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| Booze |

Beer and Cheer: Coors Winterfest is back!

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It's not often that a powerless little blogger can claim to have influenced a billion-dollar conglomerate like MillerCoors. After all, the big boys of beer spend ungodly sums of money on marketing teams and focus groups and executive vice presidents who are supposed to make the decisions that matter.

So, for one insignificant beer-drinking man to pen a report like the one I did in 2007 -- Coors Cancels Christmas (Brew) -- that would change the direction of an entire company is a pretty big deal.

If that's what had happened. But it's not.

No, Coors apparently decided on its own to bring back its celebrated Winterfest beer after a two-year absence from liquor-store shelves - albeit in limited production (if you can call 85,248 bottles a "limited" number) and only in Colorado.

And it's a brilliant plan. Each bottle is individually numbered, and a six-pack runs about $8.99 -- the same as a microbrew. When else could Coors justify that kind of price tag?

Winterfest was first brewed in 1985 for Coors employees only. The next year, it was made available to the public. It was one of the first U.S. winter seasonals -- a tradition now heartily embraced by craft brewers around the country (see a slide show of last winter's beer here; check back with Cafe Society for reviews of this season's batch). In 2007, the company made the beer only for employees again -- choosing to focus on its Pale Moon seasonal -- and in 2008, Winterfest disappeared altogether.

This year, Winterfest is being made by AC Golden Brewing Company, a subsidiary of MillerCoors that is located in "a tiny little brewery off in a side house" at the company's complex in Golden, says spokeswoman Aimee Valdez.

"AC Golden specializes in small batch brewing. It's an incubator. They create new beers and sell them by word of mouth and not with a big marketing program," she explains. At the moment, Herman Joseph's Private Reserve, also available only in Colorado, is the only other beer that AC Golden brews, but there are other ideas in the pipeline.

And, as she says, Coors doesn't have marketing plan for Winterfest. There is a press release available on request, however, that begins: "Winterfest, a rich, creamy seasonal beer, will be available only in Colorado this season, helping Coloradans celebrate the holidays in style...

"Each bottle is individually numbered, with the last bottle numbered 85248. Who will find bottle number 00001? Bottle number 02009? Or number 12259 (Christmas Day)? Number 12010 (New Year's Day)? Perhaps a bottle carries your birth date?"

So how is it?

Well, I've never been a big fan of Coors beers myself. They all seem to carry a sawdust-like flavor that is likely a product of one of their barleys. But once you get past that, Winterfest is actually quite good, with a nice, crisp body and pleasant sweetness.

Although that sweetness tasted like some sort of spice to me (coriander, perhaps?), Valdez says it comes solely from the three malts in Winterfest -- Moravian, caramel and a hint of dark roasted - and not from any kind of spices of fruit.

So, thank you Coors, or rather, AC Golden, for bringing back this Colorado tradition. You may be part of an international conglomerate now, but this keeps at least a part of your heart, and your history, in Colorado.

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