What Is Malt Liquor?

In the wide world of alcoholic beverages, there are countless different types of drink to understand, each with their own unique flavors and characteristics.

Malt liquor is a name you might hear over and over, but not quite be sure what this popular alcoholic drink is.

What Is Malt Liquor

To put it simply, malt liquor is a type of beer that’s been made with special adjuncts like corn and rice. It’s known for its higher alcohol content, which is higher than other types of beer.

It’s a drink typically for those wanting something strong, and people enjoy it on its own or in cocktails.

With that being said, there’s loads more to learn about malt liquor, and we’ve got all the answers in our handy guide below! We’ve got an in-depth explanation of what malt liquor is, what it tastes like, how it’s made, and more. Read on!

What Is Malt Liquor?

Malt liquor is a type of beer that’s known for its strength, thanks to its high alcohol content. In fact, it’s got a higher alcohol content to it than many other beers, helping it stand out from the crowd.

Malt liquor can be either lager or ale, and the term is often used for any alcoholic drink made with malted barley that’s got an alcohol by volume of 5% or more.

Corn, sugar, or other adjuncts are added into the malted barley in order to increase the total count of the wort’s fermentable sugars, which helps to improve the resulting alcohol concentration without making the drink taste heavier or sweeter.

With that being said, however, malt liquor often has a sweeter taste than beer.

Malt liquor is primarily popular in America these days, but they’ve tried to export them in the past without success.

Towards the end of the 1970s and the start of the 1980s, American-style malt liquors were produced in Britain, but these failed to take off and weren’t nearly as popular as they were in the United States.

The drink typically has a color that ranges from straw to pale amber. 

What Is Malt Liquor Made Out Of?

While many premium types of beer will use key ingredients like barley, hops, and water, malt liquor’s production is a little different. Though it will still use ingredients like barley and water, as well as yeast, malt liquor doesn’t actually need hops at all. 

In addition to those ingredients, malt liquor uses inexpensive adjuncts in greater quantities than other types of beer will. These adjuncts include things like rice, roche, and dextrose.

On top of these, special enzymes are also added into the mix, which help to give the malt liquor its higher percentage of alcohol than your average beer. 

Malt Liquor – Difficulties With Definitions

Though we’ve given you a solid definition of malt liquor, it’s worth noting that the term can actually have different meanings all across the United States.

This is because there are inconsistent alcoholic beverage regulations in America, since they change from state to state, and so some states have a different definition of malt liquor compared to others

For example, it’s the case in some states that any beer which exceeds a certain alcohol content is labeled as “malt liquor”, while beers which keep below the limit get to keep the simple title of “beer”.

Meanwhile, in other states malt liquor refers to any alcoholic drink that has been made through fermenting grain in water. 

What’s The History Of Malt Liquor?

What Is Malt Liquor?

The very first use of the term “malt liquor” dates all the way back to 1690, where the term was used in England simply as a general term referring to beer and ale. Obviously, this isn’t quite the definition that it has today. 

Malt liquor as we know it today was really born in the tail-end of the 1930s in the American midwest.

After the difficult experience of Prohibition, which ended in 1933, the effects of this law were still lingering, with brewers struggling to get back to how things had been before. Drinker complained that their beer didn’t quite have the kick it had before.

Thankfully, two midwestern brewers had similar ideas in a span of five years. Around 1937, Clarence Koerber brewed the very first Clix Malt Liquor, and the Clix brand is often attributed as being the first malt liquor made in America.

Meanwhile, a few years later, in 1942, Alvin Gluek found a way to brew beer with less malt but more strength. He named the resulting product Sparkling Stite, and it soon encouraged competition, with the arrival of Country Club Malt Liquor.

Before you know it, all kinds of different malt liquor brands were popping up across the United States, and the drink is still popular there to this day.

How Is Malt Liquor Sold?

When it comes to buying malt liquor, the most common container size you’re likely to come across is a 40 ounce bottle. This is pretty large, equivalent to 2 and a half US pints, and you can get the bottles made out of either glass or plastic. 

These large containers contain roughly “standard drinks”, which is already an impressive amount, but even more so when you consider the fact that the drink is already higher in alcohol content to begin with.

However, some US states don’t allow 40 ounce bottles to be sold. 

The 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor has actually gained a reputation in pop culture, specifically in hip-hop where “40s” are mentioned frequently. Before this, punk music also frequently referenced the drink and its iconic container size.

If you think 40 ounces is a lot (which it is!), there was a time during the 1990s where notable malt liquor brands like Colt 45 and Olde English 800 sold their product in large 64 ounce glass bottles. This isn’t the case anymore, however!

Final Thoughts

Malt liquor is a type of beer that has a much higher alcoholic content than other varieties. The drink is most popular in America.

Kaitlyn James
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