I don’t think I’ve made it clear enough: Big Lots (and similar closeout stores) is the perfect place to go for energy drinks, at least in terms of price. Sure, there are a lot that might not taste up to normal standards, but considering just about all of them (with the exception of the name brands that wind up there) are under $1, it’s a gamble without much of a risk.
As with a lot of private labels, picking up on what products the closeout specials at Big Lots were trying to emulate can be a little depressing; usually, they wear their inspirations on their sleeves. So when I saw the energy beverage Up-Time, in a curiously-sized 8.4 oz. can (the exact same can as the drink that is said to “give you wings”) I knew instantly what I was in for: Another in a long line of knockoffs of the hugely popular, “original” energy drink. Just picking up the can, I figured I had the flavor in my mouth already, and I probably would have put it back and forgotten about it had it not been for the price: $.33 per can. That changed everything: Even if it was a spotty imitation, any energy drink that’s 3 for $1 deserves to get an automatic chance in my book.
As I cracked it open, my mouth was prepped for just the taste of a standard energizing blend, until something caught my eye…er…nose. A quick sniff surprisingly did not match the flavor profile I was anticipating; this one smelled light and citrusy, without a hint of the tartness usually found in most of them. All of a sudden I went from moderate interest, to full-fledged eager anticipation. There was the possibility the smell was setting me up for disappointment, but I quickly dug in…
…and I have to say I was pretty shocked. Despite its god-awful name, Up-Time really is “refreshing energy”. The citrus aroma I picked up on is here in full force, but it’s light and satisfying without having even a hint of tartness. To put it simply, it’s way-too-easily drinkable, which means I tend to down these things rather quickly. I suppose for some people, that’s their typical method of imbibing these sorts of concoctions; drink it down as fast as possible for maximum power. I like to sip mine tenderly, though, in the hopes that it kind of gradually releases smaller bursts of energy, instead of one big explosion all at once. I’m not sure that’s exactly how these things work, but that’s how I imagine they do.
Since our initial purchase of three, I’ve since gone back and bought an additional 10, or so. The value is virtually unheard-of, while the taste would honestly feel at home in a drink costing three times as much. There are a lot of weird-ish ingredients in here that leave me unsure of their intended effects (coEnzyme Q10 and Ginkgo Baloba, to name a couple right off the front of the can), and the aftertaste is a little bizarre, but this is still a great deal no matter how you look at it. Unless coEnzyme Q10 turns out to cause cancer, that is.
Overall: 8/10. With the potent combination of inherent drink ability and jaw-to-the-floor value, if you stumble on one of these, either at Big Lots or anywhere else, you should pick up a can. It gave me the kick of energy I was looking for, and it goes down real smooth, without a hint of tart or sourness. Even though there’s 27g of sugar per can, it’s not overly sweet, either, with a taste that really feels like it’s “all natural”, as the can seems to hint at. Only downsides: The aftertaste is a little weird, and I’m unsure as to what a lot of these ingredients are supposed to do; I guess the same can be said for just about any mass-produced food or drink in a standard supermarket, though. Best of all? At Big Lots, these are a ridiculous $.33 per can. That’s not a typo…3 for $1. Stock up on them if there are any left!