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Golden's Coors Malted Milk Co., circa 1952—Photo courtesy of Golden History Museum (City of Golden Collection)

Dry Spell

When Prohibition hit Colorado 100 years ago, Coors Brewing Co.'s recipes turned to malted milk.

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One hundred years ago this month, on January 1, Colorado emptied its collective liquor cabinet and began a 17-year ban on alcohol. It was one of the first states in the country to go dry. (Prohibition didn’t become federal law until 1920.) Leading up to the November 1915 election, the state’s largest brewery, Coors Brewing Co., had draped delivery trucks with signs urging Coloradans to vote against Amendment 3, to no avail. Fortunately, the Golden brewery—which had been bottling about 74,000 barrels of its Banquet Beer annually—had been strategizing a plan B: malted milk. Grover Coors, the son of Adolph Coors Sr., helped modify the company’s brewing equipment to turn 500 gallons of milk from local dairies each day into malted milk, which was eventually sold to companies like candymaker Mars. To keep his skeleton workforce busy, Coors also turned out a nonalcoholic near beer called Mannah and leveraged an on-site porcelain factory to keep revenue flowing. Colorado (and Coors) rejoiced when Prohibition ceased in 1933. The porcelain manufacturing fell under a branch company, the still-in-business CoorsTek, and the brewery continued to make malted milk along with beer until 1957, when it returned to focusing on suds full time. By then, American drinkers had developed quite a thirst: That year, Coors produced more than one million barrels—still just a fraction of the 13 million barrels filled annually in Golden today.

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