The Poor Man’s Booze Review


drunk_poor_manThere I was, sitting on the couch, nursing that impending feeling of doom that every teacher experiences exactly one week before summer vacation comes to an end. After enjoying two blissful months of traveling, sleeping in, and loads of drunken debauchery, the grim prospect of returning to work felt about as enjoyable as a handjob from Edward Scissorhands. I had this epiphany of sorts that I needed to accomplish something of great magnitude in my last week off from school. As any intelligent 25 year old would do, I decided to spend the entire week drinking the absolute cheapest, nastiest, scummiest booze a person can buy. I call this “The Poor Man’s Booze Review”, a critique of the most disgusting shit out there on the market today. I knew this task would require great sacrifice, and incredibly strong fortitude. But since I am a man of the people, I knew it would be worth it; my liver and I decided to accept the challenge.


Like any good scientist, I had to set a number of controls for my experiment. Each drink was consumed in a state of complete soberness, and these reviews are based on only one container being consumed per day. This allowed me to accurately gauge the effects that the different drinks produced. I also made sure to keep careful and detailed notes during my drunken proceedings so that I could effectively blog about them at a later date. I will be giving five different drinks a grade (the teacher in me, I know) based on four distinct categories: Packaging, Taste, Buzz, and Overall Performance. Some other rules I put in place:

1. The product must be limited to one container only (poor people can only afford one of anything at a time, everyone knows that). No six packs or the like.

2. The booze must cost $4 or less (only the bourgeoisie spend more on alcohol)

3. The alcohol must be consumed straight out of the bottle (duh, poor people don’t drink out of cups)

4. You must be able to buy the drink at a gas station (this is where poor people always do their shopping because…everything costs more?)

Okay, let the games begin…

Schlitz Malt Liquor – 40 oz., 5.9% alc/vol, $1.79

The infamous blue bull label

The famous blue bull label

Packaging: With that blue bull on the label, it could only be Schlitz Malt Liquor. The dark brown glass of the bottle helps to mask its tepid contents from sight. Plus, let’s be real, anything with a huge bull on it is pretty sweet. The 40 oz. bottle is aerodynamically crafted to ensure maximum chugability and street cred. The problem is that the Schlitz name already carries a reputation for being a pretty nasty malt liquor. Your friends will probably not be impressed.    Grade: C+

Taste: My first sip initially tasted okay, but the sharp blade of the aftertaste lacerated my taste buds with no mercy. It goes from “Hey, this is okay…” to “OMFG this is gross” in approximately 2.4 seconds. Just like anything with alcohol in it I suppose, once I drank enough of it (past the neck and label in this case), I found the inner strength to at least finish it. I wish I could find something more positive to say about the taste, but “meh” seems to sum it up best.               Grade: C

Buzz: Once I had managed to choke down most of the swill, I could feel the familiar effects of malt liquor beginning to affect my behavior. Before I knew it, I found myself on Facebook trolling people’s status messages that I didn’t agree with. Once the last drops of the Schlitz reached my lips and I put the empty bottle down, I realized I was in the midst of a Republican vs. Democrat debate over God knows what, and even a “secondary teachers work harder than elementary school teachers” argument. I wasn’t even all that drunk is the thing, and yet I had managed to absorb the most argumentative aspects of malt liquor. Totally lame buzz. Grade: D

Overall Performance: For how gross this beer is, 5.9% alcohol just doesn’t justify forcing this crap down your throat. I just wasn’t very impressed. Also, let’s face it, you’re gonna get copious amounts of “are you fucking seriously drinking that?” looks from others while you’re sipping on this. The only upside to this brew is its incredibly low price, the cheapest brew that I ended up sampling in this review. If you’re looking to get cheap, shitty drunk, there are other brands out there that taste better and have a higher alcohol content.  Grade: C-

Vendange Wine (California Merlot) – 500 ML (3+ glasses),              13% alc/vol, $3.49

And you thought NOTHING could be cooler than a Capri Sun

And you thought NOTHING could be cooler than a Capri Sun

Packaging: Wow, this shit is fucking awesome. It is literally a GIANT juice box of wine! Whomever invented this revolutionary concept of selling boozed up juice boxes to adults should be living a life of lavish riches and luxury at this point. It fits right in the palm of your hand, and the design of the packaging allows for some serious wine chugging. Only a game of smack-the-bladder can top the Vendange in terms of the speed and sheer power of the flow of wine out of this thing. I was drinking this at a friend’s house, and no shit, everyone there couldn’t get over how cool this juice box of wine was. Stellar work, Vendange; your vessel is both efficient and a great conversation piece.   Grade: A+

