Beer Man

Coors's Rare Barmen Pils Has a Slow but Steady Presence in Colorado

Despite its scarcity, Barmen fits right in at Table Mountain Inn.
Despite its scarcity, Barmen fits right in at Table Mountain Inn. Table Mountain Inn
Adolph Herman Joseph Coors, who founded Coors Brewing in Golden in 1873, was born in 1847 in the town of Barmen, in what is now northwestern Germany. Twenty years ago, when Adolph’s great-grandson, Pete Coors, decided to make a specialty pilsner designed to be poured slowly — very slowly — and with a thick head, in the traditional German style, he named it after the family patriarch’s appropriately named hometown. The first batch of Barmen was brewed on November 12, 1997, in the small test-brewery that now serves as the home of AC Golden, Coors’s pilot brewhouse and the maker of Colorado Native. Production moved to the Sandlot at Coors Field soon after and then back to AC Golden in 2012, where it is still brewed today.

Unlike the rest of Coors’s beers, though, Barmen isn’t that easy to find — and that's intentional, according to AC Golden president Glenn “Knip” Knippenberg. “We produce twenty barrels of Barmen per month and that is all, so when it’s gone, it’s gone,” he says. “It’s a special beer and it needs to be treated that way. We don’t have to sell Barmen to anybody if we don’t want to.”

And they don’t. There are only sixteen places outside of the Coors brewery and offices where you can try it — most of them in Golden — and AC Golden doesn’t make enough Barmen to expand that list. “We would have to brew more of it to do that, and we just don’t have the room,” Knippenberg says. AC Golden’s primary purpose is the production and sale of Colorado Native, a brand that now includes at least eight styles, including an amber, a pilsner, a saison and an India pale lager. Sales of Colorado Native have grown by at least 15 percent in each of the past seven years, which is why Knippenberg adds, “I can’t have my sales guys getting distracted by Barmen when the mission is Colorado Native.”

And the accounts that do have Barmen had to work for it. “There were several criteria,” Knippenberg explains. “The owner or manager had to come to Golden and brew with me and Jeff Nickel for a day, to see why it is such a special beer. Then they had to pledge to always pour it in our Barmen-branded pilsner glass and commit to using the seven-minute pour,” which involves pouring the beer into the glass about one third of the way, waiting for it to settle for a few minutes, repeating, and then topping it off slowly with foam.

As with Bierstadt Lagerhaus (see "Bierstadt Lagerhaus Wants to Pour You a Its Own Glass"), the slow pour allows the foam to form a thick head at the top of the beer and creates a lacing on the sides of the glass as the beer is consumed.

And finally, Knippenberg had to approve each request personally. “Not because I have a big ego, but because I had to make sure they weren’t the kind of place that would put us in a bind,” he says. In other words, if a Coors family member or employee walked into an account and saw Barmen in a pint glass, there would be trouble.

“It’s a cult beer,” Knippenberg says. “People who know about it will go to one of those accounts because they want to have Barmen. That German pour is part of the presentation, and so is the glass. You don’t put a special meal on a paper plate and you don’t put a special beer in just any glass.”

The sixteen places that sell Barmen are the Old Capitol Grill, Fossil Trace Golf Club, Table Mountain Inn, Indulge Bistro, Rock Restaurant and Rolling Hills Country Club, all in Golden; the Yard House locations in Golden, Denver and Lone Tree; Canteen Tap House in Breckenridge; Red Rocks Country Club in Morrison; the Parker Garage in Parker; Glenmoor Country Club in Englewood; Abrusci's in Wheat Ridge; Pinehurst Country Club in Denver; and 240 Union Restaurant in Lakewood.

If you stop by one of these places and it isn't using the right Barmen glass or doing the seven-minute pour, AC Golden says you should “feel empowered to send the beer back to the bartender.”
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes