Pictured: an idiot Credit: Tyler Daswick

As soon as I started reading a post that ran on this very blog last week, “A dog drinks Bowser Beer for dogs,” a question burst into my mind. The mystery enveloped me—it wormed its way into my head and burrowed into my brain—I couldn’t escape it: What did Bowser Beer, a drink made specifically for dogs, actually taste like? I read the article three times. No answer. As I sat there, unable to rid myself of this cursed query, fate settled itself onto my shoulders. I knew what I had to do.

I had to drink Bowser Beer myself.

The higher-ups here at the Reader told me I could try Bowser Beer so long as it wouldn’t hurt my body. That mandate called for some research. First stop, of course, was the FAQ page on the Bowser Beer website. I expected something along the lines of “Can I, a bipedal being, have a frosty Bowser Beer?,” but funnily enough the website has nothing of the sort. What a bunch of crap. This must be a frequently asked question. The site goes so far as to include the genius question “Do cats like it?,” but there’s nothing regarding Bowser Beer’s taste or potability for humans. Your cats can go get hit by a car—I just need to know if this stuff is going to kill me or not.

I clicked on the website’s “Taste-a-Monials.” There’d have to be at least one customer review written by someone who’d had a sip of Bowser Beer himself, right? No such luck. All the feedback is from people who gave the drink to their dogs and decided it was great. How do they know? Their dogs just lapped up an unidentifiable brown liquid and wagged their tails a little. They do the same thing when they eat their own poop—not exactly foolproof evidence, your honor.

I proceeded to check Amazon for customer reviews and noticed that the product listing says “For Dogs Only.” Probably just a suggestion.

Finally, the Huffington Post provided a breakthrough. In a 2011 article, Bowser Beer spokeswomen Jenny Brown is quoted as saying, “Our beer is flavored with a sweet malt barley. It’s human grade, which is good because some people drink it by accident.” 

I expected a relaxing Bowser Beer experience. I did not have that.
I expected a relaxing Bowser Beer experience. I did not have that.Credit: Tyler Daswick

BOOM. That’s all the approval I needed. I started dialing retailers, and after three unsuccessful attempts I found a place—Rogers Park Social—that wasn’t clean out of the stuff. Is that a good sign or a bad sign? It doesn’t matter, right? I picked up a bottle on my way home.

Let’s talk presentation. Bowser Beer comes in a plastic bottle with a bright orange cap, kind of like they have on Airsoft guns so you know it’s a fake gun and not the real thing. Nice touch. I bought the Cock-a-Doodle-Brew variety, which supposedly tastes like chicken. They really missed out on a better name: Cock-a-Poodle-Brew. Or even just Pooch Hooch. Wait: Cock-a-Poodle-Brew, the Pooch Hooch with a Taste of the Coop. Gimme the reins to their PR department. Strike one against Bowser Beer: poor pun execution.

The best part of the package is the nutritional information. Right there on the front of the bottle is “With glucosamine: to promote healthy joints.” Eff yeah. I considered going to do yoga after my taste test. I’ve never done yoga, but if Bowser Beer is advertising itself as an effective way to pregame that particular activity, what the hell.

On the back of the bottle is a series of instructions. First off, there’s a suggested serving size. Tiny dogs, aka scrub dogs, only get a capful. Small dogs can drink half a bottle, while medium-to-large dogs can have the whole bottle at once. I’m fairly certain that I qualify as a medium-to-large dog, so that means I had the whole thing to myself. Yay.

The label also lists the ingredients, which I’ve inserted here exactly as they appear (minus the three preservatives and the glucosamine): water, chicken, malt extract. That’s it. Those are your ingredients in Bowser Beer. Naturally, you must have some questions already.

There’s no alcohol or even hops in Bowser Beer—that stuff is poison to dogs—so really what we’re dealing with here is a specialized, joint-healthy sort of broth. You’d expect water in something like that, but then comes “chicken.” Not chicken stock or chicken parts or chicken flavoring or however else chicken comes—just “chicken.” It’s like someone at the end of the assembly line just slapped that down and sent it off. We need an exposé into how they cram these chickens into each bottle of Bowser Beer—I’m concerned. Strike two.

Then comes the malt extract. The website says it’s full of vitamin B, but the bottle is careful to tack on a big fat asterisk that indicates “not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO Dog or Food Nutrient Profiles.”

At that point I was about 90 percent sure I was going to die drinking Bowser Beer.

I drank it right from the bowl, for the authentic drinking experience.
I drank it right from the bowl, for the authentic drinking experience.Credit: Tyler Daswick

One time my dog ate a bunch of chicken fajitas off our kitchen table when we weren’t watching (he’s a lot smarter than we are), and afterward he pooped liquid for three straight days. Bowser Beer looks kinda like that.

The smell is sharp but bland, like stale chicken stock, and when I swirled it around in the bowl a few times there was a dark residue concentrated in the middle of the dish. That must be the chicken remains.

I took a deep breath. Then I leaned down and had a good, hearty, dog-size slurp.

It’s disgusting.

First off, there’s no distinct chicken flavor. Maybe my expectations were more toward the Swanson broth end of the spectrum, but Bowser Beer is a spiceless, tongue-punching brew. Its sourness somehow evokes meat gone bad (what happened to those chickens?!), and every swallow coats the throat with a rotten film. The mouthfeel is slimy. When it hit my stomach, it lingered and bubbled before attempting its escape through more orifices than I would have liked. The drink sloshed inside my body like a rat terrier in a bathtub. The burps that followed tasted like bird flu. I did my best to reach even the halfway point of the bowl, but it took all my effort to keep myself from spewing Bowser Beer all over my fraternity’s bathroom. In the battle between my journalistic integrity and my somatic willpower, somehow both sides lost. I felt like curling up, chewing on a Milk-Bone, and going to dog heaven.

After a few suppressed heaves, the simmer of the Bowser Beer began to die down, and I summoned enough strength to take the bowl to the bathroom and banish its remaining contents to the depths of Tartarus. As the witch’s brew of liquefied hen and unapproved malt emptied into the toilet, I honestly felt like I was having trouble seeing. Was this stuff making me color-blind? Was I turning into a dog? At least with all the glucosamine I’d just ingested, my joints were going to be pretty effing healthy.

Strike three
Strike threeCredit: Tyler Daswick