Learning About the Silver Bullet

I spent the past two days in Denver on a business trip. I don’t mind going to Denver because it’s such a short flight but my favorite business travel place is Irvine, CA because I know it so well. Denver seems to me to be fairly similar to Salt Lake City in terms of tourist attractions. Like Salt Lake, most of the “things to do in Denver” are centered around outdoor recreation activities. Denver has more pro sports teams but that isn’t really considered a “tourist attraction”. Both towns have about the same amount of museums. Denver probably has better shopping and dining simply because it’s a much bigger town than Salt Lake. Salt Lake has temple square which is unique. So, what does Denver have that’s truly unique? The only thing I could think of was the Coors brewery.

I had a few extra hours to kill so I decided to take the tour of the Coors brewery in Golden, CO (about 15-20 minutes west of Denver). I’m not terribly interested in beer but large-scale manufacturing has always interested me and touring the Coors brewery was a very interesting experience. Here are some things I learned:

  • The main ingredient in beer is water.
  • The main solid ingredient is barley. They actually let the barley germinate until it sprouts in order to get the right mix of starches/sugars for brewing. Coors buys their barley from farmers in Idaho and other western states. They have a test center in Idaho where they are always doing scientific research on barley.
  • Once the barley sprouts, they toast it in a kiln. The darker the toast the barley, the darker the beer
  • Hops is a flavoring agent – it has a bitter flavor. It’s a leafy looking vegetable that grows on vines.
  • Coors Light (a.k.a. The Silver Bullet) outsells regular Coors. Coors Light makes up 70% of all Coors sales. The general public originally nicknamed it The Silver Bullet and eventually Coors decided to trademark that name
  • Beer in Colorado is 5% alcohol. In Utah it is 3.2% if you buy it in grocery stores. According to my friend Dennis, you can buy 5% beer at the State Liquor Store
  • During prohibition, Coors switched to making malted milk and sold it to Mars & Co. for candy bars. They also made a product called “Manna” which was a non-alcoholic brewed beverage. The Coors family also had a porcelain business (who knew?) that kept people employed during prohibition

The history exhibits with old photos of the brewery (actually a former tannery that was converted to the brewery), the original packaging, the horse-drawn beers wagons, etc. were also very interesting. Another interesting thing was the various smells of the barley being cooked and the beer being brewed in the brewing tanks. Of course, most people on the tour were excited about the free samples that they gave out. Each person gets up to three 8-oz. samples of the various brands of beer that the brewery makes.

If you ever have a few hours to kill in Denver then I recommend going on the tour of the Coors brewery. Although you may not be particularly interested in beer, the history and the fascinating manufacturing process are definitely worth seeing.

Leave a Reply