Taste: To be honest, this wine actually tastes pretty good by boxed standards. Now, by this I mean that the first sip tasted like antifreeze, but by the sixth or seventh gulp it started going down real smooth. I would even venture to say that it eclipses the legendary Franzia that we all know and love. Needless to say, I made quick work of the Vendange. Grade: B+

Buzz: This is the category that kills this particular beverage. As great as everything else about the product is, at the end of the day, you’re still only looking at 2/3 of a bottle of wine. It’s a nice, friendly buzz, but it’s about eight Metro stops away from Crunktown. A bum would still face a long, cold and bitter night ahead of him at the end of this beverage. Grade: D+

Overall Performance: I’m so conflicted when it comes to assigning a grade here. I was ready to crown the Vendange champion of cheap, shitty booze until I finished it. It just left me…wanting more…booze. This would be great for a day trip to the beach, but I gotta say it’s a temporary solution to a permanent problem if you’re broke and looking for your fix. You can’t overlook the novelty and functionality of the packaging, and as I said before, it really doesn’t taste bad at all. It’s just a bit pricey at nearly four bucks for something that won’t quite quench your lust for the sauce. Grade: B

Steel Reserve “High Gravity Lager” – 40 oz., 8.1% alc/vol, $2.19

The 211 mark is based on the medieval symbol for steel

The 211 mark is based on the medieval symbol for steel

Packaging: As I stared at this label and wiped the condensation off the icy cold bottle, the large capital letters of STEEL RESERVE and HIGH GRAVITY slapped me in the face as if to say, “Welcome to the Thunderdome, bitch.” The high alcohol content is prominently displayed on the bottle, and the steel background just oozes intimidation.  I have to be honest, there was a time in my younger days when I was actually a little afraid of drinking Steel Reserve. The 211 symbol adds an aura of mystery to the brew (which is conveniently explained to you on the inside of the label once you’ve drunk enough of it). Presentation is such an undervalued commodity in the cheap booze market. Grade: B+

Taste: This is definitely the chink in Steel Reserve’s armor; it’s pretty damn gross. The taste is unbelievably malty and hoppy in the worst way possible. The trick to drinking one of these is temperature; your 40 oz. MUST stay cold.  You do not sip a Steel Reserve, you pound a Steel Reserve. As long as you maintain your sprint to the finish, the beer should remain cold enough to numb some of the piss poor taste. Seriously, if this gets warm, your odds of puking will increase exponentially. I will say, however, that the combination of amazed accomplishment and sheer relief you feel when you do finish is strangely gratifying. Grade: C-

Buzz: This is where the Steel Reserve really starts to separate itself from some of the other members of the pack.  Even at halfway done I had a noticeable buzz that was actually very upbeat and pleasant, unlike the rough edges of the Schlitz buzz. Upon completion of the Steel Reserve I was definitely drunk, not wasted or anything, but satisfied for sure. This is the first drink out of the bunch so far that did not have me immediately reaching for another (normal) beer afterward. Bravo. Grade: A

Overall Performance: All things considered, I was actually quite impressed with the Steel Reserve’s showing. Sure, the taste is pretty nasty, but we’re talking about cheap booze here anyway, so it’s all going to taste like crap. If you can chug your way to the promised land, I can assure you that it is a beautiful place. That’s not even taking into account all of the baller points you’ll get for just being seen with this bad ass bottle of Steel Reserve in your hands. You really can’t go wrong with this. Grade: B+

MD 20/20 (AKA “Mad Dog), 750 ml, 13% alc/vol, $3.99

Just seeing the bottle makes me dry heave

Just seeing the bottle makes me want to dry heave

Packaging: By far the weakest label out of the whole bunch. It’s very nondescript, no company information, no awesome back story as to how MD 20/20 got it’s name. I have to squint to read the amount of alcohol that is present. Even the description of the flavor, “Red Grape Wine”, just screams that you are in for one shitty experience ahead of you. It’s almost as if they attempted to take themselves seriously, with the result of totally alienating their target audience (homeless people, poor college students, completely bored young professionals on summer vacation with too much time on their hands). Grade: D

