Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Brilliance In Beers Not Bombs

"Brezhnev took Afghanistan. Begin took Beirut. Galtieri took the Union Jack. And Maggie, over lunch one day, took a cruiser with all hands. Apparently, to make him give it back." — Pink Floyd

Not much good came out of the Cold War. From 1946 to 1991, the world watched, waited, and was often asked to choose sides between the United States and the USSR in a political conflict that escalated military tensions and brought the world to the brink of war.

Since, both have made some strides toward nuclear disarmament, which includes the decommission of missile silos across the country. But like any demolition, missile silos need more than a dirt filling.

To take care of the waste, people like Paul Ogren are sometimes invited to bid on the remaining bulk material. And a few years ago, Ogren did exactly that, hoping to process the nuclear weapon system cables from the Midwest silos into scrap metal. But he never sold the copper.

"The story of how From War To Peace was formed is an interesting one," says Sam Ogren, his son, who also helps run the family business. "We had a family reunion. And we've got this kind of boisterous family that sings songs around the piano; one of those songs, a biblical hymn from the book of Isaiah, made it click."

Turn Your Swords Into Plowshares, And Nations Shall Know War No More. 

From that moment on, Paul Ogren and his family knew it wasn't enough to resell the copper on the market for any purpose. They wanted to transform it into something that could only be used for peace, and began designing jewelry made out of the copper that was once used as a product of war.

"We started out at From War To Peace creating jewelry, and found we also had a passionate, but very clearly defined demographic interested in our line," said Sam Ogren. "So then we wanted to expand by introducing Beers Not Bombs, bottle openers that transcend political and idealogical boundaries that typically carve up Americans."

Armed with a motto that "drinking for world peace was never this much fun," the company created a line of four bottle openers (and one wine stopper) made from trademarked metal, Peace Bronze. Peace Bronze is alloy made up of 95 percent copper from the recycled missile silo cabling and five percent manganese and silicon for added strength.

All four shapes have different designs. The Bomb, which is the largest piece, resembles the original Fat Man bomb created as part of the Manhattan Project. The opener fans out with crosshair fins, making it possible to easily stand the opener on end.

The familiar rounded end is emblazoned with a "Beers Not Bombs" mark on one side, and "Made From Disarmed Nuclear Weapon Systems" on the other. The remaining three designs — Raptor, Aviator, and Maverick — have sleeker designs, but Ogren says The Bomb remains the most popular.

"Our in-house designer, Jason Main, is responsible for all the designs, as well as the original concept," says Ogren. "He's a big Top Gun fan. In fact, we'll debut a new opener design called 'The Goose' next year."

Along with a new bottle opener, the company is also currently designing a wine bottle opener. It will likely carry the same theme as their vintage wine stopper, with a slightly different message: Make Wine Not War. A few weeks ago, Paul Ogren also made an appearance on NBC Los Angeles to share his vision about the transformative nature of the company.

A Bit About From War To Peace.

From War To Peace, which is located in San Luis Obispo, Calif., doesn't just produce recyclable products. All of their metals and packaging are recycled; the ink they use has a soy base. But even beyond that, the Ogrens have made as much of their business as green as possible, even running their three websites on a solar server.

"Our source material does present some obstacles. There are all kinds of additional costs associated with green and recycled materials," explains Ogren. "But we understand that, and we believe there are enough of us out there who care about the quality of the world we're creating to pay a little more."

In fact, although Ogren says there is a vast supply of command and copper control cables that his company can mine, he wishes it was scarcer. He said the abundance of it is a sad commentary on the nature of war and man's need to defend himself at such epic proportions.

And while it seems unlikely to happen soon, Sam Ogren and company know what to do when the metal isn't available anymore. They will be happy to crack open a few fresh ones and toast a job well done.

His father, founder Paul Ogren, would agree. Prior to returning to California, he and his late wife Sandra both had successful careers in Minnesota as community activists, business people, and elected officials. He served as a state legislator, authoring one of the first organic standards acts in the country.

He and his family continue to be outspoken supporters of just causes. The company donates 20 percent of its proceeds to peace and and social justice organizations. Specifically, Beers Not Bombs donates to Doctors Without Borders and the International Campaign To Abolish Nuclear Weapons, two organizations that transcend political and ideological affiliations.

Beers Not Bombs Bottle Openers Cracks A Cold 8.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While most bottle openers are nothing more than openers, Beers Not Bombs are something unique. The pressings are crude compared to most of the company's jewelry line, but the stark roughness lends well to the industrial era that ushered in the Cold War. The Bomb is especially cool for its unique design, but the balance are probably better fits for the pocket. The jewelry is also striking, but we'll save that for another time.

The Bomb from Beers Not Bombs is available on Amazon as well as retailers across the United States. The company maintains a store locater on its parent website, From War To Peace. It can also be found at some online retailer stores, most notably World Of GoodBuyGreen and Beers Not Bombs.

A special thanks to From War To Peace for sending the Beers Not Bombs - The Bomb opener for the purposes of review. It's hard not to agree with the logic. It is more fun to have a beer.
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