Can-do Attitude Launched Beverage Revolution


Beer baron’s bold bet beggars bottlers


Some people get wound up about fine wine, others go gaga for The Next Top Model. The 50 merry worthies who gathered at CoorsTek on Washington Street in Golden were excited about something far less glamorous than Carol Alt, but infinitely more valuable than the finest Chateau Margaux ever corked.

After briefly addressing the invitation-only crowd that included three generations of the Coors family, longtime Evergreen resident George Krauss officially presented a large bronze plaque to the venerable man of the hour, Bill Coors, on behalf of ASM International, The Materials Information Society. With that, CoorsTek became the 119th site to be awarded the 38,000-member society’s woefully under-appreciated ASM Historical Landmark Citation, an honor established in 1972 to recognize game-changing milestones in materials technology.

“At this site on January 22, 1959,” the plaque reads, “the first aluminum beverage can plant produced its first can, under the direction of William K. Coors, Joseph Coors and colleagues.”

aluminumcan1Beer cans? All that fuss and feathers for beer cans? You bet, and with very good reason.

“It’s exciting to see what can be done with a fairly common material,” explains Krauss, a former materials researcher at the Colorado School of Mines and one-time ASM president. “The aluminum can is ubiquitous, now, but 50 years ago Bill Coors had to fight against all odds to make it happen. Bringing the aluminum can production to fruition on a large scale was really an event, and it happened right here in Golden.”

Picking up where Krauss left off, William K. related the genesis of the Coors interest in that most old-pepsi-canversatile of metals. After World War II, he explained, glass bottles gave way to steel cans, first with awkward cone-shaped tops, and later with sturdy flat lids that required a church-key and strong wrist to breach. While serviceable and convenient, steel cans were relatively difficult and expensive to produce and worse – from a brewmaster’s perspective, anyway – tended to impose its own unwholesome nuance on the golden nectar within.

Enter Lou Bronstein, a smooth-talking, fast-living, semi-dubious Viennese aluminum broker who, in 1954, persuaded Bill to tour aluminum manufacturing plants and research facilities across Germany. Sold on the possibilities of the strong, light, corrosion-resistant metal, Coors set about trying to generate interest on the home front, but met stout resistance on many fronts, including, ironically enough, American aluminum giant Alcoa, which refused to lend its considerable weight to the venture on the grounds that aluminum beverage cans would never be cost-effective. Undeterred, Coors resolved to make the cans in-house and – 5 years and $10 million later – the seamless, 2-piece, extruded aluminum can made its public debut, a wildly profitable industry was born, and bottle manufacturers around the globe sleeping late and muttering to themselves.

secrets_ball2-1024x685“We make literally billions of these things,” Krauss says. “Soda pop, sports drinks, beer, juice – everything comes in aluminum cans. Ball Corporation has another huge aluminum can plant in Golden. They’re perfect beverage containers.”

They are that. Feather-light, tough as nails, aluminum conducts heat like nobody’s business, meaning it cools liquids faster and keeps them cold longer than other materials. Best of all, it’s 100-percent recyclable, making it both more economical to manufacturer and less burdensome to the common ecology.

the-hl-hunley-replicaJust for the record, CoorsTek is the second Colorado institution to receive ASM’s approbation. In 1977, the Climax Molybdenum Mine and Mills Complex near Leadville got the nod, joining such stellar industrial lights as the Outokumpu Flash Smelter in Helsinki-Espoo, Finland, the Forge of Fontenay in Bourgogne, France, and the world’s first attack submarine, the American civil war vessel H.L. Hunley, a modern marvel of its time that was recently resurrected from a watery grave off the coast of South Carolina.

Niceties accomplished, the assembled can-fans dug into a cake fashioned in the likeness of – what else – an aluminum Coors beer can, and then toasted William’s bold gamble with – you guessed it – aluminum cans of Coors beer. More fitting tributes can hardly be imagined.

Metal-Cans-Aluminum-Containers“Aluminum can technology was a huge step forward,” says Krauss. “It took one man with the vision to see that aluminum cans were worthwhile.”