Taste: Wow. And not a good wow either. This is a VERY, very bad wow. If the Vendange initially tasted like antifreeze, then Mad Dog tastes like gasoline with three heaping tablespoons of suck. The burn is downright awful right from the get go, and it really doesn’t get any better as you keep drinking. And just for the record, I cannot taste the grapes. In the beginning, Mad Dog will have you immediately wondering whether you will make it to the end without barfing. By about 2/3 of the way through, I was willing to completely renounce my atheism if any God were to swoop down and save me from my cursed fate. The last ten swigs or so were all literally followed by me wincing in pain and moaning expletives. This shit is bunk. Grade: D-

Buzz: Well, if your number one goal is to get drunk, than Mad Dog is surely for you. After I (somehow) finished it, I was sloppy drunk. And not the fun kind of sloppy drunk, where you have the time of your life monopolizing the karaoke microphone at the bar, singing your favorite country songs from your childhood. I’m talking that completely dirty, bottom of the barrel drunk that makes you feel like you really need to just go sit on a street corner and get a cardboard sign with “SPARE CHANGE” written on it. Even when you’re drunk, you can sense in your stomach that you are going to feel like absolute hell in the morning. But hey, to Mad Dog’s credit, the name of the game here is getting drunk, and in large part this low-end fortified wine accomplishes its mission. Grade: B-

Overall Performance: Stay the hell away from this crap. I’m serious. Screw waterboarding, just make the terrorists chug Mad Dog day in and day out. I guarantee that they will tell us anything we need to know; Bin Laden’s hideout won’t be so “secret” anymore, I can tell you that. Not only will you feel like a dirty person after drinking Mad Dog, but you will actually become a disgrace to society when you drink it. The only redeeming quality I can mention is that it will get you totally lit. But even a huge drunk like myself can’t bear to accept the consequences that go with it.  Grade: D+

Joose (Jungle Joose flavor), 23.5 oz, 9.9% alc/vol, $2.99

Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the Jungle

Packaging: Jungle Joose comes in a “tall boy” style can that is adorned with exquisite artwork depicting, from what I can tell, a series of skeletons and flowers having sex with each other. Alright, so the artwork isn’t stellar, but at least they made an attempt at making an attractive label. They are also very clear on what you’re in for: an energy booze drink that packs a tremendous punch (nearly ten percent alcohol). Plus, anything that actually says “jungle juice” on it is going to grab my attention in a good way (pleasant flashbacks of JMU immediately come to mind). Hey, a pick-me-up energy boost and a shit ton of booze? You can count me in. Grade: A-

Taste: The first thing I noticed about the Jungle Joose was that it was…green?! What the hell? I have drunken a lot of jungle juice in my day, and every single time it was red. My brain was a little taken aback by that inconsistency, and the initial taste was slightly bitter. But once you have had a few sips of this stuff and your palette adjusts, this stuff actually tastes awesome. I’m not even exaggerating here…after about three sips I was housing this shit, lapping up its sweet boozy contents like a thirsty dog. I crushed this can of Joose in easily half the time it took me to finish any of the others. I would even go as far to say that drinking this was actually enjoyable. Fuck yeah, Joose. Grade: A

Buzz: The idea of combining energy drink and alcohol was pure genius (Joose was not the first, as fas as I know it was Sparks). When I cracked open my can of Joose, I was totally dragging ass from a long summer day of frisbee golf and playing videogames. After I was about half done, not only was I already feeling a steady buzz but I was totally wide awake. By the end of the can, I was noticeably drunk and ready to light the town afire. This is a double-edged sword, however, as it is both Joose’s strength and its weakness. Some quick math tells us that Joose has 10% @ ~24 oz  which equals about four 5% beers (remember, Bud Light is 4.2%). Couple that with a good taste that allows for quick consumption, and you’re gonna be feeling drunk afterward. While that is a great thing, the energy drink component of Joose gets you kind of jacked up and immediately ready for more booze. On the one hand, Joose is great at getting you drunk, but on the other hand it always leaves you wanting more. But hey, at this point I’m just nitpicking. Grade: A-

Overall Performance: I can’t say enough about how much I love Joose. In my opinion, it is the holy grail of pregame drinking, the perfect amount of alcohol to get you drunk and amped up to really have a good time at the bar. I have had some prior experience with Joose, and I can say that some of the other flavors are even better (orange, for example). The only thing that stands between Joose and a perfect score is the fact that you can never be truly satisfied with just a Joose by itself, even though it does a great job of getting you crunk. Like a child that has been given just one piece of candy, you just can’t stop after one. But hey, it’s hard to hate on a brand of booze that’s so good that you want more of it. Grade: A-

Closing Awards

Most Likely To Lose Your Job If You Drink One Everyday For A Week:             MD 20/20

Most Likely To Be Asked If You Need Food Stamps:    Schlitz Malt Liquor

Most Likely To Get You “In The Zone” (i.e. Awesome Enough To Bring A Girl Home):    Joose

Most Likely To Make People Afraid To Fuck With You:    Steel Reserve

Most Likely To Combine Booze With A Fond Childhood Memory:    Vendange

[all pics in this story are mine except for the homeless drunk guy pic]


13 responses to “The Poor Man’s Booze Review

  1. I liked your reviews – very nice, and I largely agree. I haven’t tried Joose yet, but I’m definitely going to give it a try tomorrow night now. And I also love the Vendange juice boxes. Coolest drinking concept in a while.

