Free beer still flowing for Coors employees

I know you've been worried. Or worried-ish. But rest assured that, unlike their peers up at Molson Coors in Canada, the approximately 2,800 employees at MillerCoors in Golden will continue to get their 864 free beers a year ... for now.

Last week, I read that Molson Coors -- the parent company of MillerCoors, whose biggest brewery is in Golden -- plans to cut back on the amount of free beer it gives employees and retirees. According to the Toronto Star, Molson retirees currently get 864 free beers a year. In five years, that number will dwindle to zero. Meanwhile, employees' allotment of free beer will shrink from 864 to 624.

Would the same fate befall the beer conglomerate's employees in Golden, where Coors got its start more than a century ago? I called the Coors hotline to find out. But before I could ask anyone anything, I had to verify my age.

"This is an age-restricted industry," said the woman who answered the hotline. Then she asked how old I was. Only after I assured her that I was old enough to throw back a couple of cold-as-the-Rockies Coors Lights did she give me the number for the media hotline. Which turned out to be an answering machine.

I left four messages on that answering machine over the next couple of days, but no one called me back. So yesterday, I dialed the hotline again. But this time, egged on by my co-workers, I told the dude who answered that I was 20. Just to see what would happen.

There was a long pause. Then he suggested that I have someone who was 21 call him back.

"What if I tell you I'm 21?" I said.

"Um, I'd have to verify your age," he stammered. "But unfortunately, you did say you were 20. Since this is an age-restricted industry, you have to be over the age of 21." Then he hung up.

After that, I gave up on calling and found a media e-mail address instead. You apparently don't have to be 21 to write Coors an e-mail.

Spokeswoman Kim DeVigil eventually responded and very nicely explained the whole free-beer thing to me. (That was the original point of this story, right?)

According to DeVigil, although MillerCoors is affiliated with Molson Coors, the two companies' gratis-beer policies are separate. And Coors retirees have never (at least, not as far back as DeVigil can remember) gotten any free beer at all. Instead, they get a discount on up to nine cases per month, which works out to be 2,592 cheap(er) beers a year.

Now, finally, the good news: The perqs aren't drying up in Golden. MillerCoors employees will continue to get their 864 free beers a year.

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