As a proud American consumer, I’ll buy pretty much any kind of sponsored product. Waka Flocka Flasks, lined in alligator skin? Eddie Bed-der Linens, with a softness that’ll make you remember you’re still alive? Put that shit in my Internet shopping cart. Still, the existence of a Big Hurt Beer, sponsored/brewed by former White Sox slugger Frank “Big Hurt” Thomas, didn’t immediately fill me with the usual gimme-that joy; I grew up a Chicago Cubs fan and am still partially psychologically blocked against acknowledging anything our cousins to the south have done, or will ever do. But powered by a self-destructive curiosity that dwarfed whatever the scientists in Prometheus were on about, I set about procuring a couple of cans to see if the Big Hurt’s knack for smacking dingers could carry over to his new venture as a high quality malt liquor salesman.
(One caveat before going any further: malt liquor is obviously produced, purchased and consumed for one main reason: to deliver the maximum of drunk-assness at a minimum of cost. In that respect, Big Hurt Beer is supremely passable. If that’s what you’re looking for, pick up a case for the novelty and get to work)
First things first: Is it big? At the size of a regular tall boy pint, it’s big enough. Does it hurt? Sort of. The drink’s potential, or lack thereof, is hinted at in the copy that lines the side of the can. That text describes Big Hurt as “a crisp, full-flavored lager brewed & canned by Big Hurt Brewing Company, Monroe, WI,” details that are all factually correct; it’s as crisply cold as the refrigerator I kept it in for a day prior to my taste test, it’s certainly full of flavors, and I can’t dispute the Monroe, WI part except to say that they shouldn't count on much of a tourism bounce from what promises to be one depressing brewery tour. Aside from those basics, things get a little fuzzy, as tends to be the case when malt liquor is involved.
A cursory scan of beer-rating websites offers some reviews which describe the taste as “easy to drink,” “tons of green apples,” “very sweet,” and other brewmeister hip talk. That said, having subjected myself to Big Hurt, I promise you that those guys are full of it. I’m admittedly not an expert, but two flavors stood out for me in Big Hurt: 1) sour and 2) gross, with an aftertaste that felt like I’d just spit out a mouthful of shaving cream. Other taste impressions written down: “sawdust pie”; “boiled down baby bottle nipples”; “burp-flavored Sour Patch Kids”; “Drano martini.”
Again, this may not be the best-informed or most objective analysis--I don’t think my scribbled off “condom runoff blended with melted ditch ice” note would pass fact check at the New Yorker, or even better school newspapers. And part of taste testing a product you sense is going to be kind of awful is by mining for the wackiest associations you can think of. (See: The AV Club, your local alt-weeklies.) But all those caveats aside, I am willing to stand by my impressions that Big Hurt was truly exceptionally yuck-o tasting.
But the "hurt" part isn't all aesthetic. Big Hurt is seven percent alcohol, which is sort of a lot, and I suppose there are worse low-budget options for getting hammered if one can’t afford to try Miller Lite’s new Punch Can technology, or is officially over the years-old-but-still-pretty-chill Vortex Bottles.
Nothing about the existence of this product made me feel good, including the presence of Frank Thomas's name on it. I can only imagine the dread of seeing a product called Slammin’ Sammy Sosa’s Scotch in the aisle and knowing that I would have to try it in spite of every other human urge, because when our childhood heroes move onto more prosaic and less-inspiring pursuits we’ve pretty much always got to support them, even if—as in this case—they get their design cues from late ‘90s Murder Inc. record covers.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Big Hurt recalls another low-rent lager that’s found around other Chicagoland liquor stores: Clear Creek Ice, which also happens to have been brewed in Monroe, Wisconsin, which suggests that this presumably sleepy town of some 10,000 people less than a three hour drive away from Chicago is one of or maybe the only Midwestern brewery town that ferments its beer in a still containing antifreeze.
After drinking it—in the middle of the day, as recommended by malt liquor connoisseurs—my mild drunk eventually wore off into an empty-stomached twinge of regret that prevented me from drinking any more that day, even as I’d specifically met my friends at a bar stocked with choice microbrews to watch LeBron James drop an anvil on the Boston Celtics during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. A shitload of chili could not, perhaps unsurprisingly, fix the sad feeling in my body. I stuck with water for the rest of the night. This suggests two things: Either I’m a big wuss (possible!) or that Big Hurt can only be consumed continuously until you’ve got to go to sleep, which is a pretty dire reality to consider; a malt that locks you into its maltness for an entire drinking cycle, relenting only when the stars blink out and the bloated body tumbles, spiraling into a yeasty abyss. But, and maybe I should've mentioned this earlier, it is pretty inexpensive.
FINAL JUDGMENT: .335289 B.A.R. (Beers Above Replacement)