Canning the Coors Tour

It has been a Colorado rite of passage for decades. Turn 21, then head to Golden for a guided tour of the Coors brewery and, most importantly, the three free beers that come with it. But that changed on Friday when Coors, now called Molson Coors, unveiled its shorter, self-guided audio tours with less information and not as much to see.

The company made the change because of increasing demand. With a quarter of a million visitors every year -- many of them conventioneers, summer tourists and regulars from the Colorado School of Mines -- Coors said it wants to get people through the plant, and presumably into the drinking room, faster and more efficiently. The self-guided tours will take about twenty minutes versus the guided ones, which took 45.

To mark this momentous change, Westword went along for one of the very last guided tours on the very last day they were available, Tuesday, April 8. Our goal was to see what, if anything, would be lost with the lack of a human guide (For a slide show, click here).

What will stay the same:

-- The shuttle trip from the parking lot at 13th and Ford streets to the factory, complete with the driver’s perfectly-timed tour of downtown Golden. -- Video screens and display panels explaining brewing process, enemies to beer, quality control and various Coors mottos. -- The heady smell of malt and barley -- The 21 means 21 song and dance (and TWINS!) -- Fake aspen trees along the tour route -- The fresh beer tasting room -- Crotchety-looking employees making their way through tour groups.

What will change:

-- Malting house, barley kiln and germination area no longer on public view. (Loss analysis: They weren’t that exciting anyway.) -- No longer guaranteed to hear Coors elves offer such Golden nuggets as, “We know how you’re going to see how we focus on quality every step of the way,” and “Bill Coors always says, ‘Barley is to beer what grapes are to wine.’” (Loss analysis: less humor quotient.) -- Headsets will reveal Coors facts rather than robotic guides. (Loss analysis: none.) -- No more tours on Tuesday and Wednesday, but count Sunday in for the first time. (Loss analysis: none, this is better.) -- The fourteen tour employees will all keep their jobs, but be stationed throughout the tour route rather than leading the group. (Loss analysis: none. No offense to our lovely guide, Denise, but I already knew that beer is made from Rocky Mountain Spring Water.)

Perhaps Mines student Rees Jones – relaxing at the brewery with his three eight-ounce beers on Tuesday – explains it best. It’s “lame” that they’re changing the tours, he says. “If you’re taking the long tour, you might as well do it without the headsets.” Then again, Jones, 23, and his friend, Carolyn Reilly, 22, haven’t been on the long tour in a while, eschewing it for “the short tour” – a two-minute ride in the elevator, through the hallways and into the tasting room – which is truly the only reason to make the trip.

Oh, and one last thing that probably won’t change: this wisdom from the world-weary shuttle driver who takes slightly tipsy visitors back to the parking lot – “Don’t forget your ABCs. Always buy cases. Always buy cold. Always buy Coors.” -- Jonathan Shikes

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes