luckily it went further than that.”
There is more to their can than its looks it turns out. Opening your beer can with a churchkey, which is done by puncturing one side of the top and then the other, allows the beer to flow more smoothly, creating less of that pesky foam. There were/are even several Kickstarter campaigns for such bottle openers, touting the merits of the old-timey method.
The beers are available in six-packs and come accompanied with an opener, but if you happen to misplace it, Hawkins says finding a workable alternative is part of the fun—MacGuyver it up with a screwdriver, car key, or crowbar if you have to.
As for the beer part, the guys enlisted some home-brewing friends, who created a Northwest Pilsner. Why pilsner? Because they wanted something that could have existed back in those simpler times, something “with heritage.” Plus it’s “really sessionable, easy to drink, an Everyman’s beer,” according to Hawkins.
“Everyone is doing IPAs, they’re doing this really big stuff, and they’re doing a very good job of it.” he says. “But for us, it makes sense to stick with this classic ‘what-does-your-grandma-drink?’ kind of beer.”
When talking about future beer style possibilities, Hawkins says they’ll once again turn to home brewers, possibly throwing a contest to find the best DIYer to make their next beer.
Currently the Churchkey Can Co. beer is only available in the Pacific Northwest and California, recently making it Los Angeles debut. You can find it in beer stores like Buzz Wine Beer Shop downtown.