Coors Banquet Beer is about as classic a take on American lager as you can get. The beer has a sweeter flavor profile with more bright fruity notes than others of the style, with grain, corn, and banana-bread notes making this much more than your everyday lawnmower beer.
Style: American-style lager
Company: Coors Brewing Company (Molson-Coors)
Brewery Location: Golden, Colorado
MSRP: $8 per six-pack
Awards won: Gold, 2009 Great American Beer Festival
- Iconic American lager with a bright, slightly sweet flavor profile
- Easy-drinking and lively on the palate
- Incredibly affordable
- Often available in retro stubby brown bottles
- The full, rounded palate may come across as overly sweet.
- Fruity aromas can be off-putting for some.
- Some may see “iconic” to mean “outdated.”
Color: This beer is pale straw to gold in color, pouring a medium head that dissipates within two minutes.
Nose: An unusually fruit-forward nose for an adjunct lager jumps from the glass with aromas of banana peel, pear, and creamed corn. Hints of wet grain and wood chips creep in behind the initially bright burst.
Palate: It’s impossible not to notice the upfront sweetness of this beer, which isn’t overpowering or cloying so much as comforting in a way in which many lagers fall short. Fruity notes of banana bread, bubblegum, corn, and rich malt dominate the palate, while vibrant, fine carbonation keeps the fuller mouthfeel of the beer from becoming syrupy.
Finish: Darker malts and cereal become more pronounced on the finish, where carbonation allows the sweetness to linger like a layer of caramel on a ripe apple. Rich creamed corn flavors stick to the tongue long after each sip.
Grandpa beer. Bowling-alley brew. Underappreciated icon. Whatever your thoughts on Coors Banquet Beer may be, there’s still a good chance at least one person you know covets this American lager that has been produced for almost a century and a half. The beer represents a time capsule of brewing tradition as the brainchild of a German immigrant who settled down in Golden, Colorado to take advantage of the high-quality water running out of the adjacent Rocky Mountains. The story is so iconic, its western vistas have basically become a staple of American beer ads ever since.
Legend has it that Banquet Beer was named by the throngs of thirsty miners who piled into saloons after long days working underground and ordered it en masse. Even though the bust of the local mining industry—and eventually Prohibition—provided some obstacles, the beer itself managed to survive the test of time, becoming one of the first to be packaged in the stubby brown bottles that eventually came to dominate the industry.
But the problem with a beer as storied as Coors Banquet is that many have formed opinions on the beer before they’ve even tried it. It also doesn’t help that Coors Light, one of the most ubiquitous beer options in the United States, dominates the public’s awareness of the brand. But one whiff or sip of Banquet should be enough to make anyone realize that it’s a fuller-bodied lager with vibrant characteristics that help make it a uniquely comforting sipper of a beer.
There’s a brightness to Coors Banquet that makes it unique among most other domestic lagers. A malt backbone helps support fruity, subtly sweet notes that aren’t typical in many lagers, while still providing a relatively clean, crisp finish thanks to lively carbonation. No one would argue that this is the most complex brew on the market, of course, but when you realize how easy it can be to finish one after a long day, it might become more immediately clear why those miners—or your grandpa—were so drawn to this style.
Of course, the beer itself represents the kind of adjunct lager that dominated the American beer industry for decades after Prohibition was lifted. It’s one of the easiest targets for seasoned craft beer drinkers who detest its simplicity and deride it as derivative. Some who are used to the thin, watery flavor profile of Coors Light might be taken aback by how rich the flavors here are, but it’s also as likely that someone who tries it for the first time will be pleasantly surprised that it, well, actually tastes like something.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not an audience for this classic. As the name suggests, this timeless style is the kind of beer that is well-suited for parties or get-togethers, while also being simple and approachable enough to be cracked on an idle weekend afternoon.
The brand may be practically everywhere now, but for most of the brewery’s existence, Coors products were only available in the West. In fact, the beer was only distributed to 11 states—all west of the Rockies—until 1991.
The bottom line: Coors Banquet Beer won’t be the beer that sends your senses soaring, but it stands out as a rich, bright, fruity option that many who are averse to light beers will appreciate. Beer fans who aren’t ashamed to admit they like domestic macro-lagers will likely cling to this as one of the most robust options available to them.