The Great Koozie Death Match

Drink Features 22Below koozie
The Great Koozie Death Match

The koozie is a ridiculous thing. Basically, we’re talking about a jacket for your beer. Only this jacket is designed to keep your beer cold for a little longer, so it’s like a Bizarro jacket. You could argue that the koozie is the ultimate sign of frivolity. Have we reached a point in our evolution where our species is simply too comfortable that we feel the need to protect our hands from a cold can? Are we living such leisurely lives that we can’t be bothered to drink a beverage before it gets warm without the aid of an insulating device? We’re talking about an accessory for a beverage, here. Like a sweater for a dog or those dangling testicles you see on trucks. Utterly, completely unnecessary.

And yet…koozie manufacturing is a $7 billion a year industry. I just made that number up, but based on the amount of koozies that are on the market, and the price of some of those beer jackets, I’m probably not that far off the mark. You’ve got your standard neoprene sleeves and your beefier foam numbers, you’ve got hipsters knitting koozie sweaters and craftsman filling their Etsy pages with hand-carved wood koozies. You’ve got Yeti, the king of keeping beers cold, selling a $25 koozie. $25. Let that price sink in.

In the future, historians from an advanced race will ponder how and why our civilization crumbled and they might point to the advent of robot vacuums and $25 koozies as the tipping point. Until that time comes, I’m going to search constantly for the ultimate beer jacket, because I live in the South where it’s roughly 112 degrees Fahrenheit all the damn time and nothing pisses me off like having to drink the last third of my beer after it’s been baking in the sun.

So, when the folks at 22Below sent me one of their new Sub-Zero can sleeves I figured it was the perfect opportunity to stage a koozie battle royale, where I take four different koozie styles and pit them head to head in a death match where only the strongest survives. And this Koozie Death Match would be staged in the most inhospitable environment known to man: Florida in August. If you want to test the most advanced koozie technology on display, you head straight for the Sunshine State’s late summer heat.

Here are the contenders: Super cheap neoprene sleeve, slightly more expensive foam sleeve, super expensive Yeti Colster, kind of expensive 22Below Sub-Zero.

Because I’m a journalist and koozie technology is an important area of concern that has long been ignored by corporate media, I spent a full week testing each and every koozie on the list. The research was thorough and exhausting. I drank a lot of beers. Sometimes, I was up super late doing research. Other times, I woke up early and decided I wanted to get a head start on all of the research. There were afternoons, when the sun was really high and the humidity was at its peak, where I had koozies in each hand…doing research. There was math. There was political intrigue. There were bunnies.

koozie math.jpg
Some late night research notes.

It was an emotionally exhausting process, the results of which might not sit well with the Koozie Industrial Complex Machine. But alas, the truth must be known. Here are the results from my Koozie Death Match.

Super Cheap Neoprene Sleeve
Price: Free, but with every beer you drink you’ll be an advertisement for Blacks Orthodontics or Pete’s Pool Hall. Because nothing is really free.

Super Cheap Neoprene Sleeves are ubiquitous. I have roughly 2,000 of them tucked into the corners of all of my cupboards. They are perfectly fine if all you need is a barrier between you and the condensation of your beer can. Like, maybe you’re allergic to condensation. Maybe it’s not a full-blown allergy, but an aversion to it. You’re condensation-intolerant. If that’s the case, then a Super Cheap Neoprene Sleeve is probably just fine. At least for a beer or two. Any more than that and the Super Cheap Neoprene Sleeve starts to absorb the moisture from your beer can. Then you’re just carrying around a wet sponge. A wet sponge that really doesn’t keep your beer cold at all.

Pros: They’re free and really lightweight. They don’t take up much space in your glove box.
Cons: They don’t work.
Death Match Verdict: We need to stop making Super Cheap Neoprene Sleeves. They’re an insult to koozie technology and wasteful. I suspect there’s an island of these koozies floating around the Pacific Ocean somewhere that might someday rival trash island.

Slightly More Expensive Foam Sleeve
Price: Sometimes free, but mostly $3 at a tourist shop that sells seashells and hermit crabs.

There was a time when Slightly More Expensive Foam Sleeves were the height of koozie technology. I can remember having parties and thinking, “man, I hope nobody tries to steal my good koozie.” And it is a better option than the Super Cheap Noeprene Sleeve. It’s thicker, doesn’t absorb moisture, and will keep your beer cold for two to three more minutes than if that beer sat out in the sun completely naked. So, there’s that. But in today’s space race for the ultimate koozie, the “let’s make the foam thicker” technology is antiquated and can’t keep up with Koozie 2.0.

Pros: It doesn’t turn into a wet sponge.
Cons: It only works a little bit. You still have to drink your beer pretty fast.
Death Match Verdict: The thicker foam sleeve slayed the thin foam sleeve, but can’t hold a candle to the modern technology flooding the market today.

Yeti Colster
Price: $25 (because it’s Yeti)

You can balk at the price, and you can bitch about people wasting money on a freaking koozie, but you cannot deny that the Colster will keep your beer cold for a looong time. And it better, because A) look at that price and B) it’s incredibly over-engineered. The thing is double-wall insulated and weighs in at a beefy 12.7 pounds (roughly, but my scale might be off). You literally screw your beer into place with a lid that traps all of the cold into a cocoon of stainless steel. I mean, bitch all you want about the price and the weight, the Colster works. And it works better than any other koozie I’ve ever tested. Period. You can set your beer down in the sand in Florida, go swimming, make a sandwich, then come back and your beer will still be cold.

Pros: Keeps beer cold for a long time. Can be used as a weapon against aggressive raccoons in your campsite.
Cons: Expensive. Heavy. People steal them. You can’t tell when you’re done with your beer because the Colster is so heavy.
Death Match Verdict: It’s the champ, but only if you’re willing to pay a fortune for a cold beer.

22Below Sub-Zero
Price: $16

The Sub-Zero isn’t cheap but it’s a lot cheaper than the Yeti Colster, so consider this the moderately priced alternative. Like, a Nissan to the Yeti’s Toyota. And here’s the thing: the Sub-Zero works almost as well as the Yeti. It was no contest between the foam options and this koozie which uses a super fancy, patent-pending “Cryo-Lock system” and medical grade silicone. Apparently, it’s all about air chambers. I don’t know about Cryo-Lock systems, but I do know that this keeps your beer cold for longer than most koozies on the market. And it’s super light and can fold up, so you have most of the benefits of a pricey Yeti, but the convenience of Super Cheap Neoprene Sleeve.

Pros: Keeps beer cold. Lightweight. You don’t have to screw any lids on, and you know when your beer is empty.
Cons: Doesn’t work quite as well as the Yeti. Can’t be used as a weapon, so you’ll have to fight off that raccoon with your own two hands.
Death Match Verdict: The 22Below came in a close second to the Yeti for performance, but placed first for convenience and ease of use.


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