History of Coors Beer

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Coors is arguably one of the most popular brands of American beer in the world, and most of its popularity is often attributed to Coors Light, a light beer (also known as pale lager) that has reduced alcohol content and calories compared to regular beer.

However, before the introduction of Coors Light in 1978, the Coors Brewing Company had done its best to stay afloat under unfortunate circumstances during its decades of operations. To know more about the struggles of the company and its eventual rise as one of the most famous breweries in the world, here is the history of Coors beer.

The Origins of Coors

The origins of Coors beer can be traced back to 1873 when German immigrants Adolph Coors and Jacob Schueler immigrated to the United States. The two immigrants were from Prussia, a former German state that occupied Germany and other neighboring countries from 1525 to 1947.

While in the United States, Coors and Schueler decided to establish a brewery, specifically in the city of Golden, Colorado. To establish the brewery, Schueler invested $18,000 for the business, while Coors invested $2,000. The recipe for their first alcoholic beverage was created by a Czech immigrant named William Silhan, who sold it to the two businessmen.

After becoming successful financially, Adolph Coors bought out his partner’s share of the brewery in 1880, thus making him the sole owner of the business. [1]

The Coors Brewing Company During Prohibition

a map published in The New York Times showing the states affected by Prohibition in the US

The Prohibition era, which occurred from 1920 to 1933, made the Coors Brewing Company struggle to remain in business. In case you don’t know, the Prohibition era was a period where a constitutional law prohibited the production, transportation, and sale of almost all kinds of alcoholic beverages in the United States. [2]

The law to prohibit alcoholic beverages in the US was led by a group of Protestants who would later be known as “prohibitionists.” These prohibitionists wanted to stop the production of alcoholic drinks because they believed that alcohol was the cause of rampant family violence, political corruption, and other issues in the United States.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was proposed on December 18, 1917, and Prohibition began on January 17, 1920. During the Prohibition era, not all alcoholic beverages were banned, as wine was permitted as long as it was used for religious purposes.

Years before the Prohibition started, Adolph Coors already set up a strategy to keep his company running with the help of his sons Adolph Jr., Grover, and Herman. The brewery was converted into a facility that produced malted milk and near beer. Malted milk is a powdered product that is made using evaporated whole milk powder, wheat flour, and malted barley, while near beer was a substitute for regular beer that contained little to no alcohol content.

Most of the malted milk that Coors produced during Prohibition was sold to Mars, a candy company that used malted milk to produce sweets. Then, the near beer product of Coors, which they called Manna, did not sell as well as the company’s alcoholic products. Because of the low sales of their products, Adolph Coors and his sons primarily relied on their other businesses in order to continue operating their brewing company. Their other businesses included a porcelain company and a cement and real estate company, which was becoming more successful during Prohibition. [3]

At the end of Prohibition in 1933, the Coors Brewing Company was one of the very few breweries that survived in the United States. The other companies that Adolph Coors and his sons owned were spun off or sold between 1989 and 1992. Interestingly, the porcelain business of the Coors family is still operating today under Keystone Holdings LLC, a trust of the family. The porcelain business is called CoorsTek and has been operating since 1910.

Improvements to Coors’s Products Over the Years

a man holding a can of Coors beer

Throughout the years, the Coors Brewing Company has made improvements in its brewing process and the packaging of its products. It was in 1959 when Coors introduced the all-aluminum two-piece beverage can, which would eventually become a staple in the beverage industry because of how easy and affordable it is to manufacture compared to glass bottles.

Because of how innovative and successful the two-piece aluminum can was, Coors was able to create a company that focuses on producing aluminum cans. The company is called Rocky Mountain Metal Container (RMMC), and it was founded in 2003 as a joint venture with Ball Corporation, a company that produces glass jars, cans, and lids.

It was also in 1959 when Coors decided to move away from pasteurization (where their beer is treated with mild heat to eliminate pathogens and increase shelf life) to use sterile filtration (a process where membrane filters are used to filter out pathogens) for their products to improve flavor.

Introduction of Coors Light

a pack of Coors Light cans

In 1978, the Coors Brewing Company introduced a product that would soon become one of their best-sellers, Coors Light. As the name of the product already suggests, Coors Light is a lighter version of the original Coors beer and has less alcoholic content by volume.

