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Adolph Coors: The German Immigrant Who Brought Us Banquet Beer

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 6, 2023 3:01 am

Adolph Coors: The German Immigrant Who Brought Us Banquet Beer

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 6, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Coors Banquet is an icon in the beer industry and it's story began with a German immigrant living in a Colorado mining town. Pete Coors tells the story.

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Chipotle, for real. And we return to Our American Stories. And up next, a story from Pete Kors on Adolph Kors.

Take it away, Pete. Well, so Adolph was born somewhere in the 1840s in a place called Barman on Wippertal in Germany. Kind of an interesting story. People say the C-O-O-R-S name is kind of unusual for a German name. His birth certificate, he was signed in as Kors, K-O-R-S, which is very German. And his father actually signed K-O-H-R-S. And by the time his sister was born about eight or 10 years later, there was a Dutch magistrate who brought the double O from their language and it became C-O-O-R-S. His father was a flour miller, died when he was 10. He had been a princess three times in order to survive. Once as a flour miller, his father's trade. Once as a printer book finder. And those are three years in dentureships, which, as I understand, in those days that meant you got room and board and that's about it.

And then the third one in brewing. We don't know the details of how or why he decided to leave Germany. He was always very proud of his German heritage. But he stowed away on a ship, landed in Baltimore, had no papers, had no money, was able to work off his passage. As soon as he did, he started working his way across the country. And I guess it's a typical great American story of coming to a land of opportunity and freedom, but with no safety nets.

I mean, you came here, you were on your own, as so many pioneers did after this country became free from the monarchical rule of England. And he worked on the Erie Barge Canal, as we understand it. He worked at a brewery in Naperville, Illinois, the Stenger Brewery, became general manager of the brewery there, left, came further west, ended up in Denver, started a business importing cask wine from California and taking it by pack horse up to the mining towns between Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Central City, Blackhawk, and selling them.

And that's how he made a living. And then I guess some of his German friends in Denver said, well, you know how to brew beer. We could use a good brewery, joined up with a financial partner. I think he invested about $10,000 in 11 acres in Golden, Colorado, where he had found a source of spring water.

The brewery was incorporated in 1873, three years before Colorado statehood. His partner lasted about eight years and decided the beer business wasn't going anywhere. And Adolph turned into a sole proprietorship. And he really had no formal education, but he had a practical education. And I think that was probably true for most immigrants at that time. They came with their skills, with their ability to do hard labor. And it wasn't easy.

I'm sure it wasn't easy. And as I look at some of the pictures that we have in the archives of the brewery workers sitting around the tanks and the kegs, it's pretty obvious that they were a pretty rough crew. You know, he struggled, but the business was growing. In those days, there were over 20 breweries in Colorado. Most of the mining towns had their own breweries. We would equate to craft breweries today, boutique breweries. If you hike throughout Colorado and pay attention, a lot of these old abandoned mining towns and mining areas, you'll find hops growing.

Hops growing wild. And he literally started by hauling beer by pack horse. And then he began to buy properties. And pre-prohibition, he sold beer by having, like craft breweries do today, by having saloons and bars. We have a listing, actually 19, I think the first year of taxes were 1915.

And he did a full accounting of all his properties in Denver and in Southern Colorado and around the region. Prohibition changed all that, and brewers could no longer own retail liquor saloons and bars. Another interesting story about Adolph. He needed to double the capacity of his brewery because they were doing quite well and growing. And I believe it was 1884.

I can't remember for sure the date. He had just completed the new facilities. Flood came down Clear Creek and wiped out his new brewery. And he had borrowed money from the banks in Denver to build that.

And of course, beer sales primarily grow in the summertime. So here his brewery in the spring has wiped out all of his inventory. Went back to the banks and said, look, if you'll double down, I'll rebuild and I'll pay it off. And he and he did. But he never borrowed another dime.

He decided that that was not a good way to proceed. So really, the company didn't ever borrow money until about the late 1880s. We'd been growing and we needed the additional capital to expand the brewery. So people often ask, why in the world in the 60s and 70s when the company was growing so fast, were you only in 11 states? And the simple answer is we were, every dime that we had was invested back into the company because we had no debt.

We couldn't borrow money to grow any faster. So that's in the mid 70s when competition from the east, particularly Anheuser-Busch, came more west. We began to expand our territory and people used to say it had something to do with quality. And to a certain degree, it did.

In 11 states, we could have pretty good control of quality. But the real reason is we needed to, in order to become a competitor with the big guys and keep them from burying us, we expanded territory. The rest, I guess, as they say, is history. A couple of funny stories after prohibition. Back in those days, a banquet was a big deal. You didn't have fast food restaurants.

You didn't have people on there going out to clubs. And I mean, if you had a banquet, that was a big deal. And my grandfather said to the, we had no marketing department per se in those days, he said, well, I think we ought to, this is a beer that's good enough for a banquet. And so that's where a banquet came from. And the other funny story, you know, now we have the Coors Banquet has the stubby bottles.

And it's a retro. It goes back to the early days after prohibition when we had stubby bottles. And I asked my uncle one time, I don't know if this is a true story or not, I asked my uncle one time, why did we go to Longnecks? He said, well, he said, the cowboys, when they go dancing, would like to put their bottles in the back pocket so they could dance. And the beer was sloshed out. And so that's how Longnecks got started. Now, I don't know if that's true, accurate or not, but that's why everybody went to Longnecks and everybody had pretty much had stubbies back in the early days after prohibition. So now we've gone back to the, I guess they put their beer down when they go dance.

I don't know. But anyway. And a special thanks to Monty and to Alex for the storytelling and putting that story together so beautifully. And a special thanks to Pete Coors. And what a story he had to tell about Adolf Coors, born in Germany. He became an apprentice and even talked about indentureships. This is back when young people would work for room and board.

And that was it. And my goodness, by 1873, having come to America, moved all the way out to the West and learned not by formal education, but by practical education, that is experience, forged and formed a company that was incorporated in 1873, three years before Colorado was even a state. And all these years later, this family business, well, it's still a family business. And that doesn't happen often.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-06 04:28:55 / 2023-04-06 04:33:54 / 5

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