Coors Brewery Tour in Golden, Colorado

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This week, I bring you the Coors Brewery Tour in Golden, Colorado. It’s a free tour of the world-famous beer producer. Coors, well, technically, Molson Coors now, was founded way back in 1873 by German immigrant Adolph Coors. It’s the world’s largest single brewery facility today, though they have many other locations around the country.

I’d done the tour back in the 90s, and it has changed considerably. Back then, the tour guide led you through the actual factory. This time around the tour was more sequestered from the actual factory workings, but they had built up some beautiful displays along the new corridors from which you can see the factory procedures through well-placed windows.

Our tour guide:

For those of you old enough, they even have a Smokey and the Bandit display in the lobby now:

You can also see the malt roasting room:

Some labs:

Brewing vats:

And lots of machines and assembly lines:

Action shot:

Finally, at the end of the tour, the doorway we were all waiting for: the lounge.

Here, you get three free beers. Back in the 90s, you only got one. Progress!

Choose three from the menu in the attractive and very busy bar area:

My favorite photo of the tour:

At the shuttle bus stop after the tour (and the free beers) we could see the giant white “M” on the mountain in the distance. It’s been there since about 1907; it’s the emblem for the local Colorado School of Mines, which offers bachelors degrees in metallurgy, engineering and other areas related to mining. Colorado is all about the geology.

And the white “M”? Well, each year all the freshmen bring a 10-pound rock from their hometown. One weekend near the beginning of the school year, they paint all the rocks white and carry them up the mountain on a Saturday morning. They add all the rocks to the “M”, which keeps it fresh and very big. It’s even lit up at night with LEDs. I really like that for a college tradition.

Anyway, as I said before, the Coors tour is free. You just show up at the tour bus parking lot, board the next available shuttle bus and ride to the brewery for the tour. (Back in the 90s, we rolled right up to the front door and walked in, but that’s changed.) At times, like weekends and summer, it can be quite crowded, and, thus, there’s a wait. But if you go early, especially on a weekday, you can get right in.

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

City of Golden, Colorado, at the Base of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains

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This week I’ll show you some pics and give you some info about the big little town of Golden, Colorado. Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock will know that it’s famous for the Coors Brewery, and I’ll give you a rundown of the tour there in a future post. Today I want to give you some background about this Old West town that was once in contention for Colorado’s capital before Denver horned in and took that over.

You might remember I mentioned Golden in my post about Buffalo Bill’s grave. In that post you can see a picture overlooking Golden and notice that it lies between North and South Table Mountains (mesas). The city lies about 15 miles due west of Denver, along Clear Creek at the base of what is called the Front Range of the Rockies. It’s that creek that Coors uses for its beer. Golden has in the neighborhood of 20,000 residents and is the county seat of Jefferson County. It’s slightly higher than Denver, at 5,675 feet above sea level. It was founded in 1859 as Golden City.

Though Denver is the capital of the state today, Golden City was named the capital of the Colorado Territory in 1862. When Denver won out as capital city of the state in 1867, Goldenites (Goldenites?) were perturbed. They also seem to have not let go of that, either:

As I mentioned, Clear Creek runs right through the middle of the town. It used to be called Cannonball Creek because of the size of the rocks in it. I’ll remind you that Colorado is all about geology; you’ll see evidence of that again and again. Anyway, Golden City was the “last flat place” before the Rockies, hence many people there made lots of money supplying miners headed into the mountains. People seldom got rich mining for gold, but lots of money was made supplying those miners.

After the gold rush, Golden depended on agriculture (rich farm land and lots of water from Clear Creek) and industry, such as the aforementioned Coors Brewery, which made its appearance in 1873.

Today, Golden struts its stuff as a tourist mecca, as evidenced by the main drag, Washington Avenue:

Did you know that barbers were surgeons in the past?

Golden has lots to look at besides the Old West feel of the place. They have public artworks, such as the big (and I can attest, hollow) metal buffalo in the above photo near the street in front of the Buffalo Rose bar. Also, there is a great cowboy fly-fisherman sculpture just a few blocks away:

Golden is very walkable, with all the cozy bars, restaurants and shops within a few blocks of each other. Get there early for a parking space; it can be limited. There is plenty but you may have to walk (uphill) from your parking place. Another reason to get there early in the day is that the place becomes overrun with tourists by noon.

Golden is also home to the really, really well-respected-in-these-parts Colorado School of Mines, founded in 1870. Here’s a shot from the Coors Brewery tour, and I’ll post that in the future, don’t worry. But the reason for posting this photo now is because of the big M on the mountaintop. See it? It stands for the School of Mines.

Each year the freshman class carries a 10-pound rock from their hometowns up to the M as a group. They all whitewash the rocks when they get there and add them to the M. Almost 1,400 freshmen will trek up the mountain this Friday! I think it’s on a road, but still!