  2. @Andy
    Thanks for the comment. I’m curious, what did you end up thinking of Joose? I’m still recovering from my tango with the tasty beast last night.

  3. Well done Bowzer!! I will have to agree with you on both the Steel Reserve and MD 20/20. I haven’t touched that shit since college and I have no plan on letting one drop touch my tongue, ever! You will have to show me where to pick up “Joose”. It sounds like a nice cheap way to get drunk.

  4. Good old high school days of playing “drink two mother fuckin’ Steel Reserves.” A feat rarely accomplished, never remembered, and greatly regretted. I remember the time one of my friends downed almost three.
    I miss Mike.
    Nah, but seriously, that is some dumb bad drunk.

  5. @MKO
    Pleeeeeeeease tell me you have played Edward Forty-Hands. For those that don’t know, it involves duct taping two 40’s to your hands, uncapping BOTH, and chugging your life away. No bathroom breaks are allowed, and you can’t be freed from your 40 oz. handcuffs until you have finished both.

    Ahhhhhhhh, sweet, sweet college.

  6. Absolutely. Part of the fun was the bathroom breaks, begging people to unzip you. Never with Steel Reserve, though. We would always go with Mickey’s, or if we were desperate, 8-balls. Growing up in Texas, I think it was a requirement to not ID kids buying Olde English.
    You left out some of the classics of po’ booze:
    Thunderbird (!!!!) – imagine if mad dog had a paint thinner berry flavor. It has a drunk that doesn’t hit you until the bottle is done, and it is all but undrinkable.
    Night Train – imagine if your Mad Dog flavor spoiled. Still, it is leaps and bounds better tasting than Thunderbird. One of the depressing feeling buzzes, too. You’re not drunk off of it, you just feel tired and dirty.
    Cisco – I have never personally tried it, but I have heard nothing but horrible stories. A friend of mine called it meth kool-aid. Sounds like it would be worth your time and a followup article.

  7. In France, the wine actually comes in giant juice-box shaped boxes, not those octagonal things. Leave it to Americans to make it smaller and to ergonomically fit in your hand. Now if they would just include a straw.

  8. This is the first time I’m venturing on your little webite, Matt Bower, and I have to disagree with you: Joose is the WORST thing ever. Megan and I bought it one day for some unkown reason. First, we could not find a flavor listed on the labels, so we just picked 2 or 3 different cans. We figured out why there were no flavors listed……because the flavors can not be desribed in pleasant terms! They’re like cough syrup mixed with kool aid or something awful. So, here’s how we made them better: poured them over ice, added extra vodka, and used a straw. They were still not enjoyable, but tolerable.

  9. Joose all the way! I love it, and have yet to not make a hilarious story whenever I have it. The reviews are rather accurate in my opinion, although I was a little disappointed when I didn’t say Camo Ice in the lineups? I recommend you add this because it is also a very worthy contender and perfectly fits your criteria.

  10. I love you entries thus far. It was an eye-opener to read about the ranking system based on area codes and your naked streak. I’d have to take note of my facebook profile after reading about your experince. Your entry on school kids strengthened my dislike towards them even more. And I learnt a life lesson about how to win a break-up “battle.” Thanks for keeping me entertained during my llong and boring working hours. Keep it up. All that’s left to say is: I can’t believe you are a teacher, resposible for educating the future or our generation. 🙂

  11. Didn’t know you wrote so well Matt. Great reviews. Hilarious.

  12. Matthew Branagan

    The orange jubilee me 20 20 they screwed up it tastes too much like grapes. I know its a grape wine but don’t let it override the flavor u r trying 2 sell.

  13. This is so funny I’m on the verge of tears.
    The Vendange Zinfandel is actually really good. Incredibly smooth. Almost tastes like juice, and has a higher alcohol content than Sutter Home without tasting like it. And of course, I bought it at the gas station… At the same time as a separate food stamps purchase lmao.

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