What the World Needed: Wide-Awake Drunks

As someone who tends to fall asleep after a couple of beers, I can see how caffeinated beer seemed to make sense. For a few seconds, anyway.

Bartender, Pour Me Another Cup: America's largest brewing company, Anheuser-Busch, released its latest product last week — a beer that contains caffeine. …

The beer is called B{+E} — with the E raised up, like an exponent in math, which is why the name is pronounced “B to the E.” (The B stands for Budweiser. The E stands for extra.) Sold in 10-ounce cans, B{+E} contains 54 milligrams of caffeine — about half the dose found in an average cup of coffee. B{+E} also contains ginseng, the fabled herb, and guarana, an Amazonian berry frequently found in Brazilian soft drinks. …

At first, beer with caffeine sounds like a terrific idea. With caffeine in your beer, you can stay awake longer and do many delightful things, such as drink more beer. …

But wait:

Alas, there is a potential downside to this great breakthrough. Drinking too much beer sometimes makes people do stupid things, … Until now, beer guzzling was a self-regulating activity. Sure, drinking too much made you do stupid things. But drinking too much also tended to make you fall asleep before you got into trouble.

And I don't see why they needed these other adulturants. Maybe to hide the taste of the caffeine? Or was there some unholy coalition of forces that had sought to produce separate caffeinated beer, ginsenginated beer and, who knows, Amazonian berry beer (from the people who brought you that awful Cherry Wheat beer). They didn't have the corporate clout to bring out as many varieties as there are Cokes, so they all gnaged up?

Oh, wait, they're copying someone else.

Sparks, a malt-based energy drink … contains many of the same ingredients as B{+E} — alcohol, caffeine, ginseng and guarana.

Rolling Stone magazine raved about Sparks last year: “The wave of the future is getting invigorated and wasted in one go with Sparks, the energy drink that has thoughtfully already added booze for you.”

OK, what does it taste like?

But Rolling Stone did not rave about the flavor of Sparks: “It tastes like cough syrup.”

B{+E} beer does not taste like cough syrup. It doesn't taste much like beer, either. It tastes like … something else.

Never mind, then.

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10 Responses to What the World Needed: Wide-Awake Drunks

  1. Drew Bell says:

    As an employee of a bar, I’ve had first-hand experience with B^e, which our A-B rep (we’re in St. Louis, even) gave us two cases of for free. Imagine a kiddie cocktail made with Bud Light. Bud Light with lots of grenadine. Bud Light, lamest of the water beers, kept in a vat with Skittles and aluminum shavings for a month. We made a barback beer bong two of these at once, and his head almost exploded. Yum.

  2. Marc R. says:

    This seems like a mild alternative to the Red Bull and Vodka drinks that are already banned in certain parts of Europe. The more salient issue is that Budweiser is such a horrible beer and that the non-Nascar palate is not fooled by any “E” variable. I’ll spend my “E” dollar on some Guiness.

  3. wcw says:

    Marc hits the nail squarely. Is this good? No. But having watched the folkloric birth of the Red-Bull-and-blank craze in central Europe almost two decades ago (yes, Virginia, that early), I can attest that there is a market for beer mixed with caffeine, taurine and sugar.

    For the record, based on my obeservation of Austrian teenagers back in the day, the beer+RB homebrew speedball ‘works’ but has dangers similar to the concoction that offed Belushi and Phoenix: you consume way too much of the downer constituent. Given the real dangers of alcohol poisoning, BUD’s lawyers should reconsider.

  4. Sean says:

    No different from brandy & coke, rum & coke, JD & coke etc.

  5. Marc Reiner says:

    Actually, according to the Jan 05′ National Geographic cover article on caffeine, Red Bull has roughly six times the amount of caffeine found in Coke or Pepsi (on an ounce-per-ounce comparison). Interestingly, 600 mg of caffeine is psychologically and pysiologically similar to 20 mg of amphetamines.

  6. Charles V says:

    Wait a second… I thought that mixing depressants and stimulants was an inherently risky activity. Am I missing something?

  7. Evelyn Blaine says:

    The caffeine poses no significant acute risk relative to the alcohol. According to Wikipedia (not the best source, but probably good enough for a thumbnail estimate) “the LD50 [of caffeine] is estimated to be about 192 mg/kg of body mass, or about 72 cups of coffee for an average adult …. ” At 54 mg caffeine per bottle of B^e, this would be about 130 bottles — but one would be dead or unconscious from alcohol poisoning long before then.

    (Conceivably there might be synergistic effects, but this seems unlikely at any plausible dose. I think that the “heavy” stimulant/depressant combinations have particular risks of their own which wouldn’t be the case here: cocaine and alcohol form cocaethylene, which is a stronger stimulant than cocaine itself; with speedballs, respiratory depression caused by the opiate reduces oxygen available to the overstimulated heart, increasing the risk of coronary arrest.)

    But if one is talking about discomfort rather than real danger, then people seem to vary greatly in their tolerance for these things. I’ve been on > 10 cups of coffee a day for years and sleep like a baby, but get headaches and feel exhausted after more than a glass or two of wine. But there are many for whom it’s the other way around …

  8. Dear Michael: let me know when they get to making Red “Vino{+E}” …I hardly ever drink beer…but now Red wines…that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame!!

  9. Evelyn Blaine says:

    The original Vino^E was the nineteenth-century Vin Mariani, wine with coca-leaf extract, endorsed by numerous figures including Pope Leo XIII. (One assumes he was not speaking ex cathedra at the time.)

    You can find lots of pictures of ads for it online; see the article at http://cocaine.org/cocawine.htm.

  10. John Wayne says:

    i hate you all, and that stupid “b to the e”.

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