Science Break

lectureAn academic conference is held at the Archaeological Institute of Paris, with a Who’s-Who of the world’s top archaeologists attending. The highlight of the event is scheduled for the last day – the unveiling of a potentially game-changing discovery in the parched deserts of southern Palestine. The auditorium fills early, its seats filled with leading experts in diverse sciences such as anthropology, history and languages. At the appointed hour, a large bespectacled man in goatee and white lab coat takes the dais. At his signal, an image is projected onto the large screen behind him. It shows what appears to be an ancient, mud-brick wall faced with crumbling plaster. Still visible upon its cracked surface are a short row of crudely etched figures – from left to right: a plump female silhouette, a long-eared beast, a lidless eye, a single fish, and a cross. A gasp travels around the tiers, and the man begins to speak. 

“My esteemed colleagues, I thank you for coming. The iconographic panel before you was discovered two years ago at a remote, proto-Judaic site near Tell Bekkan, and has been reliably dated to approximately 10,000 b.c. Our team has been studying it exhaustively for more than 18 months, and we feel strongly that the concepts revealed here may very well revolutionize our theories concerning the genesis of human agriculture, industry and religion. I will now ask you to kindly hold your questions while I briefly explain our reasoning. 

“The first figure is obviously female, and rendered in a style reminiscent of the “Earth Mother” fertility symbology common to later Mesopotamian cultures. While it has long been assumed that ancient Middle Eastern cultures developed along patriarchal lines, we believe her position on the left, at the head of the panel, indicates a pronounced matriarchal emphasis. This necessarily calls into question all of our current beliefs concerning gender relationships among semi-nomadic peoples of the region, and forces us to reconsider the social and political maturation of Neolithic II-b societies. 

“Our best research to date indicates that the animal depicted to the woman’s right is a donkey. While donkeys were ubiquitous throughout the Levant by 4,000 b.c., it has long been believed that large-animal domestication was not even contemplated at the time this image was carved. And yet its placement among this clearly important assembly of icons years ago would suggest a strong familiarity, even affection, for those creatures, which one would expect only of a culture capable of advanced animal husbandry. Surely this pushes Mankind’s calendar of domestication back at least 4,000 years. 

“The human eye has enjoyed a position of mystic honor among nearly all ancient cultures, often regarded as the well of a person’s essence, or a window into one’s soul. Its presence here, as an important emblem of a 12,000-year-old matrilineal, pre-agrarian, paleo-Hebraic clan, can only be interpreted as an early attempt to depict the ageless human quest to create a rational foundation for existence. Indeed, through this rudely cut eye we see a culture possessing a far higher degree of intellectual attainment than was previously supposed. 

“Tell Bekkan lies more than 100 arid miles from the nearest coast, and no significant rivers or streams serve its environs. What, then, can we make of the fish? Quite simply, a great deal. This fish is persuasive evidence that a lively trade once existed between this mysterious people and distant coastal tribes. Exploring that concept further, it’s no stretch to presume that some form of nascent industry – pottery, perhaps, or even textiles, or animal hides – necessarily existed whereby this desert band might support its commerce with the sea. This fish, then, signifies what may be Mankind’s first step toward modern industrialization, and might possibly even hint at an early conceptualization of pan-cultural economic exchange. 

“And, finally, the cross. There has been much debate, and heated argumentation, within our team as to the meaning of this powerful symbol. Some of our experts initially took it for a pictographic expression of the eternal dichotomy between want and plenty, dark and light, good and evil. Others saw it as indicative of a growing spatial awareness, a rudimentary representation of the cardinal directions. However, in view of the virtually universal role the cross would come to occupy in world religious history, we have at last reached a consensus. There can be no question that this figure, scratched by the devout hand of one of Judaism’s ancestral adherents, provides graphic proof of the fundamental human transition from primitive polytheism to a more spiritually evolved state of monotheism. Here, for the first time in recorded history, we have concrete evidence of ancient Man’s first tentative overtures to a lone Creator. 

“Together, this humble, yet astounding assemblage of characters is even now transforming our conception of civilization’s ancient roots. I congratulate you, gentlemen, upon being present at the dawn of a bright new era of historical understanding.” 

