Molson Coors will pay homage to the founding of its Blue Moon Brewing subsidiary with a limited number of bottles of the famous beer under its original name, Bellyslide Wit.
The collector’s edition, bottled six-pack will only be available to people who enter and win an online sweepstakes at Back2Bellyslide.com that began on March 30 and ends on Friday, April 14 (winners will be notified via email on or around April 17).
The marketing (there is also a line of merchandise featuring retro-looking clothing and hats) is part of an effort to increase Blue Moon’s visibility after its first Super Bowl ad in February, Mara Schaefer, senior director of Above Premium Beer at Molson Coors, said in a statement.
There are many stories told about the creation of the beer – a cloudy, Belgian-style ale brewed with orange peel and coriander – but most go like this:
Bellyslide Wit was first brewed in 1995 at the Sandlot (then known as Rounders), the tiny, Coors-owned brewery at 22nd and Blake streets, as well as inside Coors Field. That was the year Coors Field opened, and some of the other beers on tap that April included Squeeze Play Wheat, Power Alley ESB, Slugger Stout, Right Field Red and Pinch Hit Pilsner.
But longtime Coors employee and scientist Keith Villa had bigger plans for the beer, which he thought was good enough to become a major offering from the company. As its chief promoter both inside and outside of Coors, he was eventually able to persuade brewery executives to let him make the beer on a larger scale and rebrand it as Blue Moon in the fall of 1995.
It supposedly got its name when someone at the company remarked that an opportunity and a beer like that only come around once in a blue moon.
But to test it, he and Wayne Waananen, who was hired as the first brewmaster at the Sandlot, brewed and served it at Coors Field. “The beer was originally designed by Keith as a separate product and he had pretty much nailed the recipe,” Waananen told The Denver Post.
The Sandlot, which became a beer recipe incubator for Coors, was a new concept for the company, which had some trouble adapting its huge operation to such a small scale, he said.
But Wanennan, who worked there for two years before moving on to other breweries, including Rockyard Brewing in Castle Rock and Station 26 Brewing in Denver, said he had a lot of fun brewing the baseball-themed beers at Coors Field. (Waananen plans on making a tribute to Blue Moon at Littleton Brew Co., a startup craft brewery that could open this year.)
The original Blue Moon is now one of the best-selling beers in the “craft” category in the United States, and the name has become an umbrella concept for dozens of other Coors beers. There is now also a separate Blue Moon brewpub, at 3750 Chestnut Place in Denver’s River North Art District, which makes its own recipes, separate from the national brand.
Blue Moon brewmaster John Legnard said in an email that the brewery doesn’t have current plans to bring back other baseball-themed beers from 1995 other than Right Field Red, which will be on tap this baseball season. “But we’re always looking to pay homage to our baseball origin story in new ways that will excite our fans … so never say never,” he added.
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