As a visit to any good grocer proves, the state of the craft-beer-in-a-can movement is strong. Cans fight the taste-killing infiltration from light and air better than bottles, so it's natural that the best small-batch brewers from Portland to Brooklyn are stowing their suds in aluminum. One company is taking the trend one step forward (and back, in a sense): Churchkey Can Co., a Seattle-based startup brewer whose initial product is Churchkey Pilsner, a beer available only in flat-top steel cans. Yep, the pull tab-less ones that went extinct the mid-seventies, which can only be opened by two punctures of a – you guessed it – church key.
Though that nostalgic gesture makes Churchkey the Instagram of beers in that it feels like a pleasant, somewhat precious throwback, the beer inside is pretty damn great. It's a light, malty pilsner ever-so-slightly bittered by Saaz hops – an ideal beach beer comparable to (but even more drinkable than) Sixpoints' Crisp lager.
The recipe was cooked up by Portland home brewers Lucas Jones and Sean Burke. Co-founder Adrian Grenier (he of Entourage fame) says that steel not only keeps the beer colder longer, but also has advantages in that it's infinitely recyclable. "Your grandfather's Studebaker could be in this beer can," says the actor, who co-founded the company with Justin Hawkins (pictured above, left) and Ryan Sowards (above, right).
At a recent tasting session, Churchkey reps quickly answered our most important technical question: Can you shotgun it? They answered: Of course – just puncture the bottom of the can. As of now, Churchkey is available in select Portland and Seattle bars and specialty shops (Whole Foods); it will hit other American cities later this summer. [$10 per six-pack, includes a church key; churchkeycanco.com]