What is Malt Liquor? A Comprehensive Guide

If you’ve ever wandered down the beer aisle of your local convenience store, you may have come across a section dedicated to malt liquor. But what is malt liquor exactly, and how does it differ from beer? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more, providing a comprehensive guide to this often misunderstood beverage.

What is Malt Liquor?

Malt liquor is a type of beer that typically has a higher alcohol content and a sweeter, maltier taste than traditional beers. It is typically made from barley malt, corn, rice, and other sugars, which help to increase its alcohol content; it is also fermented with special yeast strains that can withstand the high alcohol content. You will also not typically pick up any bitterness, hop aroma, or flavors as Malt Liquor doesn’t contain hops typically and if it does it is a very minimal amount.

What is Malt Liquor vs. Beer?

Malt liquor differs from traditional beer in several ways. While both beverages are made from malted grains and water, malt liquor is typically brewed with a higher percentage of adjuncts such as sugar, corn, or rice, which can contribute to a sweeter taste and a slightly thicker texture. Additionally, malt liquor is often brewed with a higher alcohol content, ranging from 6% to 10% ABV, compared to the 4% to 6% ABV found in most beers. Whereas beer has a bitter flavor as a result of the hops used in making it, malt liquor is typically sweeter or maltier tasting than beer.

The History of Malt Liquor

Malt liquor has a long and storied history dating back to the 17th century when it was first brewed in England. Originally, it was a term used to describe any strong ale or beer, but over time, it became associated with the stronger, sweeter beers that we now know as malt liquor. In the United States, malt liquor gained popularity in the 20th century, particularly in urban areas where it was often sold in large bottles or cans at low prices.

What is Malt Liquor Made Of?

Malt liquor is typically made from a combination of malted barley, corn, and/or rice, which are mashed together with water to create a sugary wort. Additional sugar, such as dextrose, is typically added to increase the Alcohol percentage. 

a store advertising liquor next to the words "what is malt liquor".
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The wort is then boiled with hops to add bitterness and flavor before being fermented with a high-gravity yeast strain that can withstand the high alcohol content.

What Does Malt Liquor Taste Like?

Malt liquor is known for its sweeter, maltier taste and slightly thicker texture compared to traditional beer. The higher alcohol content can also contribute to a warming, slightly boozy sensation. Different malt liquor brands may have varying flavor profiles, but most tend to be sweeter.

What’s The Difference Between Malt Liquor And Liquor?

While both malt liquor and liquor contain alcohol, they are not the same thing. Liquor, also known as spirits, is typically distilled from grains, fruits, or other fermentable materials, resulting in a much higher alcohol content. On the other hand, Malt liquor is a type of beer brewed using a high-gravity yeast strain and a higher percentage of adjuncts.

What Proof Is Malt Liquor?

Malt liquor is typically around 6% to 10% ABV, which is equivalent to 12 to 20 proof.

Brands of Malt Liquor and How They Taste

Some popular brands of malt liquor include Colt 45, Mickey’s, King Cobra, and Olde English 800. These brands tend to have a sweeter, maltier taste with a slightly thicker texture than traditional beers. Colt 45, for example, is known for its smooth, slightly sweet taste with a hint of bitterness, while Mickey’s has a maltier flavor with notes of caramel and a slightly bitter finish. King Cobra has a slightly spicier flavor with a warming sensation, while Olde English 800 has a nutty, malty flavor with a slightly boozy finish.

Last Call

To sum it up, malt liquor is a beer brewed with a higher percentage of adjuncts and a higher alcohol content than traditional beers. It has a long and storied history dating back to the 17th century and has gained popularity in the United States as a low-cost, high-alcohol beverage. While it may not be for everyone, it remains a popular choice for those looking for a sweeter, maltier alternative to traditional beer.

P.S. Be sure to pick up your gift of Big Robbs’s top 5 favorite beer recipes from his brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on your phone. Cheers!

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