Church Keys Don’t
Really Open Churches!

Normally, when  speaking of beer  “adjuncts”, we are
referring to corn, rice, herbs or other ingredients
added to beer in defiance of Reinheitsgebot, the
German purity law which defines water, hops, malt
and yeast as the only four  things allowed in the
brewing of beer. However, the brewing industry
extends far beyond the serious business of just
making and drinking the stuff, and here , too, adjunct
uses for the other factors in the industry come
to the forefront of consideration.

Before revealing some of those adjunct uses,
however, as an addendum to last month’s article
detailing alternative uses for beer itself, I’d like to
present yet another valuable reason why beer is so
widely loved and appreciated!.  Somehow I forgot to
mention that beer can be an effective unit for the
measurement of time and distance. Although this use
is not recommended (in fact definitely DISCOURAGED)
in today’s politically  correct and temperate society,  
not too long ago a group of fishermen, planning a
weekend trip “to the lake” and asked by a newcomer
how long of a drive it was, might answer “about five
beers”.  “Swooping” home on a liberty weekend from
Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va. to Jersey required
about three and a half hours, ten gallons of gas @ 29
cents/gallon and five Ballantine’s @10 cents/bottle.
Ballantine was a more economical fuel than Gulf No-

But I digress. Back to the alternative uses of beer
marketing’s adjuncts: A whole industry has been born
around the non-ingestive aspects of beer.  
Memorabilia concerning the beverage, better known as
“breweriana”, has spawned many national and
international clubs whose members meet regularly to
buy, sell trade and covet millions of dollars worth of
brewery advertising, that for the most part, was given
away gratis by beer salesmen to induce retailers into
bigger orders. Members of these organizations have
been known to go into cardiac arrest when unearthing
an “Amana” beer can at a garage sale, resort to
violence over who saw a pristine Ebling’s beer tray
first at a flea market, and trade away their wives for a
patch ripped from the sleeve of a pre-prohibition
Esslinger’s beer truck driver. In addition to the
collectability of these items, all had other uses than
that for which they were originally produced.

Canned beer , first introduced by the Gottfried
Krueger Brewing Company of  Newark, enabled
retailers to cram more beer into less space, imbibers
to drink colder beer with less chance for spoilage, and
brewers to eliminate the need for washing and refilling
deposit bottles. In the seventy years since, in addition
to being drained for liquid refreshment, billions of cans
have been collected, shot at, and pyramided in
dormitory windows, the obvious adjunct uses of this
wonderful marketing innovation. But there are more:
In the good old days of steel cans I remember  some
parties ending with “grown ups” stamping around the
cement backyard in Newark with empty cans of
Hensler or Knickerbocker securely attached to their
shoes, emulating James Cagney dancing to “Yankee
Doodle Dandy”.

In the same spirit of The Glorious Fourth, it was
possible to blow one’s fingers off in a more American
way than by using fireworks imported from Macau.
Five steel beer cans, with the tops and bottoms
removed, except for the bottom can, taped together
with duct tape and primed with a squirt of lighter fluid,
would produce a sound like a Howitzer when a Zippo
was ignited near the end. I am told that these pieces
of breweriana artillery will even shoot a potato for
quite some distance, although I have never seen this
done nor do I know why anyone would wish to do so.

Every so often, one reads in the Feature section of
the paper about someone named Lester G. Suggins in
Pschittwhole, Nebraska, who has sided his barn using
ten thousand flattened Budweiser cans. In addition to
the barn, the accompanying photo usually shows
Lester, grinning happily and holding what will soon
become  part of the casing for the hatch to the upper
hayloft. Obviously drinking more beer will help to
protect the infrastructure of one’s estate.

Thanks to the internet, many an urban legend about
the value of pop tops has been widely circulated. Over
the years, thousands, even millions of school children,
cub scouts and lushes have been induced to save
these small pieces of packaging in order to provide
heart/lung machines, dialysis, wheelchairs, artificial
hearts and kidney transplants for long suffering
patients. Funny, but when my doctor’s bills are
received, I’m always instructed to pay in US legal
tender and not in pop tops.

Beer cans created an immediate need for their own
adjunct, hence the invention of the “church key” to
enable thirsty consumers to more efficiently open
their chilled cans  of Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR cans
originally had printed instructions on the side to
inform users how to apply the church key to the can
in order to release the beer. It is unknown if anyone
actually ever read the instructions, since the skill
required to open a can using a church key is about as
technical as how to turn an electric light off and on by
means of a switch. As usual the church key, which is
fast disappearing because of the pop top revolution,
had other uses such as picking old grout out of
ceramic tiles and arming 1950’s street gangs. Before
the advent of the Crips, Bloods, and AK47s, the
church key was an important part of the arsenal of
many a Jet or Shark!

Thanks to the influence of the British beer engine and
it’s long handled hand pump, most American draught
beers are also dispensed by means of long ,
elaborate, theme oriented tap handles.But it wasn’t
too long ago that the gears of a ’49 Olds or ’52 Nash
were shifted by a small round Schlitz or Schaefer tap
knob, screwed onto the shift lever in place of the
boring, stock  plastic. The closest thing to drinking
and driving that’s legal!

A trip to the Philadelphia Zoo will reveal the polar
bears happily playing with bobbing beer kegs. I guess
the kegs are empty, due to their buoyancy, but I
really don’t know if the kegs of Ortlieb’s are provided
that way, or the bears’ playful state is attributable to
the kegs being delivered while full!

Several years ago I had a tremendous pain in my left
foot, which was eventually diagnosed as Plantar’s
Fascitis. A sinking feeling arose in the pit of my
stomach when the examining physician questioned if I
drank beer. Surely, I despaired, he’s going to tell me
to stop drinking beer and I began to weigh which was
the greater pain, the foot or the prospect of a
beerless life. Imagine my joy and relief when he
advised me to roll an empty beer bottle under my foot
while watching TV in order to relieve the condition!.
What a great doctor. And what a great adjunct use of
beer packaging! Also along medical lines, foam
scrapers, no longer used for sanitary reasons and
because the oceans of Coor’s Light that are served
today don’t require them, played an important part in
saving many lives. The cry of “Is there a doctor in the
house?” summoned many a medical man to the
emergency. The doctor, oblivious to possible
malpractice claims and finding he had left his medical
bag at home, often requested a foam scraper to be
used in place of a tongue depressor. Was the life
saved because the patient didn’t swallow his own
tongue or because the droplets of Guiness left on the
scraper stimulated his recovery?

According to leading beer writer, Vince Capano, a
hundred beer caps, nailed one by one onto a board
make an excellent tool for scraping dog poop from
one’s shoes. This device is certainly more efficient
than a stick or a curbstone, but since it can really be
used only once, it’s somewhat labor intensive.

There is available on the internet a little booklet
entitled “101 Uses for Beer Coasters” so I’ll not
duplicate them here. Suffice to say I’m writing at a
desk which is nicely balanced by four Rheingold
coasters under the left rear leg.

These have been a few of the more popular uses of
marketing adjuncts. If  anyone has any more we’d all
like to hear about them  Cheers!


Another two
glasses up
article from
Dan Hodge!
has to say
these things
and it could
only be
Beer My Way......... proudly presents....DAN HODGE, beer reviewer, historian and raconteur
anything and everything about beer
by   Dan Hodge