Coors is one of the most popular American beer brands, with the Coors Light beer being one of the best-selling beer brands in the US, coming in just after Bud Light and the Mexican Corona Extra.
Did you know, for example, that Coors was the first US brewer to produce a light beer way back in the 1940s but it was discontinued after WW II and only reintroduced in 1978 in response to Miller Lite?
But what about Coors Banquet, the original Coors beer, does anybody still drink that?
And, to make matters even more confusing, there’s also a product in the Coors beer portfolio called Coors Original. Which one is the “original” Coors recipe beer dating back to 1873?
Are they both the same beer with just different labeling for production and sale in different regions, or are there any differences in taste?
Coors Banquet vs Original – The Official Story From Coors
Although loyal beer drinkers of the Coors Banquet beer argue Coors Original is a completely different beer, Molson Coors argues the Coors Original is the same beer inspired by the brewery’s original recipe.
However, Coors Original is a lighter-bodied beer with a more crisp and refreshing taste than the original Coors Banquet beloved by so many, and it has a lower alcohol content of 4.2% ABV rather than the 5% ABV of Coors Banquet.
A Brief History of Coors Brewery and the Birth of Banquet Beer
Coors brewery was founded in 1873 by Adolph Coors, a penniless brewer’s apprentice who stowed away on a ship from Germany before stumbling across the perfect water of Clear Creek, in Golden, Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
After buying a recipe for a Pilsner-style beer from a Czech immigrant he opened the first brewery in Golden, Colorado, along with fellow countryman Jacob Schueler
The first beer he produced with the rerouted water of the Clear Creek stream was simply called Coors Golden Lager.
Shortly after launch, the beer would be nicknamed “Banquet Beer”, referring to the large banquet halls and tents local miners in the Clear Creek Canyon drank their beer at. It’s widely believed that Adolph Coors even personally gave cases of the beer to the miners in Golden.
Although it has been widely known as Coors Banquet ever since the early days before prohibition, the name didn’t become official until 1937 when Coors sought to combat the Depression of the time with a nostalgic name that didn’t refer to the 1890s.
It was the same year that Coors also adopted the other two well-known marketing slogans of “America’s Fine Light Beer” and “Brewed with Rocky Mountain Spring Water” that were to become synonymous with the Coors brand.
Coors Banquet in American Mainstream Society
Originally only available in the Clear Creek Canyon area and the nearby town of Golden, Coors Golden Lager would soon spread to the rest of Colorado.
But between the end of Prohibition and 1976, Coors Banquet was still only available in 11 states, all west of the Mississippi river.
Coors Banquet was unpasteurized and contained no preservatives, so it was a difficult beer to transport as it had to be kept cold.
Although Coors took the first steps towards a national distribution network in the 1950s with the pioneering use of cold filtering, sterile filling, aluminum cans, and refrigerated trucks, Coors would not reach all 50 states until 1991, when it finally hit Indiana.
The scarcity of this popular beer made it somewhat of a cult icon in the American beer culture, with such famous celebrity beer lovers as President Eisenhower known to have packed supplies onto Air Force One to the White House every so often.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would often bring cases back from his frequent trips to California.
Not every beer enthusiast was lucky enough to have a Government jet plane or dedicated Secretary of State to bring them supplies of Coors from the west, so many entrepreneurs started smuggling the flagship product Coors Banquet to meet the demand.
There was even a Hollywood blockbuster produced, 1977’s “Smokey and the Bandit” starring Burt Reynolds, which featured two bootleggers trying to illegally transport 400 cases of Coors Banquet from Texarkana to Atlanta.
Although officially transporting Coors Banquet wasn’t against the law, Coors did try to discourage it as the beer was still unpasteurized and shipping without refrigeration would often spoil the beer.
What’s the point of producing such an iconic flavorful beer if most consumers are going to receive it in a sub-standard condition?
A 1974 Time magazine article argued that one of the reasons Coors Banquet was so coveted was its lack of stabilizers and preservatives.
Combine the unique flavor of Coors Banquet with the fact it was an affordable beer (six packs would often sell for less than $2), the iconic stubby bottle, and the scarcity of supply East of Oklahoma and Coors Banquet became a cult hit and one of America’s most recognizable beers.
What Does Coors Banquet Taste Like?
Coors Banquet, many would argue, is the taste of the old West America. It has a more distinct flavor than your average everyday lawnmower beer.
Made with the fresh water of the Rocky Mountains, two-row Moravian barley malt, corn syrup, yeast, and hop extract, Coors Banquet is a Gold-colored, easy-drinking beer.
Coors Banquet has an ABV of 5% and a subtle sweetness and maltiness. With notes of grain from that specially grown organic barley malt, it has more bright fruity notes than many other regular beers of this era.
The grain, corn, and banana-bread notes to the flavors and the corn aroma make it so much more appealing than many other American lager-style beers and provide some of the reasons why it was so popular (and some would argue still is!).
An adjunct beer, it uses corn syrup in the brewing process (although not high fructose Corn syrup as Coors is keen to stress) alongside the barley malt, with a sharp barley presence detectable in the sweet aromas.
The hop extracts contribute to the fruity aromas. Although Coors doesn’t specifically list which hops they use, they have mentioned it’s a blend of Chinook, Hallertau, Herkules, and Taurus varieties.