What many people don’t know is that before Coors Light’s introduction in 1978, the Coors Brewing Company already had a beer with the same name in the 1940s. However, the 1940s version of Coors Light was discontinued during World War II because of poor sales. [4] The Coors Brewing Company reintroduced Coors Light in order to compete with Miller Light, the light beer that was released by the Miller Brewing Company in 1975.

The ads that the Coors Brewing Company created for Coors Light called the beverage “Silver Bullet.” The name does not really pertain to the appearance of the beer but rather the silver can in which the beer was originally packaged.

Another feature of Coors Light’s packaging that is interesting is its “Cold Certified” label that appears like mountains on the can’s exterior. These mountains would turn from white to blue when the temperature of the beer is lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius. However, in 2020, the Coors Brewing Company removed the “Cold Certified” label and replaced it with an artwork of a mountain with two peaks.

Merger with Molson, Inc.

Molson Coors logo

On July 22, 2004, the Adolph Coors Company (which owned the Coors Brewing Company) decided to merge with a Canadian brewing company called Molson, Inc. The Molson Brewery was founded in 1786 by the Molson family, who lived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, during the creation of the company. This particular business is considered one of the oldest breweries in North America, and it continues to brew beer at the brewery where the business started.

The merger between the Adolph Coors Company and Molson, Inc. was completed on February 9, 2005, and the merged company was named the Molson Coors Brewing Company. [5] Despite the merger, the two companies decided to retain the Coors Brewing Company as a subsidiary.

Molson Coors’s Expansion

Molson Brewery in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

On April 22, 2005, just a few months after the merger, Molson Coors bought Creemore Springs Brewery, a company founded in 1987 in Creemore, Ontario, Canada. Then, the operations of Molson Coors in Brazil were acquired by FEMSA, a multinational beverage and retail company headquartered in Mexico, in 2006. FEMSA would later be acquired by Heineken International, a competitor of Molson Coors in the global market, in 2010.

On October 9, 2007, Molson Coors and SABMiller (the parent company of the Miller Brewing Company) formed a joint venture where they would be called MillerCoors for the sales and brewing operations in the United States.

But, in September 2015, a Belgian drink and brewing company called Anheuser-Busch InBev announced that they had acquired SABMiller for $107, and this acquisition created tension between Molson Coors and SABMiller over the ownership of the latter’s brands. In the end, SABMiller decided to sell its stake in MillerCoors to Molson Coors, which then granted Molson Coors full ownership of the Miller Brewing Company. [6] By 2020, MillerCoors was defunct, and Molson Coors was reestablished.

As of 2023, Molson Coors operated more than ten breweries around the world, which includes Coors Brewers in Burton upon Trent, England, Molson Brewery in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Blue Moon Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado, USA, and Staropramen Brewery in Prague, Czech Republic.

Interesting Facts About Coors Beer

  1. Founded in 1873: Coors was established by Adolph Coors and Jacob Schueler in Golden, Colorado, over a century ago.
  2. Prohibition Survival: During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), Coors survived by diversifying into products like malted milk and porcelain.
  3. Rocky Mountain Water: Coors is renowned for using fresh Rocky Mountain spring water in its brewing process, a key element of its branding.
  4. Aluminum Cans Innovation: Coors was the first major brewery to package its beer in aluminum cans in 1959, revolutionizing the beer packaging industry.
  5. Coors Light Introduction: In 1978, Coors Light was introduced and it quickly became one of the top-selling beers in America.
  6. Thermal Ink Cans: Coors Light’s “Cold as the Rockies” campaign was bolstered by the introduction of cans with thermal ink that changes color when the beer is cold enough.
  7. Banquet Beer: Coors’ original beer, often called the “Banquet Beer”, got its name from the miners in the late 1800s who would drink it in banquet halls.
  8. Non-Pasteurized: Coors prides itself on being one of the few large breweries to produce non-pasteurized beer, which many believe helps preserve a fresher taste.
  9. Storied Family Business: The Coors family has been involved in the company’s operations for multiple generations, adding to its rich history.
  10. Environmental Initiatives: Coors has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability, including water conservation efforts and recycling programs.

Conclusion

Through many decades of its operations, the Coors Brewing Company remains one of the most successful beer brewing companies in the world. In fact, the first Coors brewery located in Golden, Colorado, is the largest single brewing facility that is still operating. The constant expansions of Coors and its parent company, Molson Coors, may continue as the Coors Brewing Company and its various products continue to be a favorite among many beer lovers in the world.

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