19 August 2007

Coors Brewery Tour

I'm not a Coors drinker at heart (I favor microbrews and the strong, dark beers out of Europe), but when I had the opportunity to visit the largest single-facility brewery in the entire world, I couldn't pass up the chance. Think about it: 1.8 million gallons of beer a day. And not just the Silver Bullet: they also produce Killian's Irish Red and Blue Moon, which have some great flavor.

Tour information is available on the company website. It's free and available Monday through Saturday. The brewery is located in scenic Golden, Colorado, which is on the west side of Denver and nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. One such foothill is visible in the picture to the right, marked with a big white M for the Colorado School of Mines. And in that picture you can see one of the paragliders riding thermals. There were about five of them, lazily drifting around the peak for about half an hour.

Here's a shot of some of the brew kettles where the initial fermentation happens. One interesting aspect of the tour is that each stage of the brewing process involves a different temperature and has a different accompanying aroma. At times it smells like a box of cereal, at other times like a bakery, and then sometimes like beer.

At some point in the fermenting/malting phase of the tour, you get a tiny sample of either classic Coors or Coors Light. Fresh and cold, right off the line. At 10:30 in the morning it wasn't what I was craving, but one doesn't look a gift beer in the plastic cup.

After viewing the packaging line (did you know that Bill Coors invented the aluminum can in the late 1950s and purposefully didn't patent it because it wanted it to become an industry standard?), you get to the tasting room, where you get to have up to 3 samples of any of the various brews bottled at the facility (soft drinks are provided for the kids). While enjoying your sample you can look at various photographs and exhibits around the tasting room to learn more about the history of the company. I was especially interested in what they did during Prohibition: they made a malted milk and a non-alcoholic beer called Manna, as well as diversifying into porcelain production. Though they were a regional brewer before Prohibition, after the repeal they were able to become one of the stronger producers in the country, and sold half of their output to the military during WWII in order to help keep up morale.

Memphis readers should know about the big Coors facility in Memphis, where Zima, Killian's, and Blue Moon are produced for this part of the country. There's another big facility in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia that produces Coors and Coors Light for the East Coast.

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