Roger Marolt: Bewitched by the Coors brewery bottling machine
One of the most incredible machines I have seen is the one that puts beer into bottles and caps them for shipping. The one that fills the cans is a close second. I don’t have a clue how either works.
I saw both in action at the Coors Brewing Co. some years ago. You take a self-guided tour there, I think it was free, and you stop at various stations and look out into the works and learn as much as you ever wanted to know about Montrose hops, Colorado spring water and the huge population of drinkers in this country by deduction as you watch a steady stream of 18-wheelers loaded in a matter of minutes and sent out so quickly one after another that you could almost picture it as a pipeline; something to rival the great one from Alaska they built to transport oil down here.
I wonder if we could actually be consuming as much beer as petroleum. For people who commute by bus, the answer is more likely “Yes,” I suppose. For those driving alone in SUVs to work everyday, the answer is most likely “No,” I hope. What effect might this be having on our environment? Does that volume of alcohol consumption make it less likely that we notice? Or, even care for that matter?
I have gotten sidetracked. And, yes, I am having a beer while I write this. I am not the type of writer who fancies himself an artist and, accordingly, has a belt or two to help get the creative juices flowing. Alcohol does not make me better at this; sleep maybe, but writing for the newspaper, no. I have written before after venturing past my usual daily limit of one drink and the results have been, while not disastrous, not any kind of creative breakthrough. I would only say the work product was something less than they like to see down at quality control.
The reason I am having a beer today while I write this is because I painted all weekend, right through happy hour. It turned out to be a much bigger project than I thought, so my wife ended up having to rake the leaves because I was in over my head down in our basement.
That’s where the guest room is, which mostly means that is where my mother-in-law stays when she visits. She’s been coming up now for 25 years running (that’s how long we’ve owned the place), so it was due for a freshening up. I decided I might as well do the hallway and stairwell too since I had the drop clothes down.
I never noticed the detail in these places. Would you believe that little space contains eight doors? I’ve never counted and wouldn’t have thought it possible. Have you ever tried to paint just a single door with six little decorative panels on each side? Try eight! It’s why my wife had to rake leaves. And because the big storm was coming.
I’m off track again. The beer bottling machine is a marvel. You can say what you want about the iPhone, because it is incredible too, but everything is about radio waves these days, which can send all kinds of data to the outer reaches of the universe to let other forms know we are anxious to meet them, if they exist. So what’s the big deal about using the same technology to send a text message downstairs to see if dinner is ready yet or checking the ball scores? I am kind of amazed by this, but a part of me also can’t help asking, “What’s the end game here?”
So, I’m standing in front of the beer bottling machine at the Coors factory some years ago and I’m watching this assembly line of bottles whiz by and get filled and capped. There must be a hundred filled and sealed every second. You can’t see what’s really happening, but you can see that not a drop of beer gets spilled in this process. It’s probably a simple thing, because they have been doing it since before we had rotary telephones and antennas on top of TV sets, but I can’t figure it out.
This is how I spent the evening before Halloween some years ago on our way up to the famous, haunted Stanley Hotel to see what goes on there on the actual night we honor spooks. I have been told by the people I went with that a lot of inexplicable ghoul-y and ghostly things happened that night and, “How can you not remember?” But, the truth is that I was still under the spell of the Coors Brewing Co. beer bottling machine and missed it all. I imagine I will spend a little time thinking about it this Halloween, too.
Roger Marolt knows that, if there truly is a ghost in the machine, it lives at the brewery. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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