As craft beer culture evolves, cult bottle openers emerge

In 2013, a friend gave John Miller a hand-carved piece of wood with a bolt on the end to use as a bottle opener. An avid beer drinker and shopkeeper, Miller had tried woodworking in the past.

“I thought they were cool, but I knew I could improve them,” he says. “I made a few for friends for Christmas that year. Then some beer geek friends were like, “Hey, you should make a few more and sell them,” and that’s where it took off. “

In 2014, Miller started his business, YOpeners, which he owns with his son Josh. The idea was to log into the store after Miller, who works as a teacher, came home from school. Josh is autistic and blind, and Miller wanted his son to be part of the business.

Josh Miller doing a YOpener / Photo courtesy of YOpener

Rather than screwing bolts into the wood, Miller uses a tree press, which Josh can use. Since launching YOpeners, the duo have made over 15,000 openers, which can range from $ 20 to $ 50 depending on the wood. Miller regularly makes openers from used bourbon casks, often after they’ve gone through a brewery several times to age the beer.

During the first three years of operation, YOpeners donated $ 11,000 to the Tulsa Autism Center and has since allocated a portion of its proceeds to other charities. Miller also enjoys buying a “fun tool” each year that can be added to the collection and that Josh can use in the store.

In its simplest form, a bottle opener is just a device for removing the cork from your beer; in practice, it is so much more. Beer bottle openers are personal tools and often come with a story. As the American craft beer industry has evolved, this niche industry has created handcrafted bottle openers.

Adam Hicks, a salesman at a Texas tech company, runs another handcrafted operation dedicated to bottle openers. Hicks had used his three-car garage as a carpentry shop for several years, building furniture, cabinets and other items in his spare time.

YOpeners bottle opener.
YOpeners Bottle Opener / Photo Courtesy of YOpeners

In 2015, her brother came over and shared a bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout that had been packed in a wooden box. When the beer was gone, Hicks was inspired to create a can opener from the packaging, rather than throwing it away. It became the first Hicks Opener and the start of his part-time business.

Today, Hicks says he has handcrafted nearly 3,000 openers in a variety of woods and resin. Some have cultural or holiday pop themes, and others are made to order.

Hicks openers range from $ 80 to $ 500 or more. A Hicks-moderated Facebook group serves as both a celebration of the openers and a waiting list for those who want one of their own.

“I make them to be used for years and years and each is personal, and over time with each bottle the bottle opener tells a story,” Hicks explains. “Because he’s there at a certain time and in a certain place, that makes him special. “

Hicks has also, from time to time, run contests that offer an all-expenses-paid trip to his workshop where the winner can not only taste a beer from his collection, but also participate in the design and construction of an opener- custom door.

Recently, Hicks started working with an outside company to 3D print door openers on a larger scale, and says the custom door openers, which he still makes at home, remain a hobby and craft project. passion.

In New York, Blue Ox Wood Shop has also made a name for itself by creating openers in carved wood from staves. The works include small custom works, including a wooden handle carved to hold a 1 ounce vial. The company recently experimented with laser-cut stainless steel can openers that can fit into a wallet’s credit card slot and have a can opener, wax cutting teeth, and box perforation.

Sometimes these bottle opener artisans will receive inquiries for other products.

“Every now and then, we make cigar ashtrays from barrel heads,” Miller explains. “We made coasters from barrels of bourbon. But now we’re just happy in our little niche, and we’ll stay here.

Posted on November 24, 2021

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