Without a doubt, you have enjoyed a beer at some point in your life. The chances are also pretty good that you’ve consumed some malt liquor at some point along your journey. Between these two fantastic beverages, you might not have noticed much of a difference besides the taste of the two are quite distinct. But what actually sets these two kinds of beer apart?
Let’s take a quick look at the distinctions between beer and it’s not-so-classy-yet-well-beloved cousin, malt liquor.
Let’s get one thing clear at the outset: Malt Liquor is a type of beer. Yup, you heard that right. Despite being much higher ABV than traditional beer, Malt Liquor has its alcohol content increased without changing the taste of the beer by adding rice, corn, and sugar to malted barley.
Some of the most commonly known brands of Malt Liquor include Colt 45, Olde English 800, and Mickey’s. Any bottle of malt liquor that you pick up will have about twice as much alcohol by volume as a bottle of beer. Thus, you get more drunk quicker by consuming the same volume of malt liquor as beer.
Let’s get a little more into the weeds of the distinction between Malt Liquor and beer.
Legally, any drink that has malted barley with 5% or more ABV is considered malt liquor. To reach these higher levels of alcohol, the amount of fermented sugar in the wort needs to be increased. This is done by adding corn, dextrose, or rice.
Fun Fact: Malt liquor was first documented in England in 1690. However, it wasn’t until 1933, when Prohibition was repealed, that American Malt Liquor emerged. During The Great Depression, times were tough for everybody. Brewers were struggling to brew beer due to the lack of metal for cans and bottle caps, and malt liquor increased in popularity. Over the course of the following years, both alcohol content and sugar content increased in malt liquor.
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Every time you hear about malt liquor, do you get “frat” vibes or “cheap” vibes? Most people might. For years, malt liquor has too often been associated with alcoholics, underage drinking, and a less expensive way to get more drunk. And while these things may all be true, they do not tell the full story.
The malt liquor style of beer has recently begun gaining traction after rebooted versions have been released by craft breweries. In the words of Thrillist Author Dave Infante, “if you make something strong, put it in a big bottle, and sell it for cheap, someone is going to drink the damn thing.”
Among some of the newer, “classier” brands of malt liquor that have popped up in recent years are “AK-47” brewed by Elysian Brewing, “Liquor de Malt” brewed by Dogfish Head, and “ML209” brewed by Four Peaks. Each of these brews has its own unique spin on the beverage.
There is an abundant history behind the origin, downfall, and return to glory of malt liquor. However, there are two names that stand head and shoulders above the rest:
Of course, many other legendary figures left an indelible mark on the history of Malt Liquor, experimenting with flavors and brewing methods, dressing it up, and popularizing it.
Malt liquor continued to increase in popularity from the end of the Second World War all the way up to the modern-day. Today, it is enjoyed everywhere liquor is sold.
So, which do you prefer? Beer or malt liquor?
Has your opinion on either drink changed after learning about malt liquor and how it is different from beer?
Arrow Liquormart is an online liquor store in Littleton, CO and we are ready to deliver your choice of alcohol directly to your doorstep! Browse our expansive list of wines, liquors, and beers and get your favorite one delivered right to you, without ever leaving the comfort of your home!