Can Man: Remembering Bill

This edition of Can Man takes on a slightly different narrative, as I recently learnt of the sad news of the passing of William ‘Bill’ Coors, the chairman of the Adolph Coors Company. Coors was the grandson of Adolph Coors and heir to the family brewing business.

In sporting terms, Bill certainly had a fine innings passing at the grand old age of 102. Please forgive me a little indulgence this month, as we touch upon his life.

As a 65-year veteran of the beer industry, he was chairman of Coors from 1959 to 2000, and helped the company become one of the largest brewers globally. The aluminium can industry should be forever grateful, as Bill was instrumental in capturing the idea of an aluminium can as a packaging container for beer. According to Coors this captured his interest for two reasons: “Aluminium cans could be recycled, and they didn’t have a welded seam, which made them easier to sterilise.”

There has been plenty written about Mr Coors over the years, but my favourite quote suggests he was a visionary, with a modest touch too: “Would the aluminium can have ever arrived without me? Of course, its advent was inevitable. All I did was hurry it along.”

At the time, Bill was mocked for his idea as a ‘useless’ technology. This included the aluminium industry too – how wrong they were!

Indeed, the multinational breweries of today could learn a thing or two from old Bill Coors. Back in 1959, the release of the can led to one of the most successful recycling programmes in the US— Cash for Cans, in which Coors offered a penny for each can’s return to the brewery. Recycling indeed isn’t a novel process and has been around for over 50 years. That is something that certainly resonated with me. We have perhaps become fixed on the concept of recycling and sustainability over the at decade, and the history of being ethically minded isn’t something I believe the majority of consumers are aware of. Perhaps this is something we as an industry can be a little more proactive on. Use our history to our advantage.

I’ll leave you with the fine words of current president and CEO of Molton Coors, Mark Hunter: “Our company stands on the shoulders of giants like Bill Coors. His dedication, hard work and ingenuity helped shape not only our company but the entire beer industry.”

Coors remained an official beer taste tester until his 100th birthday – what a life indeed!

May you rest in peace, Bill, the founder of the aluminium beverage can.

All comments and opinions expressed in this or any future Can Man article will not be attributed to any individual or organisation and should be considered a sideways and occasionally humorous view of the industry.

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