On the southwest corner of Ford and 13th streets in downtown Golden, Colorado, a liquor store painted bright yellow touts “no fresher Coors sold anywhere!” Indeed, its claim is probably true, considering the bottle shop stands directly across the street from the spot where Adolph Coors built his first brewery in 1873.
Today, the Coors campus looks like its own industrial city, with uninspired, gray-beige, largely windowless buildings rising in a valley between two mesas, its own railway line, and streets closed to all but those with an employee pass. Its facade amid the community of 20,000 residents evokes a sense of mystery. What happens inside those concrete walls?
On the Tour
A 30-minute brewery tour offers a behind-the-can look at how Coors products are made. Until early 2019, the tour was free. Now, however, it costs $10 for out-of-state guests and $5 for Colorado residents.
But before any veteran visitors get their taste buds out of whack, the paid tour includes a live guide (in lieu of a DIY audio tour), a souvenir pint glass (in the very cool shape of a can) and a more manageable experience, meaning some crowd control is in effect. Plus, the beer samples at the end remain a tasty conclusion.
On weekends and during the summer, visitors still should expect to rub shoulders with hordes of strangers while lingering in the tasting lounge or waiting for a shuttle bus, but the tours themselves are limited to about 17 guests—the number that fits in the tour elevator.
The gateway to the tour lies at the shuttle stop on the southwest corner of Ford and 13th streets. A visitor parking lot spreads directly south, making it easy to park and find a place in a Disney-like queue. In contrast to popular animated characters, though, mesmerizing mesas, gorgeous Rocky Mountain foothills and a bustling small town greet visitors.
Aboard the shuttle, beer lovers enjoy a roughly eight-minute wheel around Golden before rolling down 12th Street into a restricted area to disembark next to the Coors cooling ponds. This water, assures the driver, only cools the machinery and should not to be confused with the water from nearby Clear Creek used to make the beer “brewed with pure Rocky Mountain spring water.”
Once through the glass doors, the lobby displays memorabilia and panels depicting the history of Coors. The group gets split into smaller tour groups, and a photographer snaps commemorative photos of each participant or party. And then the half-hour walking tour starts.
Behind the Scenes
A guide leads each small group through the beer-making process at the largest single-site brewery in the world. Admittedly, the steps flow out of order with the brewing process, but a panel at the last stop puts it all together.
It’s hard to say what is more impressive—overlooking the 50 huge copper brewing kettles; seeing the railway line that runs inside the facility to transport ingredients and product between buildings; inhaling the malty smell emanating from the germination room (regulated at 60 degrees and 92% humidity); or watching the rollercoaster-like canning and packaging lines. All of it is simultaneously a marvel of engineering and the inspiring realization of one man’s dream.
The tour concludes in the lounge, where visitors age 21 and over can sample up to three, eight-ounce beers. The taps rotate, but usually Coors Banquet (the original Coors recipe) and Coors Light are available. Throw in the occasional Colorado Native, distributed only in Colorado; Killian’s Irish Red; or Belgian-style Blue Moon, and the tasting room becomes the most popular stop on the tour.
A return shuttle whisks visitors back to where they started, and if they have found that three beers wasn’t enough or they want to take some home, Golden Liquors is right across the street with the freshest Coors sold anywhere.