Photo: Steve Zdawczynski/steve-z.com
The Coors Brewing Company, now MillerCoors for those of you not paying attention, operates the largest single brewery facility in the world. The ginormous factory in Golden, complete with smokestacks and acres of paved parking lots, doesn’t exactly call to mind small-batch handcrafted beer. Yet deep inside the monstrosity known as MillerCoors lives a little microbrewery by the name of AC Golden.
It started in 2007, when Coors executives calculated that it cost anywhere from $18 to $35 million to launch a new brand, and that 95% of new brands failed. “Once Pete Coors realized that, he was determined to do it a different way,” says AC Golden’s co-founder Glenn Knippenberg, aka Knip.
The pair decided to develop a go-to-market strategy modeled after craft breweries—small batches, small budget, little advertising. Once a beer demonstrates a substantial grassroots following, it will become part of MillerCoors’ regular lineup. “AC Golden is essentially an incubator brewery, structured as a wholly-owned subsidiary of MillerCoors,” Knip says.
AC Golden opened inside the pilot brewing area of the MillerCoors plant later that year, using 30-barrel brew kettles, as compared to regular 500-barrel kettles. Currently, six brewers work for AC Golden, creating three different craft beers and a variety of experimental one-offs. Their most well known creation (although few realize it’s a MillerCoors venture) is Colorado Native, an amber lager that’s the first and only beer made with 100 percent Colorado ingredients.
“Our barley is from the San Luis Valley, our hops from the Western Slope and the Front Range, even our water is from the Rocky Mountains,” says brewer Steve Fletcher, aka, Fletch. “Using only what’s available in the state has been part science and part art. And a lot of fun.”
Colorado Native is currently only available in Colorado. For more information go to coloradonativelager.com
The second largest brewery in Golden
Coors isn’t the only show in town. Golden City Brewery was founded in 1993 by two geologists, Charlie and Janine Sturdavant, in an old machine shop behind their house. Today, the pair produces five brews, ranging from ales to stouts, and serves them in the backyard beer garden of their historic Golden home on 12th Street. Besides quality craft beer and good vibes, GCB is known for the occasional Irish ballad sung aloud after last-call. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Earn your beer
Some of Jefferson County’s best singletrack starts in Golden. Hit these rides before you imbibe.
Ride out to the base of Lookout Mountain to start this epic climb, offering fantastic views of the Clear Creek corridor, Golden, Denver and beyond, and a grueling 1,400 feet of elevation gain in 5.4 miles. A short, flat start gives way to super-tight, super-steep switchbacks that last a couple hundred yards (beginners and beer guts may have to hike-a-bike). The climb mellows out after that, but stays in the “steep” category. You’ll find smooth singletrack punctuated by some rocky sections, along with some very challenging technical rocky spots.
These eight miles of rowdy singletrack can be accessed from the south end of Golden, or from the top by climbing Chimney Gulch and then riding over to descend Apex. Don’t be fooled by the trail’s proximity to the city—this is advanced terrain with steep climbs, rocky singletrack and exposed hillsides.
If you don’t mind pounding out a couple miles of road, or driving, White Ranch serves up about 20 miles of technical singletrack with less crowds than the closer-in Chimney Gulch and Apex Park trails. The initial climb from the parking lot is a quintessential Colorado granny-gear ascent. Expect a memorable ride with killer views, wildlife-sightings, steep grades, fast descents and loose rock.
South Table and North Table Mountains
Right in Golden’s backyard, these twin mesas overlook the Coors Brewery. North Table contains ten miles of alternating single and doubletrack, and South Table is about eight miles of doubletrack. From the road, they look fairly tame, but there are steep, rocky sections. Choose from a variety of different trail options ranging from 30-minute quickies to two-hour epics. The mesas are a great option when trails on the west side of Golden are still melting out.