MONTE VISTA — Kim Hayden, of the Molson Coors Beverage Company, was the keynote speaker of the Upper Rio Grande Economic Development meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Outcalt Event and Conference at SLV Ski Hi Complex in Monte Vista.
Hayden gave a brief presentation of the history and barley projects in the San Luis Valley and throughout the U.S. for Molson Coors and welcomed questions from the URGED audience.
For the past 77 years, Molson Coors has been growing barley and malt in the San Luis Valley and has been in full support of local growers, creating economic growth and sustainability ever since. World-wide the company has about 16,000 employees and over 130 brands.
According to the history of the original company, in about 1937 the company received a shipment of malt from Moravia from the Czech Republic and with it came a small packet of barley. The packet was placed in a desk and forgotten until company office manager Ray Frost came across them and decided to plant them in his garden. Since then, the company expanded their growing operations and by 1945 the first Coors beer was produced using locally grown and malted Moravian barley.
“The primary focus for Coors has always been 2-row barley. There is 6-row barley and 2-row barley and each one has different characteristics. 2-row barley is plumper and has more extract which means higher yields and more beer. Bill Coors was a big proponent of the barley program and he just passed away at 102 years old,” said Hayden.
Hayden said that Bill Coors tasted his product right up to his last days and could, through tasting, tell where each strand of barely came from.
“He believed so much in the barely program,” Hayden said. “He always said barley to beer is like grapes are to wine. The better the grapes, the better the wine and the better the barley, the better the beer.
“Our barley program is a vertically integrated supply chain. We take it from barely breeding, genetics and development and we contract directly with barely growers. We have agronomists who work directly with growers, and we receive that barely at our facilities. The reason we do that is because we want a consistent, high-quality supply. We want to ensure that we produce enough barley for all of our products,” Hayden said.
Through the barley program, Coors is also focusing on sustainability efforts to help growers adopt more sustainable growing practices by using less water during growing seasons.
“Growers are incentivized to adopt sustainable growing practices and our barley research and development teams are working to develop drought-resistant varieties,” Hayden said.
Hayden said that in 2022 they purchased 200 million pounds of barely from the San Luis Valley which is 100 percent shipped by rail.
“That is why making sure the rail in the Valley sustainable was so critical. We tried to ship by truck, and it just doesn’t work. It is not cost effective,” Hayden said.
The company is producing new products including energy drinks and organic-quality beer with the hopes of increasing their line of products as they move forward.
“We stand by supporting our local growers here in the Valley,” Hayden said. “We have been here for 77 years, and we are looking to continue to be sustainable.”