Coors Brewing Company

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Coors Brewing Company
Founded1873, 148 years ago
FounderAdolph Coors
and Jacob Schueler
OwnerMolson Coors
ParentMolson Coors Beverage Company

The Coors Brewing Company is an American brewery and beer company in Golden, Colorado. In 2005, Adolph Coors Company, the holding company that owned Coors Brewing, merged with Molson, Inc. to become Molson Coors.[1]

The first Coors brewery location in Golden, Colorado is the largest single brewing facility operating in the world.[2]



In 1873, German immigrants Adolph Coors and Jacob Schueler from Prussia emigrated to the United States and established a brewery in Golden, Colorado, after buying a recipe for a Pilsner-style beer from a Czech immigrant William Silhan.[3]

Coors invested $2,000 in the operation, and Schueler invested $18,000.

"ADOLF COORS GOLDEN BREWERY" June 1911 map detail from Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

In 1880, Coors bought out his partner and became sole owner of the brewery.


Ad for Coors Malted Milk, produced in 1918

The Coors Brewing Company managed to survive Prohibition relatively intact. Years before the Volstead Act went into effect nationwide, Adolph Coors with sons Adolph Jr., Grover, and Herman established the Adolph Coors Brewing and Manufacturing Company, which included Herold Porcelain and other ventures. The brewery itself was converted into a malted milk and near beer production facility. Coors sold much of the malted milk to the Mars candy company for the production of sweets. Manna, the company's non-alcoholic beer replacement, was a near beer similar to current non-alcoholic beverages. However, Coors and his sons relied heavily on the porcelain company as well as a cement and real estate company to keep the Coors Brewing Company afloat. By 1933, after the end of Prohibition, the Coors brewery was one of only a handful[citation needed] of breweries that had survived.

All of the non-brewery assets of the Adolph Coors Company were spun off between 1989 and 1992. The descendant of the original Herold Porcelain ceramics business continues to operate as CoorsTek.[4]


For much of its first 100 years of existence, Coors beer was marketed solely in the American West.[5][6][7] While California and Texas were part of the 11-state distribution area, Washington and Montana were not added until 1976[5][8] (Oregon did not approve sales in grocery stores until 1985).[9][10][11][12] This gave it mystique and made it a novelty, particularly on the East Coast,[13][14] and visitors returning from the western states often brought back a case.[15] This iconic status was reflected in the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit. The company finally established nationwide distribution in the United States in the mid-1980s.[16]

In 1959, Coors became the first American brewer to use an all-aluminum two-piece beverage can.[2] Also in 1959, the company abandoned pasteurization and began to use sterile filtration to stabilize its beer.[2][13] Coors currently operates the largest aluminum can producing plant in the world, known as the Rocky Mountain Metal Container (RMMC), in Golden. RMMC is a joint venture between Ball Metal and Coors, having been founded in 2003.

In the mid-1970s, Coors invented the litter-free push tab can,[13][17] in place of the ring pull-tab.[18][19] However, consumers disliked the top and it was discontinued soon afterward.

Coors Light was introduced in 1978.[2] The longtime slogan of "Silver Bullet" to describe it does not describe the beer, but rather the silver-colored can in which the beer is packaged. Coors Light was once produced in "yellow-bellied" cans like the full-strength Coors, but when the yellow coloring was removed and the can was left mostly silver, many dubbed the beer the "Silver Bullet".

Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado

Change of ownership[edit]

On July 22, 2004, the Adolph Coors Company, the holding company that owned Coors Brewing, announced it would be merging with Canadian brewing company Molson, Inc. The merger was completed February 9, 2005, with the merged company being named Molson Coors Brewing Company.[20] Coors Brewing Company became a subsidiary of the new company. Due to the merger, Molson Coors was rated the third largest producer of beer in the United States, and the second largest brewer in the United Kingdom.[21]


Coors is responsible for originating a number of alcoholic beverage brands. The most notable of those brands are Coors Banquet, Coors Light, and Blue Moon.


