A few years ago, my friend Tom Peters, the co-owner of Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia, celebrated a big anniversary, I can’t recall which one it was — five years maybe, ten? Anyway, he had a local blacksmith experiment with making the perfect bottle opener.
Then, once he had the best design, he had 100 of them made with his logo stamped on the handle. I was somehow fortunate to be given one (thanks Tom!) and to date it’s been my favorite bottle opener I’ve ever owned. It just feels right in your hand, the perfect heft. It pops any crown with very little effort and makes a pleasantly satisfying sound in the process. In short, it’s a pleasure to use. It makes me want to open more beer bottles.
Last month, I was in Asheville, North Carolina on vacation with my family. In addition to wanting to check out their growing beer scene, there was a show we wanted to go to, the Craft Fair of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. My wife and I are huge fans of artisan crafts, hand made objects. It’s the same impulse that makes me love craft beer. We came home with a number of beautiful objects. But as we were first going in we happened upon a blacksmith set up outside the hall where the show was taking place. We stopped to watch him work and got to chatting. The blacksmith’s name was Alwin Wagener, and his business was known as Wagener Forge. He had a very interesting, cool looking corkscrew, so I told him the story of the Monk’s Cafe opener. He said he also had made bottle openers and asked how long we were going to be at the show, and we went inside for several hours. When we returned, he had made the opener pictured below.
It works as well as the Monk’s opener and is very cool looking, too. I love the green man’s face, with the hair looped up to hang it from. Because of strange state laws, we couldn’t buy it from him there and met him later at his studio, where we also picked up a handmade matching hook. The tile above it was also something we picked up at the craft fair. They two just seemed to compliment each other so I hung them together on the wall in our kitchen.