BREWING: The Beer That Won the West

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Gerald Ford had a case of it tucked away in his luggage when he returned to Washington last month from a vice-presidential skiing trip to Colorado. President Eisenhower had his own steady supply airlifted to the White House aboard an Air Force plane. Actor Paul Newman refuses to be seen drinking any other brand on the screen. Until a court made him stop, Frederick Amon, 24, used to drive a refrigerated truckload every week from Denver to Charlotte, N.C., where he sold it to restaurants and country clubs for as much as $1 a can, better than triple the retail price of about $1.50 a sixpack.

The object of that foaming frenzy is Coors Banquet Beer, brewed from the waters of the 70 to 80 springs around Golden, Colo., 15 miles west of Denver. Unlike most U.S. beers, Coors contains no preservatives or stabilizers and is not pasteurized; if left unrefrigerated and allowed to get warm, it will spoil in a week. It is probably the only beer that is kept cold from the brewery to the customer. But its lack of additives and its brewing process greatly enhance its taste. For many connoisseurs, Coors is the Château Haut-Brion of American beers; to their palates, it is lighter, milder, drier and less bitter than most.

There is one drawback: Coors is available only in eleven Western and Southwestern states, and the Adolph Coors Co. has no intention of expanding east of Oklahoma. Within ten of those eleven states, the company outsells each of its leading competitors by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Coors accounts for 41% of all the beer sold in California, the nation's biggest beer-drinking state, and more than two-thirds of all beer drunk in Oklahoma. Altogether, the company produced eleven million 31-gal. barrels last year, making Coors the nation's fourth largest brewer (after Anheuser-Busch, Jos. Schlitz and Pabst), with sales of $440 million, up from ninth place a decade ago.

Since the beginning, every drop of Coors has been brewed in the same plant, which is now the world's largest brewing establishment. An average can travels 960 miles in refrigerated trucks and railroad cars before it is consumed. The Coors brewing process takes 80 days, as much as four times as long as some other big brewers take, but distribution is so efficient that a typical mouthful is out of the brewery and down the hatch in a month, as opposed to an industry average of three months.

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