Labor problems[edit]

In April 1977, the brewery workers union at Coors, representing 1,472 employees, went on strike. The brewery kept operating with supervisors and 250 to 300 union members, including one member of the union executive board who ignored the strike. Soon after, Coors announced that it would hire replacements for the striking workers.[22] About 700 workers quit the picket line to go back to work, and Coors replaced the remaining 500 workers, keeping the beer production process uninterrupted.[23] In December 1978, the workers at Coors voted by greater than a two-to-one ratio to decertify the union, ending 44 years of union representation at Coors. Because the strike was by then more than a year old, striking workers could not vote in the election.[24]

Labor unions organized a boycott to punish Coors for its labor practices.[25] One tactic employed by the unions was a push for states to pass laws banning the sale of unpasteurized canned and bottled beer.[26] Because Coors was the only major brewer at the time not pasteurizing its canned and bottled beer, such laws would hurt only Coors.[27] Sales of Coors suffered during the decade-long labor union boycott, although Coors stated that declining sales were also due to an industry-wide downturn in beer sales, and to increased competition. To maintain production, Coors expanded its sales area from the 18 western states to which it had marketed for years, to nationwide distribution.[28] This was completed in 1991, with Indiana being the last state for the brand to appear.[29]

The AFL-CIO ended its boycott of Coors in August 1987, after negotiations with Pete Coors, head of brewery operations. The details of the settlement were not divulged, but were said to include an early union representation election in Colorado and use of union workers to build the new Coors brewery in Virginia.[30]

In 1988, the Teamsters Union, which represented brewery workers at the top three US beer makers at the time (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Stroh), gained enough signatures to trigger a union representation election inside the Coors company. Coors workers again rejected union representation by more than a two-to-one ratio.[31]

Minority issues[edit]

Mexican Americans charged Coors with discriminatory hiring practices following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and launched a boycott of the company's products beginning in the late 1960s. Labor unions and gay rights activists joined the boycott, which lasted into the 1980s.[32]

A federal lawsuit in 1975 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission[33] ended in a settlement with Coors agreeing not to discriminate against blacks, Hispanics, and women.[34] In 1977, Coors was accused of firing gay and lesbian employees.[35] From the late 1970s, Coors agreed not to discriminate against homosexuals; the first major brewery in the United States to make such a commitment.[36]

Coors encouraged the organization of its gay and lesbian employees into the Lesbian and Gay Employee Resource (LAGER) in 1993.[37] In May 1995, Coors became the 21st publicly traded corporation in the United States to extend employee benefits to same-sex partners.[38] When company chairman Pete Coors was criticized for the company's gay-friendly policy during his 2004 Republican primary campaign for a United States Senate seat from Colorado, he defended the policy as a basic good business practice.[39] At the same time, critics cite the Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation's continuing history of gifts to organizations that actively promote explicitly anti-LGBT political campaigns and candidates, claiming that the Coors family's support of what critics view as anti-gay hate groups speaks more loudly than the company's multi-million dollar image campaigns, or out gay son of William Coors, Scott Coors' public defense of his family's firm's civil rights and labor rights record.[40]

In popular culture[edit]

Paul Newman's character Hud Bannon in the 1963 film Hud drinks Coors beer throughout the picture.

The 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit centers around an illegal shipment of Coors from Texas to Georgia.

Kurt Russell's character R.J. MacReady in John Carpenter's The Thing is seen with a can of Coors beer while also drinking J&B Whiskey.

William Zabka's Karate Kid character Johnny Lawrence is often seen drinking Coors Banquet in the web television series Cobra Kai.

