Supercharged Beer

B-to-the-E, the latest in trendy beers from Budweiser, recently became widely available across the United States, including on many store shelves throughout the D.C. area. This new concoction, beer combined with caffeine, ginseng and guarana, saw a major push from Budweiser executives after its initial release in October 2004.

Its target demographic is what Budweiser calls “contemporary adults” – college students and young professionals.

Standing for “beer with something extra,” B-to-the-E comes in a 10-ounce can with 6.6 percent alcohol by volume and contains about 54 milligrams of caffeine, comparable to half a cup of coffee.

“B-to-the-E is a great beverage and really showcases Anheuser-Busch’s innovative culture,” said Dawn Roepke, brand manager of new products at Anheuser-Busch. “B-to-the-E goes right up against mixed drinks and will help us maintain and grow our share of contemporary adults.”

GW students, however, are still undecided on this new libation.

“Sounds like it’s going to suck. Why do you need an energy drink, for beer? I don’t want to be a hyperactive drunk, I want to relax,” junior Matthew Gillmor said. “If I want to get all crazy, I’ll take a few shots.”

Sophomore Ruthie Garelik was also skeptical, but for more aesthetic reasons.

“It’s all marketing, because they know people like Red Bull and [Starbucks] double shots,” Garelik said when asked about the packaging of the smaller cans.

At bars, B-to-the-E is served over ice, in direct competition with the popular Red Bull and vodka cocktails.

The main concern health officials have with B-to-the-E is the effects of caffeine in conjunction with the effects of alcohol. Since its October debut, there has been a backlash against the concoction in such drinking capitals as Edinburgh, Scotland.

The problem, many say, is that caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics, substances that make drinkers have to frequent the bathroom more than they naturally would. The combination of diuretics increases the risk of dehydration. Caffeine also will mask the affects of alcohol, which means the drinker’s blood-alcohol content will continue to rise without the person realizing it.

“People who would have fallen asleep may remain awake with seriously impeded coordination – what you could call an accident looking to happen,” said Jerome Danoff, a GW School of Public Health professor.

At Brickskeller Saloon on 22nd Street, where about 1,200 brews are on sale every day, B-to-the-E began being sold about six weeks ago. Owner Dave Alexander, who won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for his collection, said the new B-to-the-E is selling fairly well, over a case a week at a price of $3.25 each beer.

While Alexander said it is “too early to tell” whether or not B-to-the-E is here to stay, he said he finds the new brew “unusual and not something created by a brewmaster, but by a marketer.”

Caffeine, however, is not the only ingredient brewers have tried adding to their mix. In 1988, a small microbrewery premiered “Brain Death” at the American Homebrewers Association convention in Denver, Colo. This potent drink included 2.5 ounces of “special hops”-hemp, the female variation of marijuana. Apparently, the combination of alcohol and THC gave drinkers a mind-rattling result.

While the success of Budweiser’s new drink has yet to be determined, at a price of $1.29 per can and $4.99 for a four-pack, Garelik said students are not particularly tempted to buy it.

“Why would people experiment with more expensive and weird beer when they can just get a 30 pack for 20 bucks of something they know people will like?” Garelik said.

Sophomore Dan Giordano said he is still speculative about the enchanting effects of the combination. “People will simply think that it’s going to do something, and so after one or two they’ll just start acting stupid no matter what.”

-U-Wire contributed to this report.

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