“Before Prohibition, almost every town had its own brewery and they used to promote themselves by having their own bottle openers,” he says. “It adds to the ceremony of opening and enjoying an excellent beverage. One day I thought, ‘Hey, I bet I could do this in Portland, because it’s the center of craft brewing and all things local,’ so I set out to see if there were any interested customers and to identify foundries and polishers.”
Portland is indeed a hotbed of local beer—as you’ll see in WW’s second annual Beer Guide, an 84-page glossy released today—and so, a decade on, Open Manufacturing is a small-scale success, making openers for breweries like Deschutes, Stone, BridgePort and McMenamins. Cooke’s openers are intricately designed works of art—heavy pieces of brass, bronze or zinc retailing for about $35. The butt end of his openers are extra heavy, a design throwback to the days before refrigeration.
“Old, vintage openers used to have a ball end on the back side to smash ice blocks because they had to smash ice chips to keep the beer cold,” Cooke says. “Having that at the end of the handle sort of really helps you open the bottle—it’s a counterbalance it has on the back end. You want one single, confident motion when you’re opening a beer. I think a lot of cheaper openers sort of slip, and you don’t have one single, confident motion.”
Cooke, who works for Tinder, a design consultancy, and who used to work for Portland’s Ziba, which designs everything from Heinz ketchup bottles to KitchenAid’s espresso machine, says a good opener is heavy and cool—but not cold—to the touch.
“Whenever anyone picks one up, the first thing they say is, ‘Wow, you could really whack someone with this,’” he says. “And they’re easy to pick up. There are a lot of stamped stainless-steel ones, but those are flat and awkward to pick up.”
Cooke has mostly worked in expensive metals like brass and bronze, but has recently found a foundry that will do cast iron, which is “incredibly less expensive” depending on the metal market at the time. “It’s kind of like buying market fish,” he says.
“My first cast-iron opener is out this year for a brewery in California,” he says. “The foundry for that one is in Silverton—it’s an amazing 123-year old foundry that looks exactly like it did 123 years ago—bags of sand everywhere and dirty guys working and shoveling—but they do really great work.”
After doing work like that, a man needs a beer. Something local—opened in one single, confident motion.
SEE IT: For more information on Open Manufacturing bottle openers, visit open-mfg.com.