Brew Review: Surviving Malt Liquor

By Jonathan McNamara

Once again I assembled a crew of able-bodied Phoenix New Times employees to the break room for a Brew Review. Sitting between the rows of plastic coffee cups and packages of creamer, a large, black sack awaited us. Inside was a substance with a reputation so vile that each member of my Brew Review posse let out a groan at the mere sight of it: malt liquor.

The thought of duct-taping the bottles to my comrades’ arms and initiating a game of Edward Fo’ty Hands crossed my mind, but I decided against it when I remembered some advice a homeless man in Houston, Texas once shared with me: “Ain’t no man alive can drink two forty ounce Mickey’s.”

And that’s the mystique these big, bad bottles inspire. We “tip” them to pour a drink for our homies. We celebrate rappers’ unsociable appetite for fo’tys both as a beverage and as a lyrical muse…even when it makes them seem hypocritical. And while we’re on the subject, let’s get one thing straight: it’s "fo’ty." Not forty. Not forty ounce.

So of the fo'tys on the market, which is the most palatable?

Brew: Mickey’s Made by: Mickey’s Brewing Co. Tastes: Better than we remembered.

It was unfortunate that we tried Mickey’s first. After guzzling a few ounces of these yellow suds we were not prepared for the deadly draughts awaiting us next.

Nothing about this drink would lead me so far as to call it "tasty," but hell, Budweiser tastes a lot worse.

We enjoyed the fact that Mickeys features, for no apparent reason, a hornet on the bottle inviting us to “get stung.” Also, if you find yourself holding one of these "green grenades" check under the cap for a puzzle guaranteed to entertain you for hours...if you’re wasted.

Enjoyed by: UFC fighters. When you receive a fist to the face, I guess anything tastes good.

Brew: Schlitz High Gravity Made by: Schlitz Brewing Company Tastes: about like it sounds.

Our panel of taste testers remarked (well, threw up a bit in our mouths and then remarked) that Schlitz High Gravity tastes “wretched.” Other words used to describe this liquid gut bomb included “skunky” and “horrible.”

Enjoyed by: Angry bulls.

Brew: King Cobra Made by: Anheuser-Busch Tastes: like not much at all.

Initially we were relieved that we were free from the malty shackles of Schlitz High Gravity’s repugnant flavor. Relief quickly faded to disappointment when we realized we couldn’t taste much of anything at all.

Enjoyed by: Fred “The Hammer” Williamson from M*A*S*H.

Brew: Olde English HG 800 Made by: Olde English 800 Brewing Co. Tastes: forget the taste. The smell is the worst part.

There's not much to enjoy about consuming Olde English HG800. Maybe that's why Olde English is frequently used as a combination mixer and container. Drinks made using Olde English include Blood Juice, the Russian Hobo and the Brass Monkey. What a funky monkey.

Enjoyed by: Martha Stewart on an episode of Late Night With Conan O’Brian.

Brew: St. Ides Made by: St. Ides Brewing Co. Tastes: like getting drunk in high school.

It's no wonder rap stars insist on chugging fo'tys. They taste terrible. They get all foamy on the way down. But in the immortal words of Dave Chappelle (as Samuel L. Jackson), "they'll get you drunk."

St. Ides is revolting, but it's less revolting than many of the others we tried. I guess that counts for something.

Enjoyed by: Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G., and a pantheon of rap gods.

Verdict: There are no good reasons we can think of to actively seek out and consume malt liquor, let alone forty ounces of malt liquor. Yet, if you find yourself in need of one (read: rejected by society and unable to afford anything even the least bit more expensive) we recommend sticking to Mickey's. It's easily the best-tasting of the bunch and we have this thing for cartoon hornets.

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