Churchkey Can Company — Seriously?

I’ve been hearing about this for a while now, each time gritting my teeth and vowing not to let the inner curmudgeon escape. But it’s gone too far. I have to make some sort of comment, especially after this piece of shameless pandering. Go ‘mudgy!

Church-frikkin’-key Frikkin’-Can Company. Oy! It’s not enough that we have stores selling ugly-ass 1970’s furniture, now we must endure retro-obsessed hipsters who think that the ultimate in cool is an old-fashioned “flat top” beer can! (BTW, “flat-top” is an invented term. When these things were actually the norm, they were simply known as “beer cans.”) Why it’s cool they don’t know, but the company has something to do with that dude from Entourage and, hey!, they have a neat video on their website showing you the right way to open the can! So it must be cool, right?

No, dumbass, it’s not. Any more than it would be really, really cool to take your clothes down to the stream and beat on them with a rock or haul around huge blocks of ice to keep your refrigerator cold. It’s called progress, and while it sometimes breeds bad things like beer that doesn’t really taste like beer and hamburgers that taste nothing like beef, it also makes our lives easier in many ways, like not needing to hunt around for a can punch every time you want to open a beer.

Note that this is NOT the same as the twist-off vs. pry cap issue. The twist-off is an inefficient seal that shreds fingers something like three out of every twenty tries, whereas the pry cap provides a nearly fail-proof seal that can be opened with anything from an opener to a lighter to a rolled-up magazine. The modern pull-top can, on the other hand, provides a great seal and opens without any extra equipment, whereas the “flat top” requires a very specific device to open it, which means that the only possible reason to change from the new to the old is pretension, pure and simple.

For all I know, the beer inside the Churchkey can is quite good, and given the chance I’ll be happy to try it and say what I think. But selling a beer of any sort based upon the kind of can it’s in harkens to the worst of the big brewing companies’ marketing manipulations, and if you fall for it, then you might as well also stock your fridge with cans that change colour when cold and bottles that swirl your beer as you pour.

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31 Comments

Filed under beer & the web, beer industry, social commentary

31 responses to “Churchkey Can Company — Seriously?

  1. It smacks of “try this thing! it’s less versatile and makes your life harder, but you’ll sort of feel like you’re in that scene from the film MASH where they’re hanging out by the river!”

  2. “the harder to achieve your goal, the greater the satisfaction” is their slogan… which is so inherently stupid that it puts their entire effort into context.

    • Mike

      Why? The slogan seems perfectly fine to me, though any slogan put to commercial use could be stupid.

      • Elton

        i think it’s a pretty awesome can. is it really that hard to use a can opener? my thumbs still work.

  3. Pingback: Beer author goes off on Churchkey Can Company | Beerpulse.com

  4. My only thought is they might be going for the sustainability aspect. While aluminum is cheap and has a high return rate in Canada, U.S. only sees about 60% return on aluminim (http://www.container-recycling.org/facts/all/data/recrates-3mats.htm). Steel being more valuable might cause a better return? If that’s the case though, I would think that we be front and centre in their marketing. They are definitely targetting the hipsters. Watch out Old Milwaukee!

  5. Agreed. I like the old school feel of a pull top but there is such a thing as taking things too far.

    And the slogan quoted below is hilarious. Maybe when building a biz or getting a degree but for opening a beer?

  6. Flatlander

    Having tried Churchkey Pilsner I think it is clever marketing and hipster foolishness more than a great beer. I bought a six-pack to give a local product a try. Two of them weren’t flat-tops due to over pressurized beer deforming them (I noticed several singles at the store had the same problem). The beer itself is decent enough, but not great. I poured one in a glass and had to walk away for a while, when I got back there was some sediment in the bottom. All things considered I won’t buy more until they fix their issues.

  7. I had essentially the same take (if somewhat less heated). I concluded it in almost exactly the same place you did, as well: “This looks like yet another case of Sally’s rule: beware a company selling packaging, not beer.” (My wife observed some time ago that macros had pretty much given up selling beer; they now sell packaging–not a good sign. I stole the concept and use it as a handy rule of thumb.)

    In other words, great minds–

  8. or, you’re an asshole beer snob.

  9. Sort of like those weird cans of ham that you had to open with a church key, boy was that fun!! And then, if you were lucky, you cut your finger open on the sharp edges. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that…

  10. ps: Happy belated birthday.

  11. Got any pictures of what these things actually look like? I would love to see what this concept of a “flat-top” can looks like, seeing as how I’ve yet to see a single can that isn’t!

  12. Tim

    I live in Portland, so I’ve had the beer. First off, it’s a really great pilsner. It truly is good beer. It’s a recipe from a couple of local home brewers, and home brewers have no interest in crappy pilsner, since an aversion to crappy pilsner is what drives most people to craft beer in the first place, and only the most extreme craft beer fans move on to brewing at home. So it’s good.

