If you like to combine beer with your American history, the city of Golden, Colorado, can deliver. It boasts a great brewery and was once the capital of Colorado. This small city not too far from Denver and Boulder makes for a very enjoyable day trip.
Golden is the home of the Coors Brewing Company, which is the largest single site brewery in the world. They offer free self-guided brewery tours every day of the week during summer (June to mid-August). The rest of the year it’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on major holidays.
We arrived in the morning and parked in the free parking lot. The attendant asked us to leave all bags in the car before queuing for the tour. That rule included camera bags and purses, which infuriated a few of the guests who showed up on foot. We were only allowed to bring phones, cameras, and a bottle of water.
We waited for about 20 minutes before a shuttle came to pick us up and take us to the brewery entrance. The driver was very enthusiastic and gave a quick history of Golden on the way.
Once inside the entrance, our picture was taken in front of a green screen for purchase later. We then had to show our IDs for a wristband to get our free beers after the tour. We were also given an audio guide and shown how to use it.
We listened to the majority of the audio guide, which was informative and well-organized. It took about 30 minutes and led us to several rooms of the brewery, including the tanks, the control room, and the packaging room, and we learned a lot about the history of the company and the Coors family.
After the tour, we were given the chance to sample THREE free 10 ounce beers! This was obviously the most enjoyable part of the tour. There were about six beers to choose from. I tried the beers available only in Colorado or special brews only available at the brewery. They were much better than any Coors I’ve had anywhere else. Hint: Those not interested in the tour can skip it and go straight to the bar!
We were able to take our time enjoying the beers and then walked through the gift shop where we were given the option to buy our photos from the beginning of the tour. They cost US$20 and you get to choose from a few different fun backgrounds. We declined.
When we left the brewery, we waited a few minutes for a shuttle to take us back to the parking lot. The driver gave everyone a Golden Ticket as we left. The Golden Ticket is a scratch-off ticket that can be used at participating businesses and restaurants to win cash up to US$500 or discounts up to 20%. You can only use it once and it’s only valid if you haven’t scratched it off. It’s a great way to encourage tourists to patronize local businesses.
With our Golden Tickets in hand, we headed into town just a couple blocks away. On our way, we noticed some great signs posted:
Our first stop was Washington Ave., the main street in Golden lined with historic buildings. I especially liked the “Welcome to Golden” arch that spanned across the road. The buildings were filled with lots of fun shops and good restaurants. Some of the restaurants have live music.
A life-sized bronze statue of Adolph Coors, the German immigrant and founder of the Coors brewery, stands in front of the Old Capitol Grill. We ate burgers at the restaurant which were pretty good. Service was excellent – we loved our waitress. The building, named the Loveland Block, once served as the capital of Colorado and was built in 1863. The Coors Building, built in 1906, is next to it.
There are a couple interesting bronze sculptures along Washington Ave., especially Cowboy’s Day Off, which portrays a fishing cowboy.
The Washington Ave. Bridge spans Clear Creek. Interpretive panels about the history of Golden line both sides of the bridge. On the other side of the bridge from business district is a small park. Along both side of Clear Creek is a trail.
The bridge affords great views of the Coors Brewery. You might even spot a few people kayaking or tubing.
There are plenty of good museums and historic sites in Golden that can fill up a day. We had time to visit two of them. First was Clear Creek History Park. This free attraction sits along the banks of Clear Creek just a couple blocks from Washington Ave. The park contains several buildings relocated from the Pearce Homestead of 1878. A log cabin, the 1876 Guy Hill Schoolhouse (used until 1951), and a farm are some of the structures on the property. When there are no activities occurring in the park, visitors are free to wander around and peek through the windows.
The other attraction we visited was the Astor House Museum. Astor House was built in 1867 as a hotel and boarding house and operated until 1971. Admission is just US$3 and it doesn’t take too long to go through. We enjoyed it because it was very interactive and hands-on. We were encouraged to open drawers, touch furniture, and there was even a room to play games and dress up in period costumes. Some of the rooms contained buttons which if pressed would have a person tell a story about the house.
The Astor House was very innovative in its day, especially under its most famous owner, Ida Goetze. It was one of the first buildings in Golden to have water and gas piped in. Goetze also installed Golden’s first bathtub, which was used as a huge marketing tool at the time. Visitors would line up to pay a whopping 25 cents to use it. Goetze was said to have made more money off the bathtub than renting the rooms.
The other attractions in town that we didn’t visit, we either weren’t interested in or didn’t have time. They include the Golden History Center (US$3, closed Tuesdays), Colorado Railroad Museum (adult admission US$10, open daily), American Mountaineering Center (closed Sundays), Geology Museum at the Colorado School of Mines (free, open daily), Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum (open daily).
Before leaving Golden, we had a frozen yogurt and Turkish coffee at Goozell Yogurt. They have several delicious flavors of self-serve yogurt and goodies to put on top. You pay by the ounce.
Our trip out of Golden was via the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, a 40 mile route with great scenery and attractions that starts and ends in Golden.