The house rises as one man, professors, scientists, philosophers springing to their feet in unison and bursting into thunderous applause. Many a deeply seamed face, previously marked only by thick, whiskered topiary and stern dignity, is suddenly awash in the unfamiliar tears of strong emotion. The man on the dais bows slightly – a nod, really – and accepts the fervent approbation with perfect aplomb. And yet, within the shouts of approval there exists a discordant note, a thin, reedy objection swimming against the roaring tide of scholarly endorsement. It’s a skeletal apparition at the back of the hall, a tweedy old fellow, stamping his patent-leathered planks and hollering through cupped, parchment-yellow hands. 

“You’re wrong!” he bellows. “You’ve got it all wrong!” 

The man on the dais calls for quiet, then fixes his critic with a cool eye. 

“Professor? Do you have something to add to our analysis?” 

“Hebrew is written from right to left, you idiot. It says, ‘Holy mackerel! Look at the ass on that chick!’”woman

Mountain Macabre – Taking a walk on Morrison’s weird side

Like many a small, Western town, Morrison wears much of its pioneering history on its face. Basking in the golden light of late afternoon, picturesque brick storefronts, rusty, weed-bound rail beds and moldering sheds, shacks and shanties bespeak the town’s busy, sometimes boisterous past. But night falls swiftly over that comfortable wedge of clapboard and sandstone bounded by high, rugged hills and, with the dark, a less casual, more secretive aspect is revealed. And revealing Morrison’s dark secrets is the not-too-serious purpose of the Morrison Haunted History Tour.

Forays into the town’s spectral dimension, hosted almost nightly during the witching season, are the province of Colorado Haunted History, a semi-formal partnership of three young ghost-hunters with a shared fancy for phantoms. Complete strangers at the time, Monica Ferrel, Renee Nellis and Joel Chirhart took the Morrison tour several years ago with spirit guides Dee Chandler and Beaux Blakemore. They soon became fast friends and, when Chandler and Blakemore decided to lay down their spectral chains two years ago, took on the frightful, delightful burden themselves. Of course, all three have day jobs since leading ghost tours is a precarious vocation, at best.

“It’s a hobby, really,” Ferrel says. “We all love ghosts. You know, ‘are they real?’” This is as much fun for us as it is for them.”  During the last couple years, Colorado Haunted History has hunted apparitions from Wyoming to New Mexico but, supernaturally speaking, they found pay dirt in Colorado.


“We like to say that Morrison is the most haunted town in America, per capita,” Chirhart said, a plausible statement about a town of 450 (breathing) souls living amid the residue of 150 years of psychic turmoil. Still, Chirhart and his associates try to edify while they terrify. “It’s not just ghosts,” he says. “We try to give a lot of other interesting history about Morrison.” The town’s ghostly character, he admits, is based largely on anecdotal evidence and, while the partners’ researches have yielded little hard evidence of howling wraiths, they’ve uncovered plenty of salty morsels about Morrison’s unruly founders.

With reservations (the formal-arrangement kind, not the sensible, I-don’-wanna-see-no-ghost kind), the ghoulish trio will lead a tour in any season, but October is boom-time in the spook trade and nearly two dozen fearless metro-area citizens gathered at Morrison’s war memorial Thursday night, keen to sample the town’s spooky fare. It was a hardy crowd – sadistic parents escorting youngsters who just knew they were about to shake hands with a dancing skeleton, blissful lovers for whom the clubs on the 16th Street Mall are just too scary, and older couples who were going for a walk anyway and figured downtown Morrison was as good a place as any. Oh, and there were some gals wearing red hats.


“These are the ladies of Chapeau Rouge,” said a moderately dignified woman wearing a bright red cape and crown, “and I am their queen.” You know your tour is going places when royalty shows up. Though her majesty did not deign to explain how she came to lead her chapter of the Red Hat Society, she graciously disclosed her imperial moniker. “I’m Queen Cleora,” she said, proudly. Then, winking, “that’s Cleopatra without the ‘pat,’ if you know what I mean.” Alas, your magnificence, I do not know what you mean, and it is my fervent hope that I never do.

