Schnucks, 6600 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights, 314-644-0510

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According to the Internet, Shen Nung (456-538 A.D.), compiler of the Shen-Nung Pen-Ts'ao Ching: The Shen-Nung Pharmacopoeia, explained the effects of one B-to-the-E ingredient: "Ginseng is a tonic to the five viscera, quieting the animal spirits, stabilizing the soul, preventing fear, expelling the vicious energies, brightening the eye and improving vision, opening up the heart, benefiting the understanding and if taken for some time will invigorate the body and prolong life."

Ginseng is an operative ingredient in B-to-the-E, a.k.a. B(E), a.k.a. Bud Extra. Another exciting ingredient found in this new Anheuser-Busch product is guarana. Again, from the Internet: "Guarana is an herb that contains a form of caffeine called guaranine. It is 2.5 times stronger than the caffeine found in coffee, tea and soft drinks. What makes guaranine unique from caffeine found in beverages is its slower release."

Drink of the Week once made a profound declaration from atop a bar regarding the qualities of another active B-to-the-E ingredient: "BEER KICKS ASS!"

So there you have it. B-to-the-E, which is short for, we guess, Budweiser-to-the-Extra: beer, which kicks ass; caffeine, which is so essential that it requires no introduction; guarana, which releases it slow and low; and ginseng, which expels vicious energies and invigorates the body. B-to-the-E. How can you possibly go wrong?

Well, you can and you can't.

B-to-the-E (which is getting increasingly difficult to say with a straight face) tastes great if you're only having one and you guzzle it. It tastes very berry-cherryish, a little bit like a raspberry lambic and, of course, very much like a certain European energy drink. The new concoction, which comes in a sleek ten-ounce can, was created in response to the mighty vodka-and-Red Bull. B-to-the-E has very little beer taste, just a touch on the front end. On the back end, it's all tang. That tang is compounded with each drink as the ginseng and guarana and berry coat your mouth until, by the end of a second can, it tastes like drinking coffee after grapefruit juice. Not good. If you drink four in a row and you want to sleep at any time in the next twelve hours, too bad. Drink of the Week drank a four-pack in the afternoon and we were still grinding at 2 a.m.

But that doesn't matter. You're going to be drinking this late at night when you're a little groggy, the coke hook-up has yet to materialize, and you're biding your time on the dance floor. Sleep's not on the plate.

Until then you can buy B-to-the-E at Schnucks on Clayton Road. The mega-grocer has been thankfully whipped into shape by the presence of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and has a decent, but not great, booze selection. It sells B-to-the-E as a four-pack for five-and-a-quarter. If you do the math, that's an expensive 40-ouncer, but then again you are getting ancient Chinese secrets with your non-beer beer. You're prolonging your life, quieting your animal spirits and rolling hard.

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