Few outside the Bay Area would make the case that E-40 is the best rapper alive, but I submit to you now that he is the most rapper alive. By some quick back-of-the-envelope math, the Vallejo titan has released a million tracks in the last five years; lately, he seems to prefer multi-album sagas released in runs of four or six. He’s 48, but the man’s only accelerating, collaborating with famous radio doofuses and making (regional) hits. Nobody makes up as many words—nor crams as many words into nearly as many rock-dense syllabic mazes—as this guy.
He is also a prolific hawker of booze, via his successful forays into wine and bottled cocktails. (All hail the mighty SLURICANE.) According to a 2014 Sacramento Bee article, E-40 moved 180,000 bottles of his Earl Stevens wine that year in Northern California alone. You can get a bottle for like $10, and he’s apparently succeeded in seizing a decent niche in the middlebrow wine market for himself. The SLURICANE is proudly sold in BevMo stores nationwide; I tried some a few days ago, and it was “Pretty Good.”
His latest business venture: eponymous 40-oz. beers. He suggests to “drink it cold and let the game unfold,” a true no-brainer. Friends, that’s exactly what I did, and I lived to regret it.
E-40 Beer (yeah, that’s the name) touts itself as the “first craft malt liquor,” and proudly proclaims that it features a taste of honey. A perfunctory Beer Internet scan brings up a few brave early adopters lauding its nose, color, and alcohol content (a wine-like 10 percent); some jamoke on BeerAdvocate (where the beer has four stars) said it tasted like a grüner veltliner, and I’m like 90 percent sure he’s trolling because, c’mon son, that’s a type of rodent. Consistently, reviewers have praised its maltiness, which I guess we’ll take as a compliment, even though it’s sort of fundamental to the very project of malt liquor.
And I use “project” deliberately here, because a 40-oz. beer with a 10-percent ABV is the rough equivalent of housing a six-pack of 5.5-ABV brew all by yourself. Above all, the time-honored 40 is the vehicle that drives you from sober to fucked up in the fewest containers possible (one), and this one’ll get you faster still. You can’t fight the E-40 40 and win. You can buy this stuff in more humane 24-oz. packages, but that’s like trying to jump off half a cliff.
That said, E-40 used only “the finest ingredients” in creating what he’s positioning as a highbrow reinvention of a lowbrow product. Trying to board the Craft Beer Gold Rush Crazy Train via the beer category where taste is, like, the third most important characteristic is just smart business. Moreover, he’d also like to remind you that beer is a living, intoxicating part of history; read one very particular way, the story of human civilization is really a story about human society’s long, honorable march toward E-40's 40s.
Unfortunately, this beer is goddamn revolting. It begins with a sweet mouth-wallop of what’s probably supposed to be honey, but is really just concentrated artificial sweetener, before a coppery wave of alcohol washes it all out. You’re left with the taste of mediciny grain and dust. It tastes like someone put pennies in some white wine, left it out in the sun, then carbonated that shit.
I’d like to qualify, here, that I have a dumb and bad palate; I am not one of those genius guys from that movie SOMM who can tell you what cut of meat a Malbec tastes like. That said, I’ve guzzled a 40 or two in my day, and this is among the worst. Mickey’s and High Life are cheaper, and both taste less like Motrin mixed with a squeezed-out bar sponge.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t recommend it. If you want the most bang for your ounce, you can’t beat E-40 Beer. Sometimes in this life, you want to drink a shitload of rapper-approved alcohol real fast. Maybe you like beer that tastes like weird wine. I would contend that, as novelty products go, this one probably has more consideration behind it than usual. And it’s definitely the best beer I’ve ever tasted from a guy who released a song called “Captain Save a Hoe.”
Photo via Getty