But back to Golden. There is an arts center, historic homes and churches and a railroad museum. I’ve read they have a wonderful Christmas celebration as well as Buffalo Bill Days in July (didn’t make it this year but it’s on the list!). I’m quite sure there is much more than I saw the first time I was there. Don’t think it’s the last time, either!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Buffalo Bill’s Gravesite and Museum (Pahaska Teepee), Golden, CO


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This week is the last post from my Memorial Day roadtrip. To recap, my husband and I drove to Glenwood Springs first, visited the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and the Hotel Denver there, then we moved on to Silver Plume to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Our last official weekend stop was Buffalo Bill’s Grave on Lookout Mountain.

Of course I had heard of Buffalo Bill Cody throughout my life, but I probably couldn’t have told you much about him before visiting the gravesite and museum there. In case you don’t know, Buffalo Bill was born in Iowa in 1846, then his family moved to Kansas. At the age of 11 he left home to herd cattle and drive in a wagon train across the Great Plains multiple times. When he was 14 he became a rider for the Pony Express. After the Civil War he worked as a scout for the army. So the dude had street cred as a real cowboy.

When he was 26, he began his career as a showman playing a character in a western play in Chicago. The year after, he organized his own acting troupe with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok on the roster. In 1882 he formed his Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, for which he’s most remembered. The show was a gigantic traveling affair, with a cast of hundreds of cowboys, cowgirls and Native Americans plus dozens of live buffalo, elk, cattle and other animals. Think about that! They had tents, rodeo equipment, costumes, tack… it just staggers the imagination!

This huge production traveled to all the then-48 states plus DC. What’s even more amazing, he took this enormous entourage abroad and performed in 12 European countries and Canada. They even performed for Queen Victoria! There’s a cool, downloadable pdf on the museum’s website that lists the places Buffalo Bill performed. It’s really interesting to see if he came to your town.

Well, this stop on our trip wasn’t planned, but we didn’t want to end our trip, so we stopped there when we saw the signage for Bill’s gravesite. We were on a scenic route called Lariat Loop. Colorado has 26 such scenic byways that you can plan your roadtrip around. Each one has its own historical and geographical identity. And 11 of them are designated as America’s Byways by the US Department of Transportation. But I digress.

We followed the signs to the gravesite and museum. It sits atop Lookout Mountain. As usual for Colorado, there is a lovely park adjoining the parking lot. Here’s a shot I took facing east from there:

The nearest town you can see here is Golden. Just past Golden are the North and South Table Mountains with the highway running between them. That big, warehousey operation between the table mountains is the Coors Brewery. Beyond the table mountains you can see the northern part of Denver (Arvada and Westminster). The downtown skyscrapers are just out of the frame on the right. We live just out of the frame to the left, about 45 minutes away.

We turned and entered the museum…

…and were met with some “people” extolling the virtues of Buffalo Bill. Annie Oakley was part of his show:

And many Native Americans were his friends and fellow performers:

Note that the name given to Buffalo Bill by the Native Americans was “Pahaska”. Along the pathway to the ticket counter and throughout the museum, there was no shortage of Buffalo Bill’s likeness:

The museum had carefully preserved exhibits of the artifacts actually used in the Wild West Show and a well-organized chronology of his life…

…including his buckskins and his horse’s tack:

There was the requisite dusty taxidermy buffalo:

I think this was a baby because it was pretty small compared to most I’ve seen. Interesting that I’ve seen so many in three months!

I’ve always wondered how they attached the feathers to the headdresses. Now I know: rawhide, fabric and string.

I TOTALLY dig this rawhide chest!

As you can imagine, the place is pretty kid-friendly, though the chopped-off horse in the playroom was kinda creepy:

Speaking of creepy, I’ve always thought it was too weird to save someone’s hair, but here’s some strands of Buffalo Bill’s vs. Wild Bill Hickok’s. Go figure.

There was even education in the bathroom stalls! “Lavatory Stories”! And, no, I’m NOT curious about the stories in the men’s room!

If you read the above photo, you’ll know Buffalo Bill was a proponent of women’s rights. In addition, he respected the Native Americans, too, working for their rights as well. He has come under some criticism because his Wild West Show employed so many Native Americans, and he was accused of exploitation. And I’m sure animal-rights proponents have had their say, too. But several displays in the museum provide evidence that he welcomed and respected everyone and just wanted to educate and entertain the masses about life in the West.

For many years he said he wanted to be buried in Cody, Wyoming. However, near the end of his life, he changed his mind and decided that Lookout Mountain was the place for his grave. The decision was hotly disputed. Cody, WY, fought fiercely to get his body and museum because everyone knew it would be an instant tourist destination. But apparently he told his wife, some close friends and the priest that administered his last rites that he wanted to be laid to rest on Lookout Mountain.

Buffalo Bill died in 1917 while visiting his sister in Denver.

In 1921, Buffalo Bill’s “unofficial foster son” (according to the website), Johnny Baker, started the museum, which is called Pahaska Teepee. Tourist destination is right! Since its opening, millions have visited the site. Today it’s owned and run by the City and County of Denver.

So after we visited the museum, we walked past the gift shop to the grave site:

Touring the museum first, I think, helped me give proper respects to the grave once I got there. It sometimes blows me away that one person can do so much in one lifetime!

Photo for No Apparent Reason: