Beer Man

Coors history: the top ten moments

Priviett Moskva! Coors recently began distributing Coors Light in Russia, where the Silver Bullet will take on the former Iron Curtain. But without Rocky Mountain Spring Water: the beer will be brewed in Moscow by Moscow Brewing Company.

That's big news, but it barely ranks in the pantheon of milestones since Adolph Coors founded the company in Golden in 1873.

While Coors might take issue with it, here is our list of the ten biggest moments in Coors history.

10) The end of prohibition You can't make beer if beer is illegal, and although Coors managed to stay alive during the dry years by producing malted milk for candy and non-alcoholic beer at its Golden plant, the end of prohibition in 1933 left Coors as one of the only surviving brewers.

9) Aluminum cans Bill Coors is often credited as being the father of canned beer, having founded Coors Container Company in 1959, because he figured out a way to make all-aluminum cans and turn them into the container of choice for American beer drinkers - drinkers like John Belushi, who wouldn't have been able to crush a beer can against his head at a frat party in Animal House if it hadn't been made out of aluminum. 8) Pete Coors runs for office In 2004, Coors chairman Pete Coors, the great-grandson of Adolph, was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Colorado, but lost in the general election. Had he been elected, he might not have been popped for a DUI two years later near his home. 7) Blue Moon Coors Field opened in 1995 as the home to the Colorado Rockies, but it also served as the birthplace for Blue Moon, a Belgian-style wheat beer spiced with coriander and orange rind. Brewers at the Sandlot - the Coors owned mini brewery inside the park - invented the tasty beer, which began life as Bellyside Belgian White. Blue Moon was targeted toward craft beer drinkers and didn't mention Coors on the label, but its existence showed, that the company could still innovate; Blue Moon is now sold nationwide.

6) Twins The Coors Light twins commercials hit the airwaves in 2003, and the world of beer advertising was never the same. Well, actually, it was the same as always, but these spots, starring twins Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski, became the highest "scoring" -- and most controversial - spots that Coors made. We miss the twins.

5) Keystone Ice Not actually a beer as much as a way for teenagers to quickly get drunk, Keystone (first produced in 1989) and its homies, Keystone Light and Keystone Ice, might as well have been sold in 30-packs in order to help high schoolers get hammered even faster. Thankfully, Coors no longer makes this sorry excuse for a beer. Oh, wait, they were sold in 32-packs? And they still make Keystone Ice? Sorry, my bad. 4) Changing the Coors Tour For decades, the Coors Tour (and the free beer afterward) was on the must-do list, not just for newly-minted 21-year-old Coloradans, but for tourists and beer lovers from around the world. Because, say what you will about the beer, walking through the largest single site brewery in the world is pretty damn cool. In 2008, Coors switched from using live docents - who spouted amazing facts and Bill Coors wisdom -- to a self-guided system. And although the tour isn't quite the same, there is still free beer, and the plant is still the largest single site brewery in the world.

3) Mergers In 2005, Coors merged with Canada's Molson, and Colorado lost its bragging rights to the company. Three years later, the combined conglomerate merged again, this time with Miller. MillerCoors, now based in Chicago, is the second largest beer maker in the U.S. 2) Crossing the Mississippi Rocky Mountain Spring Water. The Banquet Beer in the yellow can. If you lived east of the Mississippi before 1981, the only way to get Coors was to drive 1,000 miles and haul it back in your truck or all your friends. Why East Coasters needed and craved Coors so much is anyone's guess, but brilliant marketing is one guess. Anyway, the rest of the nation got its fill over the next decade as the company finally began distributing east and south - possibly to make up for the effects of a nearly-devastating strike in 1977 that resulted in a broken union and a ten-year union-led boycott of the Coors.

1) The Cold-Activated can, glass and bottle Just kidding. These are stupid. If you can't tell when your beer is cold by your damn self, then you deserve to drink warm Coors.

1) Smokey and the Bandit You can't beat Burt Reynolds, Sally Fields and a black Trans Am when it comes to movies - or marketing. This 1977 classic revolved around an effort by two rich and blustery southerners to illegally import a truckload of Coors across the Mississippi from Texas into Georgia. The movie solidified the Coors mystique and made the beer into a household name. Thanks Bandit.

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