Shortly after 7 o’clock, following a brief recounting of Morrison’s 150-year-old origins, the three escorts led the group away from the relative security of the lighted street, across a narrow bridge and into the sinister, woody darkness beyond. Ancient cottonwoods loomed menacingly overhead, fallen leaves slushed mutely underfoot, and Bear Creek whispered like the furtive conversations of restless shades. It would have been absolutely terrifying if it weren’t so delicious.

After a short walk on a gravel drive, the party collected at the Horton House Bed & Breakfast, a charming, sprawling, pink clapboard manor and one of Morrison’s oldest structures. The inn’s densely-wooded yard teems with sculpted figures and artful trellises that, in daylight, give the property a friendly, occupied appearance. On a moonless night, by wavering lantern-light, they produce an eerie confusion of stealthy, three-dimensional shadows. In the late 19th century, Nellis explained, the lodge was home to a young woman named Amy whose passions included demon rum and crippling depression. Amy hung herself in the carriage house behind the lodge and, according to local lore, now drifts aimlessly through the rooms and corridors of Horton House, a benign, though sometimes mischievous, presence and a regular topic of conversation over crepes.

Definitely haunted

Ambling through downtown, it seems every one of Morrison’s celebrated restaurants and bars carries its own spectral freight, a convenience that allowed Chirhart, Ferrel and Nellis to provide a lot of town history without wandering off topic. Red Rocks Grill, Morrison Inn and the Morrison Holiday Bar are all said to be infested with unquiet dead, though patrons are rarely the target of ghostly pranks. In nearly every case, the bartenders – hard working professionals who diligently perform an honorable office and merit only the highest praise and gratitude – bear the brunt of phantom displeasure.

One extreme example deals with the angry spirit of a young girl purportedly murdered long ago in the building that currently houses Tony Rigatoni’s. Animated by hatred for all manly people, she is said to ambush passing Mars-type barkeeps with a small, swinging gate, vindictively focusing her attacks on their poorly armored nether regions. Now, that’s scary.

Totally haunted

To hear the guides tell it, Morrison’s north side is replete with haunted localities. Custodians flatly refuse to enter the old Town Hall after dark, they say, and two phantoms of indeterminate identity and motivation play havoc with the inventory and wiring at Lacy Gate’s Antiques.

Of course, in a town as haunted as Morrison, some ghosts are forced to visit terror in less comfortable surroundings. Witness the haunted stump, a twisted, gray remnant of the town’s “hangin’ tree” slowly rotting into oblivion in a dark corner of a dirt parking lot. There are some, Renee assured Queen Cleora, who will not traverse the lot after sundown, lest they attract the stump’s malicious attentions. A hundred yards away, historic Cliff House is said to be the eternal abode of a young man who, like poor Amy, hung himself in the barn. Why he would hang himself in a smelly old barn when a perfectly good tree was available for that specific purpose is an enduring mystery.

Hangin' haunted

Hella haunted

The summit of the high ridge defining Morrison’s northern edge features a long row of sharp, uneven stones, like witches teeth. Atop that menacing crest, legend says, the troublesome Ute chief named Colorow can sometimes be seen on moonlit nights, silhouetted against the sky. Also, up there somewhere, the Hatchet Lady of Red Rocks bides her wicked time, waiting to take an ax to disobedient children who meander near her foul cave. According to local myth, she is naked when she dismembers her misbehaving prey, proving that folklore can satisfy every taste.

The Morrison Haunted History Tour, an enjoyable combination of history, humor and horror, wound up at 8:30, but could have easily gone longer. Despite the spine-tingling October chill, nobody was in a hurry to leave, not even when an eerie wail arose from the dense, dark hollow along Bear Creek. “It’s probably just a raccoon,” Queen Cleora said, valiantly maintaining her royal composure while the blood drained from her face. That’s right, a harmless raccoon, nothing more.

Haunted, haunted, haunted...

It was surely no accident that the party broke up next to Red Rocks Grill. After the last tourist had disappeared into the night, Chirhart, Ferrel and Nellis went inside for a richly-deserved nightcap. Hopefully, they remembered to tip the bartender.