Wednesday, November 17, 2010

AverageBro Tries Four Loko... And Lives To Regret It.

Anyday now, the overly intrusive Federal gubb'ment will likely outright ban the energy drank Four Loko.

In case you've been under a rock the past few weeks, the caffeinated beverage, which is about 12% alcohol/volume, has recently caused hospitalization of kids nationwide, which today lead the FDA to send a letter to the manufacturer of the drink (and related beverages) essentially forcing them to remove the caffeine, or else. Funny, but I assumed the alcohol was what was causing kids to black out. Anyways...
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday told makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that the caffeine in their products has been deemed an "unsafe food additive," and the drinks can no longer be sold in their current form.

In warning letters to the companies, the agency said the four firms risked further action, including seizure of their products.

The drinks -- marketed under such names as Four Loko, Joose, Lemon Lime Core Spiked, and Moonshot -- have become popular with young adults, and have left dozens of people sick or hospitalized. Several states have banned the drinks, which can have alcohol levels as high as 12 percent, according to federal officials.

FDA officials said the caffeine in the drinks can make it hard for consumers to gauge their level of intoxication. And peer-reviewed studies have suggested that consumption of the beverages can lead to "risky behaviors" and "life-threatening situations," the agency said.

The announcement comes amid a growing backlash against the so-called energy drinks -- sometimes called "blackout in a can" -- that blend caffeine and alcohol. Such beverages are becoming increasingly popular with college students and even children. The drinks are regularly consumed by 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 34 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

The maker of Four Loko said Tuesday that it would remove caffeine and other stimulants from its four different flavors of alcoholic drinks. Four Loko has up to 12 percent alcohol in a 23.5-ounce can, according to published reports. According to the CDC, caffeinated alcoholic beverages can have alcohol levels that range from 5 percent to 12 percent, compared to 4 percent to 5 percent for beer.
Naturally, Constitutional scholar that I am, I found this action to be a wee bit excessive. The "blackout" incidents have mostly involved under aged drinkers, not people supposedly of-age and thus more experienced with their limitations. Getting rid of a drink that under aged kids aren't even supposed to be in possession of in the first place reeks of government overreach. Taking Four Loko off shelves isn't gonna stop any 18-year old from simply getting his big brother/uncle/weedman to buy him Bud Light instead.

All that said, since the drink is gonna be gone in a few weeks, and I was bored and on the road, I figured I'd try a Four Loko before President Obama and his Merry Band Of Federal Bureaucrats decided I no longer could. I'm by no means a heavy, or even frequent drinker (nowadays), but I've got prior collegiate experience with potent stuff like Cisco, MD 20/20, about 50 varieties of malt liquor, and Richards' Wild Irish Rose. I know bad alcohol. I been had cheap likka. But just how does Four Loko stack up against The Legends Of Urban Gut-Rot?

I conducted an experiment of my own, for purely journalistic purposes, but mostly because I'm on the road this week and bored out of my mind. My observations are below:

Price/Availability - Surprisingly, the bodega Kangaroo convenience store out here in the lily-white burbs of NC had plenty varieties of Four Loko (and Joose) in stock, value priced at just $2.49 for a very tall 24 ounce can. Pimp Juice, Drank, and Crunk Energy Drink? Not so much.

We might need to call Rebb'n Al about that one. I'm just sayin'.

The Taste - I bought the purple can of Four Loko, which presumably meant "grape" flavored. To my surprise, a closer inspection of the label revealed the flavor was actually called "Loka UVA", which is a mixture of Guarana, Taurine, and Caffeine.

So, uh, I'mma just stick with "grape".

The taste, well, let's just say this is some nasty sh*t!!! I took one sip and briefly contemplated ending the whole experiment before it started. It basically tastes like malt liquor with a trace amount of artificial fruit flavor. Think Olde English 800 with a pack of Kool Aid mixed in for good measure. No, seriously, it was just that awful. Turrible. And I'm too old for this sh*t.

The second swig was slightly better, which likely means this is an acquired taste. Then again, cheap buzzes aren't supposed to taste great, so....

Buzz/Effect - No need to BS you, I abandoned ship on this experiment about 4 swallows in. Sorry, but I simply didn't have the stomach for something so terrible, and got more sick to my stomach than "buzzed". I have little doubt that if some clueless, peer pressured 17-year old guzzled one of these in a short period of time, it would likely give him a massive buzz, probably induce vomiting, and maybe even a blackout. But that kid would also have to have zero taste buds to get through this disgusting can of flavored urine. Not that I know how urine tastes, I have no point of reference. But I'm willing to bet it's similar to Four Loko.

The Final Verdict - Four Loko isn't a Grand Hu$tle, it pretty much works as advertised. Again, I prematurely ended this experiment because I simply couldn't tolerate the taste, but I think it's fair to say that Four Loko more than lives up to its reputation. "Experts" say one can packs the punch of about 6 beers and 2 cups of coffee, which explains why college and high school students are buying it like hotcakes. $2.50 for a cheap, quick, effective buzz. What 21-year old could deny that?

That said, I still say the FDA has no reason regulating this drink, and forcing the manufacturers to alter it. It's an alcoholic beverage clearly marked as such, and geared towards people of age. Taking it off shelves isn't going to solve the issue of under aged drinking, and reeks of baby/bathwater-ism. Viva La Loko!

Question: Have you tried Four Loko? Do you think the FDA needs to step in to regulate this beverage, or is this just another case of unnecessary government intervention?

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