Jason Genegabus

Looking for a way to get the most bang for your buck? Why not down a 40? From left, Schlitz Bull Ice, Steel Reserve (the overall favorite), Mickey's, Olde English 800 and Colt 45.

‘Steel Reserve’
tops 40s test

SUMMERTIME is almost here, and what better way to spend a sunny afternoon in paradise than with an ice cold 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor?

Sure, 40s have gotten a bad rap for years (and don't call them 40-ouncers -- they're 40s!) as being the drink of choice for the down-and-out or people who can't afford a six-pack, but they're also a favorite among college students and those of us looking for the most bang for our alcoholic buck.

So before you tap the bottle and twist the cap this summer, take a moment to get caught up with the different choices available on liquor store shelves. Earlier this week, the Barfly rounded up a few malt liquor connoisseurs and bought seven 40s for us to evaluate. Joining me in the "40-Ounce Taste Test" were 102.7 Da Bomb promotions director Urusai, fellow Iolani alumni Keahi Ka'awa and the Barfly's trusty Drinking Buddy.

FIRST UP in our taste test was an oldie but a goodie, Olde English 800. This was the first 40 of the night, so most of the panel recognized it right away. With a 7.5 percent alcohol content and only a slightly bitter aftertaste, Olde English is a mainstay in the malt liquor market, and for good reason.

The second 40 to get passed around was St. Ides, a favorite of hip-hop superstars like Ice Cube and Method Man, who have appeared in television commercials for the brew.

"This is like doing a boilermaker," was the first comment made after we took a sip of the brew with a crooked "I" on its label. When you're drinking St. Ides, make sure to remember one of the golden rules of drinking 40s: Don't let this stuff get warm. While it goes down pretty easy and doesn't slap you around with its aftertaste, St. Ides does have that distinctive malt liquor smell which will only get worse as it warms up to room temperature.

AT THIS POINT, we had only tried two of the eight 40s stacked in my refrigerator, but effects of the higher alcohol content began to appear in some of the panelists. Urusai was starting to turn a bit red, but was still having enough fun to compare the Barfly's taste test to drinking a Lunar Sampler over at Brew Moon. Ka'awa was in 40s heaven, since St. Ides was his drink of choice. And the Drinking Buddy? He sat on the couch with a smile, waiting for the next 40 to get cracked open.

And crack one open we did -- a bottle of High Gravity Steel Reserve, to be exact. This was one malt liquor that I hadn't heard of before, but it turned out being the overall favorite in our taste test. Most malt liquors are sweeter than the beer you might normally drink (due to the higher malt content), and the High Gravity was no exception. It was even compared to Brew Moon's Mayberry Wheat beer; kind of a stretch in my opinion, but what do you expect from taste testers who have gone through a couple of 40s already?

OF ALL THE malt liquor we tried, King Cobra was one of the worst. Made by Anheuser-Busch, the same brewery that make Budweiser and Bud Light, King Cobra was the most watered-down of all the 40s we tried. I could tell this stuff was carbonated, but it still tasted flat from the very first sip. Stay away from this one -- you'll find something that tastes better, and probably costs less too, somewhere else on the shelf at your favorite liquor store.

Colt 45 and Mickey's, on the other hand, are two 40s worth picking up if you're a middle-of-the-road malt liquor drinker. Mickey's is my personal favorite, with its green bottle and "Mickey-isms" printed on the inside of the cap. "You can choose this and drink them the whole night," the Drinking Buddy remarked.

Sadly, Colt 45 doesn't come in the slightly larger 45-ounce bottle any more, but as Billy Dee Williams used to say in commercials for the brew, it does work every time. A bit more bitter tasting than some of the other 40s we tried, Colt 45 has a strong metallic aftertaste to it. As another of the panelists said, "this one really reminds you that you're drinking a 40."

COMING IN LAST, and definitely least, in our taste test was Schlitz Bull Ice. With an 8.2 percent alcohol content, this was the most potent -- and worst tasting -- malt liquor of the bunch. Ever seen those Keystone commercials with the "bitter beer face" guy? Take one swig of Bull Ice and watch your face contort in ways you've never thought possible; only the most hardcore malt liquor enthusiasts (or those who want to get the most messed up) should attempt to drink this one.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.


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