Mel Gibson's character Martin Riggs from the Lethal Weapon film series drinks Coors Banquet.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Molson announces $6B US merger deal with Coors". CBC. July 22, 2004. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Garrett Oliver (September 9, 2011). The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press. p. 266. ISBN 978-0-19-536713-3.
  3. ^ "Beer Here! A Local History of Brewing at History Colorado". History Colorado. December 12, 2014. Archived from the original on June 5, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  4. ^ "History of CoorsTek". Archived from the original on August 17, 2009. Retrieved May 19, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Brewer plans Spokane plant". Spokane Daily Chronicle. December 27, 1975. p. 3.
  6. ^ "Coors plans beer sales expansion". Lawrence Journal-World. Kansas. Associated Press. August 2, 1977. p. 8.
  7. ^ Stahlberg, Mike (December 1, 1978). "Beer keeps its cool but raises hot issue". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. p. 1B.
  8. ^ Lazarus, George (September 28, 1976). "Coor's beer adds two more states to market area". The Blade. Toledo, Ohio. KNS. p. 31.
  9. ^ "Alas, another Coors tale". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. (editorial). October 2, 1984. p. 10A.
  10. ^ "Coors steps up Oregon sales effort". Ellensburg Daily Record. Washington. UPI. October 5, 1984. p. 9.
  11. ^ Detzel, Tom (April 11, 1985). "Coors making another try for retail sales in Oregon". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. p. 12D.
  12. ^ "Coors rolls out in Oregon". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. July 23, 1985. p. 5A.
  13. ^ a b c Mills, Dennis (August 14, 1975). "Cold Coors arrives from craggy Rockies". Bangor Daily News. p. 21.
  14. ^ Greene, Bob (June 22, 1977). "The strange case of the Coors beer". Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Field Newspaper Syndicate. p. 2.
  15. ^ "Coors has mystique". Lakeland Ledger. Florida. (New York Times). March 12, 1975. p. 7B.
  16. ^ Gallagher, Jim (April 5, 1988). "Coors goes after more Pennsylvania beer drinkers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 18.
  17. ^ "Press-Tab". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). (advertisement). December 21, 1976. p. 8B.
  18. ^ "Pull-tab cans get heave-ho". Pittsburgh Press. (Chicago Daily News Service). October 6, 1975. p. 17.
  19. ^ Hayes, Paul G. (October 19, 1977). "Poptop cans will lose their pull, expert says". Milwaukee Journal. p. 1.
  20. ^ "Molson announces $6B US merger deal with Coors". CBC. July 22, 2004. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  21. ^ "Fact Sheet". Molson Coors Brewing Company. 2005. Archived from the original on October 27, 2007.
  22. ^ "Adolph Coors Company (A)" (PDF). Business Case, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 27, 2006. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
  23. ^ Dana Parsons, "Why did strikers return?", The Denver Post, October 3, 1979, p. 3.
  24. ^ Karen Newman, "Coors workers reject union by big margin", Rocky Mountain News (Denver), December 15, 1978, p. 1.
  25. ^ Molly Ivins, "Union at Coors May Be Broken But It Hasn't Halted Its Boycott" Archived August 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, May 28, 1979, p. A7
  26. ^ "Coors union backing Calif. beer roadblock", The Denver Post, December 5, 1977.
  27. ^ "Bill before Missouri legislature would ban Coors", The Denver Post November 2, 1984.
  28. ^ Bartell Nyberg, "Coors brewing for long-term survival", The Denver Post, February 22, 1987, p. 1G.
  29. ^ Louisiana Beer Reviews: Coors Banquet Beer Revisited (bottled version) Archived January 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "AFL-CIO ends 10-year Coors boycott", The Denver Post, August 19, 1987.
  31. ^ Jeffrey Leib, "Coors workers reject union", The Denver Post, December 16, 1988, p. 1A.
  32. ^ MacLean, Nancy (2006). Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace. Harvard University Press. pp. 177–179.
  33. ^ Lichtenstein, Grace (December 28, 1975). "Is it beer or 'Colorado Kool-Aid'?". Lakeland Ledger. Florida. (New York Times). p. 7D.
  34. ^ "Adolph Coors Company (A)" (PDF). Business Case, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 27, 2006. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
  35. ^ "The Dynamics of Brand Legitimacy: An Interpretive Study in the Gay Men's Community (PDF)". Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press. 16: 670–675. JSTOR 10.
  36. ^ Dan Baum (April 10, 2001). Citizen Coors: A Grand Family Saga of Business, Politics, and Beer. HarperCollins. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-06-095946-3.
  37. ^ Justin Berton, The other Coors spokesman, Westword (Denver) September 2, 1999, p. 28.
  38. ^ Michael Booth, "Coors adds 'partners' to benefits", The Denver Post, July 8, 1995, p. 1A.
  39. ^ John C. Green, Mark J. Rozell, Clyde Wilcox, The Values Campaign? Archived May 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, p. 185.
  40. ^ Bruce Mirken, Coors Courts Gays, July 13, 2001,,


  • Baum, Dan. Citizen Coors: A Grand Family Saga of Business, Politics, and Beer. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. ISBN 0-688-15448-4

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