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photo courtesy Shane Mack

Dreadful draught downs drunk dude

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The reason can be as varied as the method, but, in the end, the goal is the same.

Maybe your girlfriend just walked out of your life, but not without first loudly characterizing you in a decidedly unfavourable way in the middle of your third-year anniversary dinner. Just what is "self-aggrandizing prick" supposed to mean anyway? And doesn't she know that a food court is not the place to be airing your dirty laundry?

Or, maybe you just lost your job at KFC when the owner caught you putting strange things in the deep-frier. And your mom just called last week to tell you how proud she was that you finally made manager... shame.

Perhaps it's all a part of your weekly ritual. "Ahh, another Thursday night. Another four day bender!"

Whatever your reason, I'm sure you'll be able to find a way to justify it to yourself. You're looking to get bleary-eyed, mumble-mouthed, fall down drunk, and no one's getting in your way. Shit! Hold on a second. You spent all your money on toilet paper and the latest issue of Teen Beat magazine. There's no way you'll be able to scrounge up 10 bucks for a sixer of your favorite brew.

Well folks, that's where we come in. Here at the Gauntlet, the journalistic spirit and investigative impulse--what we like to think of as humanity's fundamental need for knowledge--burn strong. We understand your chronic need to obliterate brain cells in an attempt to forget about the rotten shell of your life--we feel it too! We also understand that you can't always afford to drink classy beers like Stella Artois, Corona, or Pilsner. That's why we intentionally sought out the most humble beers available: the draughts of the workin' man, the serfs of the beer Kingdom. We sampled seven of the rock-bottom cheapest beers we could get our hands-on from two seedy downtown liquor stores.

First, each of the beers was sampled in a blind taste test and rated for smell, first taste, aftertaste, and color. Each was then given a rating out of four. After this the real fun, er... I mean, the research began. We tested the beers under various conditions, beginning with dead sober and ending in extremely hammered. At some point, though it's unclear when, each beer was also put through the toughest experiment of all--the Shotgun-ability Test.

What follows is a handy guide to getting drunk on a really small budget. We will go to new lows for you people. And I mean lows.

Alberta Genuine Draft - $6.79 per six-pack / 5.5% alc.

This Big Rock brewed lager tastes like (what else?) cheap beer. It pours flatly, producing a thin strip of head that disappears quickly. Slightly bitter and harsh on the first taste, it doesn't start to go down smooth until about two thirds of the way through the first can, and only then because your mouth is already coated with the stuff. Overall, AGD is a fairly run of the mill cheap beer. Not the worst thing you could drink, but not as smooth as some of the other beers we tested. Also, who wants to pay $6.79? That's outrageous.

The Shotgun-ability Test: The flatness certainly makes for easier shotgunning, but the acid burn doesn't feel too good.

2 out of four

Black Label - $6.64 per six-pack / 5 % alc.

All cheap beer brands maintain a loyal following, and Carling's Black Label is no exception. With a pungently sweet fruity flavour this pale brew goes down relatively smooth and clean. The price is still likely out of your cheap-ass price range, but you could do a lot worse than drowning your sorrows in this stuff.

The Shotgun-ability Test: If you shotgun an AGD and a Crest before getting around to your Black Label, then it goes down damn easy. If it's your first shotgun of the night, it's still not too bad.

3.5 out of four

Mountain Crest - $6.34 per six-pack / 5.5 % alc.

Although the flattest of all the beers we tested, this amber lager is smooth almost to the point of tastelessness. This means loyal Crest drinkers can avoid the signature cheap-beer grimace caused by the first sip of the night. Although it goes down clean, this Alberta-brewed lager leaves a sweet but lasting aftertaste. If you're happy sacrificing flavour for smoothness then Crest might be the beer for you.

The Shotgun-ability Test: Goes down smoooooth. You could shotgun a few of these and still avoid becoming all bloated and gassy. That is, you could avoid becoming more bloated and gassy.

2 out of four

Lucky Lager - $6.54 per six-pack / 5 % alc.

This stuff has nearly no smell nor much flavour. Of course it should be noted that paint thinner would start to go down smooth at this point in the, uh, research schedule. Lucky Lager can best be described as mild and unremarkable. There's a reason this stuff is popular with overweight divorced dads. As a beer, it's easy to handle, and as part of a strict self-help program it can make handling life a lot easier too. Beware!

The Shotgun-ability Test: Are you kidding? I'd like to see you shotgun four beers (on top of an hour of blind taste tests) and then try to objectively tell what's different about them.

2.5 out of four

Bowes Double Dry - $6.19 per six-pack / 5.6 % alc.

For one of the strongest beers under seven dollars, (except for malt liquors, but we're not even going to go there) Bowes is surprisingly sweet. Of all of the beers we tested Bowes was the darkest--almost like this lager wants to be a dark beer. It has a strong, distinct, but not unpleasant flavour. Also, at 5.6 % alc./vol., this stuff packs a punch.

The Shotgun-ability Test: If you've made it this far, chances are you're probably going to be putting your fists through walls or at least strangers. Although the Gauntlet does not advocate shotgunning five different varieties of cheap beer in one night, by this point what does it matter?

3.5 out of four

Boss Beer - $5.84 per six-pack / 5 % alc.

Now we're getting into a realistic price range. Though this Calgary-brewed lager is exclusively brewed for Crowfoot Liquor Stores, and is therefore only available at their three Calgary locations, it is a good example of some of the cheap beers available if you're willing to look. The price is low, and frankly you get what you pay for. Because of its strong, bitter flavour you had better brace yourself for the first taste, but it goes down good after that. Sure, it may not be the best cheap beer, but it scores major points for being locally made and very inexpensive.

The Shotgun-ability Test: Yup, we're gettin' good and ripped now. Boss goes down hard. Lots of fizz. I don't feel too good...

3 out of four

Clear Creek Ice - $5.50 per six-pack / 6.2 % alc.

Okay. Let's cut the crap. The only reason anyone drinks the cheap beers on this list is to get as drunk as possible without dipping into your grandma's savings account. In this regard, Mountain Crest's Clear Creek Ice is truly the king of cheap beers. Surprisingly smooth for such a strong brew, this stuff ain't half bad. The cheapest and the strongest, is it really any wonder Clear Creek Ice earned the only perfect score?

The Shotgun-ability Test: Do not shotgun three of these in a row! Even if all your friends say it will make you a big manly-man. You will not get more manly, you will just get sick.

4 out of four

So whether you're looking to get blitzed because it's the only way you're able to emerge from your protective shell of self-loathing, or if you do it simply to forget the depth of your pathetic poverty, now at least you're equipped with the knowledge to make a solid decision. Remember kids, even the cheap beers that earn high scores in legitimate research studies like this one are still cheap beers. They're all basically swill. Only drink them when they're ice cold, unless you're really desperate. Or already drunk.

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