Commentist Beer Barrel: I Told You This One Would Be Cheap

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In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Dr. Leonard McCoy, thrown back in time to the 1980s, tells a contemporary materials engineer that, if he accepts Montgomery Scott’s detailed formula for transparent aluminum, he will be (in the words of 18th-century playwright Edward Moore) “rich beyond the dreams of avarice.” There’s no such formula in beer, at least so far, though we may yet arrive at a time when earth’s entire future hangs in the balance and benevolent time travelers are forced to trade us the recipe for the instantly-replicated quadruple imperial whiskey-barrel-aged coffee stout. Until then, the best we’ve got is a beer that will get you so drunk for so cheap that you might start thinking you’re fabulously wealthy… but it’ll cost you. Buckle up, Commentists: I blew my beer budget last week, so this week, we’re drinking the beer this godawful Super Bowl matchup deserves. We’re drinking Steel Reserve.

Steel Reserve pours a rich golden-yellow that’s much more toward the golden end of that particular spectrum, with a near-pure white head that doesn’t stay thick for long but remains surprisingly and pleasantly dense. It leaves some honest-to-god lacing on the sides of the glass; not the intricate webbing of a Belgian abbey ale, but something approaching it. At first glance alone, it’s miles more attractive than your average straw-pale, rocky-headed light lager. The nose is… well, it smells like a brewery, and if you’ve ever been in a working brewery, you’ll know that’s not ideal, because finished beer doesn’t smell or taste like boiling grains. If you haven’t been in a working brewery, the best I can describe the nose is as part cereal, part tea. On first taste, my impression of this is “barleywine lite”; it’s grainy with an unexpected trace of caramel, but there’s an unpleasant note of straight-up baled straw. A deeper dive brings in a surprising melon-like fruitiness, but also that goddamned straw again, and worse, the sort of ineffable, soulless sweetness that’s at the heart of awful lagers like Busch and Coors. Steel Reserve is better than those beers, full stop. It’s not boozy, fortunately; you’d almost expect a beer that’s at once this strong and this insubstantial to be hot as hell. On the whole, Steel Reserve isn’t utterly undrinkable. It could be nonalcoholic and I’d still enjoy it more than I like a Coors Light. But that’s the most lipstick I can apply to this particular pig.

The cheapest barleywine bomber on the market is probably Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine; it costs maybe $6 for a bomber compared to $1.50 for the 24oz can of Steel Reserve, and it’s ten times as good. But, look: If you’ve got to get drunk in a hurry—because, say, you’re about to watch the worst possible Super Bowl—and taste is a concern but only a secondary one, you’re going to do okay with this malt liquor monster, which will go down easier and faster than four Busch Lights, and at less cost.

Let’s see what lady snow thinks of it.

lady snow says: No.

make it snow says: No?

lady snow says: No, I’m drinking Alaskan Winter Ale.

make it snow says: Fair enough. How is it?

lady snow says: It’s crisp and refreshing, like a Colorado winter. Like that’s actually what Alaskan Winter is, and what Coors wishes it was. I’m drinking it very cold at the moment, and the spruce tips really make it crisp. And I like that it’s not overwhelmed by hops, too.

make it snow says: Yeah you don’t really need more bittering with that much spruce.

lady snow says: I’m going to get kicked out of Colorado for hating on Coors.

make it snow says: It’s okay, I did it first.

tl;dr: Pop tab in case of emergency.

Grade: 5/5 as a cheap malt liquor, 2/5 as a beer.

make it snow is an alot of beer and registered Patriots hater. He drank the entire 24oz can of Steel Reserve while writing this review, and lady snow drank a 12oz bottle of Alaskan Winter Ale, because fuck that malt liquor shit. 

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make it snow is an alot of beer. He is also a Broncos fan living in Denver.
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For my 20th birthday, one of my teammates bought me two 40’s of Steel Reserve. I drank half of one that night. The other 40 sat in my fridge. I couldn’t pawn it off on anyone. But I have that memory which is the only good thing to ever come from steel reserve.


I’d drink ten of the original Four Loko cans before I would drink one can of Steel Reserve.

I had one once. ONCE.


I fully endorse ripping on Coors. It’s my last choice for something to drink at a banquet.


I was “fortunate” enough to spend a summer in the Horn of Africa…I’d drink Tusker and Franziskaner before even considering Coors or Budweiser.

Mr. Ayo

You have to put a splash of fruit punch in it. Even lady snow would like it then.


Sounds like a gateway beverage to purple drank.

Senor Weaselo

So, PBR next week?


I like PBR as far as large-brewery beer goes.


Looking forward to the St Ides review next week. (More of a King Cobra man myself)


It is possible we don’t shop near that market’s core demographic.




No Olde E?

StuScott Booyahs

goddamn steel reserve, been 13 years since i polished off a 40 of that stuff


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“When you ask your mom to get you a 10 piece McNugget meal but she only gets you an 8 piece, with a FUCKING SMALL FRIES AND DRINK.” -Trevor Semen