1978 and the Introduction of Coors Light and Coors Original
Unfortunately, beer tastes changed, and in the mid to late 1970s, the mass-market beer brands of America were moving towards lighter beers as exemplified by the increasing popularity of brands such as Miller Light and, later on, Bud Light, Natural Light, Michelob Ultra, etc.
Remember Coors was the first in the beer industry to dabble in the Light Beer market prior to WW II and relaunched their original Coors Light brand in 1978, although formulated to a new recipe for a more refreshing beer with an American lager taste, like its main competitor at the time, Miller.
A lighter version of Coors Banquet, Coors Light retains all of the Coors classic flavors but with fewer calories and a lower alcohol content per serving.
It uses the same adjunct ingredients but in different quantities and with a different fermentation process which ensures a different taste and nutritional profile.
|Coors Banquet 12 oz||5% ABV||147 calories|
|Coors Light 12 oz||4.2% ABV||102 calories|
Coors Light became an instant hit, but to try and regenerate interest in their original brand, Coors Banquet was relaunched as a nostalgic beer
Coors Original, on the other hand, was introduced in 1978 to celebrate the company’s centennial anniversary. It was brewed using the original recipe from the 19th century, and its label featured the iconic Coors logo from the 1930s.
Coors Original was marketed as a “heritage” beer, meant to appeal to consumers who valued tradition and authenticity.
Although many beer lovers argue the name was changed from Banquet to Coors Original to allow the beer to be sold in Canada where Banquet was copyrighted by another beverage company, the Original in the name harks back to the original recipe of the 1870s.
Coors Original is now brewed at St John’s in Nova Scotia, the first place in North America outside Golden, Colorada where Coors was brewed.
Since a merger with Molson, the Canadian brewer, Coors Original is brewed in eight other plants around the world with Banquet the only beer which is still produced exclusively at the Golden brewery in Colorado.
What Does Coors Original Taste Like?
While both Coors Banquet and Coors Original are brewed using the same recipe, there are some subtle differences in their taste and flavor.
Coors Banquet is brewed using a combination of two-row barley, corn, and hops. It has a smooth, crisp taste with a slight sweetness and a hint of bitterness with a clean finish. Coors Banquet has a light to medium body and a golden color with a frothy head.
Coors Original, on the other hand, is brewed using only two-row barley and hops, with no added corn or other adjuncts.
It is a robust yet easy-to-drink beer, with a slightly bitter finish. Coors Original is also a lighter-bodied beer with a more crisp and refreshing taste and a lower ABV of just 4.2% compared to the stronger beer of Coors Banquet.
Is Coors Banquet Better than Coors Original?
Most Coors drinkers seem to think so. Personally, I also prefer the sweeter and lighter taste of Coors Banquet. The malty beer which is Coors Original, with no adjuncts like corn syrup, can be too malty and a different taste for many Coors Banquet regulars.
Coors Banquet wasn’t originally available in Canada until 2013 but apparently, the Canadians already preferred the Banquet rather than the Canadian-produced Coors Original.
The long-awaited move North of the US border was brought about partly by a Facebook page “Bring Coors Banquet Back to Canada”. One user even suggested Canadians could swap some of their Canadian exclusive Molson beers at the border for supplies of US-brewed Coors Banquet.
Coors Banquet, many beer lovers argue, is a higher quality beer than Coors Original as it is only brewed in Golden, Colorado using the pure water of the Rocky Mountains, whereas Coors original is brewed at many breweries both in the US, Canada, and worldwide.
As any good brewer will tell you, a lot of the taste and consistency of beer comes from that water source. Different breweries in different locations can often brew the same beer but with a totally different taste profile due to the water composition.
Coors Banquet also uses more traditional brewing processes such as filtering with Enzinger, using a closed horizontal box fermentation, and it is brewed in Huppmann kettles.
The Coors brewery in Colorado is still one of the largest single plants in the US and, although there are more efficient ways of mass-producing lagers, the Coors philosophy seems to be “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it!
Packaging and Availability of Coors Banquet vs Coors Original
Coors Banquet is available in beer cans, bottles, and on draft in most states in the US. Its packaging features a retro design with a red and gold label and the Coors logo from the 1970s.
Coors Banquet is also known for its distinctive “stubby” bottle, which was first introduced in the 1930s.
Coors is also sometimes referred to as a Yellow Jacket, in reference to the yellow label originally found on the regular beer cans and bottles of Coors Banquet.
Coors Original is available in cans, bottles, and on draft in select states in the US and all over Canada. Its packaging features a blue and gold label with the iconic Coors logo from the 1930s.
Coors Original is often sold in a “vintage” can design that features the original Coors logo and design elements.
Why Did They Get Rid of Coors Banquet?
They didn’t, they just renamed it in most countries in 2019 as Coors Original. However, as we have already seen, only beer which is produced in Golden, Colorado is named Coors Banquet and is a different-tasting beer.
In 2019, an online petition at change.org tried to convince Molson Coors to bring back Coors Original to Canada, saying Canadians deserve the Coors Banquet brewed in Golden, Colorado.
If you are unlucky enough to live in Canada and be craving a Coors Banquet, at the time of going to press, the petition was still there to be signed.
In conclusion, Coors Banquet and Coors Original are two classic American beers with a rich history and distinctive branding.
While they are brewed using the same recipe, Coors Banquet has a lighter, crisper taste, while Coors Original has a more robust, malty flavor.
Both beers are widely available and are beloved by fans of classic American beers. Whether you prefer the smooth taste of Coors Banquet or the rich flavor of Coors Original, both beers are sure to satisfy you.