When Adolph Coors emigrated from Germany in 1873, he never could have imagined the beer dynasty he would launch. By the mid-20th century, Coors beer dominated the American marketplace west of the Mississippi River. Coors didn't pursue distribution east of Texas, though, contributing to the lager's massive - and sometimes illegal - following.
Coors' exclusivity prompted smugglers to seek out the beer, even inspiring the plot of the 1977 classic film Smokey and the Bandit. Eventually distributed nationwide, the Coors story is a big part of beer history in the United States - a fun chapter played out on the big screen by Burt Reynolds and Sally Field.
Paul Newman Only Drank Coors On Set, And ET Liked It
Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski was a fan of Coors, making sure he picked up Coors when the team went out west. And even the most popular actors in the world demanded their Banquet. Paul Newman - beer-drinking actor extraordinaire - demanded Coors on set, calling it "the best American beer, bar none." He also refused to be seen on screen drinking anything but Coors. His affinity for the beer was so well-known that he received cans of it as gifts, too.
Coors was so popular that it had its own role in several films, including E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. The alien himself got drunk on Coors in the 1982 film. And this was long before paid product placement in movies became a thing.
Clint Eastwood And Ray Charles Broke Out In Song About CoorsVideo: YouTube
The song "Beers to You," which appeared on the soundtrack for 1980's Any Which Way You Can, featured vocals by Ray Charles and Clint Eastwood. Both big fans of Coors, the song was an homage to the beer. The lyrics say it all:
Clint: We whipped them local boys (aww did we!)
Then we bought 'em drinks all night
Ray: And when my lovin' wife left for points unknown
You were there to fill my glass
And it proved to me, A woman's love can fade
With the taste of Coors
And good friends always last
Both: Beers to you, old Amigo, For all the good times...
The Plot Of 'Smokey And The Bandit' Revolves Around Smuggling CoorsVideo: YouTube
Hal Needham, stuntman, director, and writer of Smokey and the Bandit (1977), got the idea for the movie after his own cans of Coors disappeared. While working on the 1976 film Gator, one of the stunt drivers on the film smuggled Coors Banquet for Needham. But Needham noticed that bottles from the two cases of beer mysteriously vanished, so he set a trap. Needham recalled how he:
...counted the beers in the fridge and went to breakfast, figuring by the time I got back the maid would be there. As I returned, she was making up my room. I left for a few minutes and returned to verify my suspicions. I counted the bottles; there were two missing. I tried to figure out why. How important was it to acquire Coors beer? I had read an article about Coors being transported on Air Force One. The driver captain had bootlegged a number of cases to Georgia. The maid was stealing two bottles at a time. This must be serious stuff. Bootlegging Coors would make a good plotline for a movie.
He wrote the script, passed it along to friend Burt Reynolds - the biggest movie star in the country - and a short time later, they had studio support for a film about smuggling Coors across the country.
Smugglers Sold Coors For A Dollar A Can
Truck driver Frederick Amon drove a route from Denver to North Carolina, which he used to his advantage by selling contraband cans of Coors along the way. Amon supposedly sold cans to restaurants and country clubs as he crossed the nation, usually for $1 per can. With a six-pack of Coors costing about $1.50 at the time, his markup was impressive and would have made Coors today as pricey as any trendy single-sold microbrew ($1 in 1973 dollars = $5.80 in 2018 dollars).
Smuggling like this got the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who charged Coors with price-fixing and restricting distribution during the early 1970s. After numerous court proceedings, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling against Coors in 1975.