All beer drinkers have one essential tool which accompanies their drinking routine – a bottle opener. While some people will use anything from their teeth to their hands, the true beer connoisseur will have a bottle-opener at their side

But just how much do you know about your favourite tool?

Much like the egg and the chicken, many people dispute which came first – the bottle cap, or the bottle opener. While there are variations to the origin, the widely accepted theory is that both the bottle cap and its opener were invented by the same man: William Painter.

Before Painter made his brilliant invention, beer was either stopped with a cork or a swing top – the issue with these were that they were reusable, sparking all manner of hygienic issues as well as horribly flat beer. So history states it the bottle cap (or crown cap as it was known at the time) and the bottle opener were invented simultaneously.

After Painter’s successful invention, all bottle producers began to use the crown cap and thus the market for bottle openers was established. Cheaply produced but widely used, these openers eventually became branded and by the early 1900s there was tremendous competition between Pabst, Miller, and Anheuser-Busch to take control of this new market.

In the last 50-years, an alternative was invented – the twist off cap. And while this cap is used more and more, especially with bigger brewers, twist off caps aren’t as fragile as they once were and can still be opened with a bottle opener. The AB InBev international brands still come with the age-old pry off cap, which is best suited to preserve the beer for the long distance it must travel to get to your home.

“Beer has featured throughout the history of South Africa and continues to be an important part of society,” said Tshepo Tloubatla, SAB Beer Culture Manager at SAB and AB InBev Africa. “So never fear, your bottle opener isn’t ever going to become an ornament!” SAB provides a multitude of branded openers, including Carling Black Label, Stella Artois, Castle Milk Stout, Castle Lager and Flying Fish, with which to open your favourite tipple.

These can be found on the SAB World of Beer Shop, based in Newtown, Johannesburg.

The bottle opener hasn’t changed much since Painter invented it, with a few additional uses as keyrings and adding torches. In fact, the only exciting thing about the bottle opener other than the sound of your beer letting that first wisp of gas out, is its creation. However, the crown cap forever changed how we drink our beers while at the same time making it a much more hygienic experience and maintaining the flavour and carbonation of your favourite beers. And for that we say “Cheers”.


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