Beer executive offers advice: emulate success and take risks

Pete Coors
Pete Coors

Phil Castle, The Business Times

When Pete Coors recounts the history of the iconic Colorado company his family has operated for 140 years, he does so in a series of stories about entrepreneurship and innovation.

For starters, there’s the story of Adolph Coors, the immigrant who stowed aboard a ship to the United States, made his way to Colorado and in 1873 founded what became a beer brewing dynasty.

There’s also the story about the creation of a lighter brew that became the hallmark for what the company branded as its banquet beer.

And there’s the stories of more recent developments — the corporate mergers and new products that have kept the operation competitive in a global marketplace.

It’s a story of success and risking-taking Coors advises other wouldbe entrepreneurs to emulate.

“Take risks. Step out and try something new. I encourage you to step out and be a little bold,” Coors said during his keynote address during Entrepreneurship Day at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

Coors, the great-grandson of Adolph Coors, serves as chairman of MillerCoors and vice chairman of Coors Molson Brewing. He’s previously served in other positions, including chairman of Coors Brewing Co. and Adolph Coors Co.

Coors said his great-grandfather was the consummate entrepreneur in starting the brewing company that bore his name. An orphan who was hired out as an apprentice, he stowed aboard a ship to leave Germany for the United States and arrived without papers or money. He worked off his passage and made his way to Colorado, where he started brewing beer to sell in mining towns.

Prohibition halted the beer business and Adolph Coors wouldn’t live to see the end of Prohibition, Pete Coors said. But within a year after prohibition, Adolph Coors Jr. had restarted the operation and brewed 128,000 barrels of beer.

While the family experimented with stronger brews, it was a light brew that Coors branded as “America’s fine, light beer” and became a hallmark of the company, Pete Coors said.

The company subsequently pursued other innovations, he said, among them aluminum cans, vertical integration through shipping and various types of tabs to open cans.

The company also expanded its product line and introduced Coors Light, an even lighter beer that’s become one of the best-selling brands — even in Ireland — Coors said.

Corporate mergers first with Molson and then Miller have positioned the company to remain competitive while creating synergies between the operations, Coors said.

One of the latest development has been packaging that turns blue to indicate the beer inside is cold, he said. “That idea is phenomenal.”

In offering his advice to the more than 500 students and business people attending the Entepreneurship Day luncheon at CMU, Coors suggested they first study and emulate success. “Look at those who’ve been successful. Think about people you admire and why you admire them.”

Entrepreneurs also be willing to accept risks as they pursue their ventures, Coors said.

While people should always strive to do their best, they also should enjoy what they’re doing, he said. “If you don’t like it, get up and do something else.”

Finally, Coors said it’s important to realize elections have consequences and to consider candidates who favor more efficient governments that impose lower taxes and fewer regulations. “Be sure you vote for people who care about you and your future.”