It’s a toss-up for me, which Marx Brothers film is my favorite. Sometimes I’m an Animal Crackers man (“How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know”). But today, I’m all about Horse Feathers. I’ll never not love the scene where Groucho sings “I’m Against It”; it’s a guaranteed earworm.
One of the best things about Marx Brothers movies is how you almost have to be literate in a foreign tongue to get some of the references. They’re case studies in the flexibility of language, both the terminology and the cultural cues. From that song-and-dance number:
“I soon disposed of all of those
who put me on the pan.
Like Shakespeare said to Nathan Hale,
‘I always get my man.’”
I mean, what is that even. It rhymes, quite well actually. I recognize the words. The meaning, though? Opaque at best. Take another scene, with Groucho again as Professor Wagstaff, addressing a couple of toady associate professors and delaying a conversation with a frustrated dean. “The Dean is furious! He's waxing wroth,” says the secretary. Wagstaff replies, “Is Wroth out there too? Tell Wroth to wax the Dean for a while.”
Throughout the opening moments of that scene — go ahead and watch the whole clip, it’s hilarious, I’ll be here when you get back — Groucho is fighting to open a lot of walnuts. He starts by pinning them between handset and cradle of his telephone, then smashing them between papers on his desk. Eventually Chico and Harpo enter and walk across his desk, crunching walnuts under their shoes.
Those two are delivering ice-encased booze, in case you’re wondering when I’m transitioning to the beer talk. I’ve been engaged in a conversation with a few beer people on Twitter and elsewhere, trying to impress upon them that I command a beer superpower: the superpower of opening waxed beer bottles. No blood, no sweat, no tears. Just one tool, and you’ve got the wax and the crown cap taken care of in easily under 30 seconds. And it’s not the headset of a phone from 1932.
The beer world is awash in waxed bottle frustration. There are numerous discussion topics on Beer Advocate, Reddit, even the Homebrewer’s Association, all bemoaning the difficulty in getting through wax dips that can at times be truly absurd. Paste’s Jim Vorel posted an anti-wax screed last week, arguing that in addition to not doing anything to protect the beer, wax is propping up the dying large-format bottle with fancy-looking faux-desirability. But he starts with how hard they are to crack into, compared to both cork-and-cage bottles as well as plain old crown-capped bottles.
I’m not here to debate the other two rationales; they’re well-argued on his part and I take no issue. But looking at the torturous videos on YouTube that purport to demonstrate an easy, safe way to open waxed bottles — and seeing how many involve KNIVES, for crying out loud — I decided over the weekend that enough was enough. (Seriously, that second video makes my skin crawl, and I was in Scouts for maybe a year or two, tops.)
My method requires one piece of hardware: a churchkey. It’s got to be one that has both the bottle opener end and the can-piercing tool on the other side. I like the OXO Steel version but as long as it’s comfortable for you and has both necessary ends, any one’ll do.
Holding the churchkey with your dominant hand, pierce the wax right under the edge of the crown cap, or where you think that edge probably is, if the wax is so thick you can’t see the ridges. The point of the piercing tool should be aimed in a line parallel to your tabletop.
Your non-dominant hand secures the bottle at the neck, but with your uppermost finger below the piercing end of the churchkey. The thumb of your non-dominant hand provides the thrust to the churchkey. Push the churchkey forward, circling the neck of the bottle just below the cap. Depending on the wax, it’ll either shatter or peel off, but if you’re doing it right, you’re never in danger of breaking the bottle or stabbing yourself. Brush away any loose wax, and flip the churchkey around to open the cap.
Y’know what, here’s the video I posted on Sunday. This is as simple as I need to make it.
That Surly beer, by the way, was still pretty good for being a year and a half old. Probably had no good reason to be waxed, especially to standard Surly wax thickness, but whatevs. I’ve only ever injured myself on a bottle when it was a particularly recalcitrant cork-and-cage bottle of Fantôme. But I don’t need anything more than my trusty churchkey to get into a waxed bottle. Lord knows I’ve never used a blowtorch like some of the poor souls online. That’s only for when I get booze delivered in blocks of ice.