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Made by fermenting grain and water, malt liquor is technically an ale or lager, but no one really sees it that way. From Billy Dee Williams' Colt 45 endorsement that it "Works Every Time" to Snoop Dogg talking about kicking back a 40 of O.E. (Old English 800), malt liquor is more of a novelty drink. But don't worry, it's not a bad thing to embrace its smooth flavor, high ABV, and hip-hop popularity.
Where Did Malt Liquor Come From?
Malt liquor got its roots in 1950s and 1960s America, as people began to turn to spirits and drank less beer. Fueled by lessening profits, beer producers needed something to deliver the kick of hard liquor while using beer fermentation processes. The result was malt liquor. Oddly enough, producers didn't market it at first to the inner city, where it's a popular drink today, but turned instead to the American middle class for sales. Just imagine how much different "Mad Men" would have been had Dom Draper kicked back a Steel Reserve instead of a neat scotch.
This idea didn't work so well, and soon manufacturers turned to inner city communities to market their beverage. Perhaps it was because the higher ABV seemed like a value buy, but the idea worked. This also increased demand for higher-proof varieties, and many now flirt with a 12 percent ABV. That's a whole lot of oomph, so you'll have to go easy if you have your own "Malt Liquor Night." Still, if Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Sublime, and Ice Cube say it's a good idea, who are you to question them? That is, unless you have some nasty freestyle rhymes.
How Is Malt Liquor Different From Beer?
Malt liquor may seem like it's made from the hand of God himself, but it has similarities to beer, its closest cousin. The fermentation process is almost the same, but malt liquor is produced by fermenting the malt, or wort, with yeast that's on the bottom of the brewing tank. This gives it a sweeter taste, a slightly spicy kick, and a higher alcohol level. That doesn't mean it's necessarily the bottom of the barrel. Just don't let the bottom of your 40-ouncer get warm.