    Second, and much more importantly: it’s called Churchkey Can Co. CAN. Not Churchkey Beer Co. Not Churchkey Brewery, Brewing, Brews, Craft Ales, or anything else that might imply that Churchkey is a company that makes beer. They make cans. So they advertise the packaging, because they’re in the business of manufacturing and selling packaging. Because they’re a can company.

    Presumably, as Churchkey grows, other brewers will have the option of packaging their beer in cans made by the Churchkey Can Company. It’s an option I’m glad exists. It’s an option I may one day like to take advantage of myself. It’s an option you can certainly feel free to ignore for the rest of your life – because clearly, you’re not a fan of retro packaging – but being this upset that a can manufacturer is manufacturing and selling an old-style can seems a little over the top.

    • stephenbeaumont

      Tim, the first like in their online mission statement reads: “We are here to bring you a beer…” Not a can, a beer.

  13. Chris

    I think you’re getting a little carried away here. The same argument could be made regarding the trend to can beers in the first place. Let’s “take craft brew with us when we go camping.” Sure. If it’s not tall boys of PBR, the hipsters will drink Churchkey because they’re looking for something “different” or “retro” or whatever, but who cares? Churchkey Can Co. has a poor rating on beer advocate and rate beer, which is enough for me. Also, Church-Key Brewing Co. out of Ontario…I’d be a little upset if I were them.

    • stephenbeaumont

      Perhaps, Chris, but when I unleash the inner curmudgeon, thing do tend to get that way. Still, I can’t really agree with you that the argument could be extended to cans in general, since that’s more about convenience and, yes, quality control, since canned beer can’t get skunked. This is, as I noted, more like the mountains that turn blue, a gimmick.

      As for Churchkey Ontario, they don’t sell in the States and likely as not never intend to, so it’s pretty much a dead issue from that perspective, unless the American company decides to give the Canadian market a whirl.

  14. Ah yes, back to the good old days. Like the days you had a mighty thirst, a six-pack of cold beer and couldn’t find the bloody church key! It’s the same nostalgia one feels for the days you had nothing in the pantry but a can of Spam — and then discovered that somewhere along the line the key had fallen off!

  15. BA

    What a silly article. Of course flat top is an invented word. As is land line when the cell phone came to market. Is there even one point of contention with merit? But what’s really outrageous is to bash something without even trying it. Packaging looks cool to me but its not the end all. Whats being sold is a beer. Try it. Then hate it or love it for the taste.

    • stephenbeaumont

      To borrow your own turn of phrase, Mr. BA, what a silly comment! First, if you’re going to market a retro concept with a specific “cool” reference, then I believe that reference becomes open to critique. (Also, the term “land line” predates cell phones by a considerable amount of time, but that’s a quibble.) Secondly, I specifically did not “bash” the beer because I have not tried it. I “bashed” the packaging concept. Period.

  16. Kent E

    First you tap the top with the church key opener before you pierce the top. A big hole on one side and a small one on the opposite side. The hard tapping will keep the beer from gushing, or so we thought. Probably not, but everyone did it. The idea probably came from the guy that told us bock beer was brewed in the spring when they cleaned the vats. Actually I want to see cone tops come back. When you throw one they spin and go “wo wo wo wo”.

  17. Friar Tuck In Luck

    I can’t believe that all you beer geeks don’t see the true reason to applaud these cans because when you look at Churchkeys logo it is staring you in the face. TWO HOLES ARE BETTER THAN ONE. Thats what she saids aside, two holes allows for proper air exchange when pouring from a can pure and simple. Better air exchange = better pour everytime. You’re welcome :p ;)

  18. Kent E

    Kind of like the Miller punch top can that just debuted last week.
    Stephen. B. ‘Premium Beer Drinker’s Guide’ published in 2000 stands along side of my collection of MJ beer books. Been reading AAB for 12 years and you being “beerdom’s Brillat-Savarin” I thought you were above this curmudgeon rant. I Don’t even think Fred Eckhardt would carry on like this. Me being a 69 year old curmudgeon myself, I forgive you your temporary loss of control. The big guys have been marketing their bland brew using packaging gimmicks for a while, but who cares? Lighten up and let the little guys alone. They will sink or swim on the merits of their product.
    BTW, both MJ and you wrote about Golden Prairie brewery in Chicago that was brewing in a 100 gallon pot recycled from the pharmaceutical industry. That brew pot lives and has been brewing home brew for a while. Soon it will be goiing pro again.

  19. Nick

    a) It’s an option. You think it’s pretentious? Great, don’t buy it. Whining about it on the internet is a waste of everyone’s time. And if there’s one thing the internet isn’t used for it’s time wasting.

    b) Better pour. The second hole improves airflow to produce a better pour. If the argument for rejecting twist-offs is an “inefficient” seal, surely the argument against a pull-top can be inferior pouring.

    Sounds to me like you’re just looking for an excuse to be mad at hipsters.

  20. Pingback: Looking Back at the Brewer’s Plate | Blogging at World of Beer

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