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What is Malt Liquor-A Complete Guide

At some point in your life, you must have enjoyed a beer. Of course, the experience is different for everyone. And that’s why some people prefer specific brands. On the same note, have you ever tried malt liquor? Well, it’s said that the two are alike and the difference comes in their alcohol content. While there is some truth in that, our focus today is on malt liquor. Here is all the basic information about this beverage that you need to know:

What is malt liquor?

Well, malt liquor is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains, usually barley malt. Although in some cases corn, rice, and sugar are added to boost the alcoholic content. Having said that, its alcoholic level is more than that of beer. Oftentimes, it ranges between 6 and 7 percent.

malt liquor

Therefore, any bottle of malt liquor is bound to have double the amount of alcohol as compared to the same amount of beer. Thus, when you drink it, you are likely to get drunk faster, especially if it’s the same volume as a beer. But that’s not all. Read on to learn more about this beverage.

History of malt liquor

It is an alcoholic beverage that originated during the Middle Ages in Europe. Its roots can be traced back to the 12th century when brewers began producing a strong beer made from malted grains such as barley, wheat, and rye.

This beer was often referred to as “strong beer” or “malt liquor” and was consumed by members of the working class as a substitute for wine or spirits. In the 16th century, malt liquor became popular in England due to its low cost and high alcohol content.

malt liquor

By the 17th century, it had become the primary alcoholic beverage of the working classes. The popularity of malt liquor spread to the American colonies in the 18th century, where it was known as “corn beer” or “bourbon beer”. Malt liquor became even more popular in the 19th century when it was mass-produced by breweries and marketed as a cheap alternative to wine and spirits.

In the 20th century, malt liquor was produced in a variety of styles, from light lagers to dark, full-bodied ales. In the United States, malt liquor has been associated with the urban working class and inner-city communities. Today, malt liquor is still widely consumed and is available in a variety of styles. It is often sold in large bottles or cans. Not to mention, it’s a popular choice for parties or social gatherings.

In the US, “Clix” is well known as the first brand of malt liquor to be made in the country. In 1948, it was granted a patent. But that’s not all, it’s a successful brand from the 1950s in St Joseph, Missouri started by M. K. Goetz Brewing Company. Over the years, other brands emerged, among them including King Cobra, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, and Mickey’s.

Is malt liquor beer?

Is malt liquor beer? Well, this is a frequently asked question. While these two are different, they have similarities. But let’s get this clear, malt liquor is one of the classes of beer. The brewers brew it using malted grains. To boost its alcohol levels, some of them add sugar, rice, and corn. On the brighter side, it’s the alcoholic content that changes while the taste remains the same. On that note, this beverage has a higher alcohol content than beer.

What is the difference between malt liquor and beer?

For starters, Malt liquor and beer are both alcoholic beverages made from the fermentation of grain. However, there are several key differences between the two. Let’s have a look:

  • Alcoholic Content

Malt liquor is typically stronger than beer, with an alcohol content ranging from 4-7%. Beer, on the other hand, generally has an alcohol content ranging from 3-5%. This means that malt liquor has a higher alcohol content and a higher alcohol by volume (ABV).  In other words, you will get drunk faster drinking malt liquor compared to the same volume of beer.

  • Taste and Color

Malt liquor also has a sweeter taste than beer. This is because malt liquors use more sugar than beer in their fermentation process. This makes malt liquors taste sweeter, while beers tend to have a more bitter taste.

When it comes to color, malt liquor has a range of colors. Oftentimes, it’s between straw and pale amber. Further, its color depends on how the barley got roasted.

  • Price

Do you want to get drunk without spending much? Well, you should choose malt liquor over beer. And that’s because they tend to be more affordable than beers. This is because malt liquors are usually produced in bulk, meaning that they have a lower overhead cost. Beers, on the other hand, are usually produced in smaller batches, meaning that they have a higher overhead cost.

Because of its affordability, this alcoholic beverage is popular among college kids. And if you look at its history, there’s some truth in that. Between the 1950s and 1960s beer was losing its popularity in the US, and other alcoholic beverages were taking over. As such, to keep up with the competition, especially the spirits, the brewers decided to brew a beer with a higher alcohol content.

Of course, they didn’t want to alter the brewing process of a typical beer. This new beverage became popular in the urban centers, especially the city neighborhoods. And it was all because of its greater alcohol content and affordable price.

  • Fermentation

These two beverages share a similar fermentation process. To brew beer, for instance, you will need barley. You will have to dry, heat, and crack it. These processes set aside enzymes that are needed for malting. Thereafter, smash the grains and put them in hot water. This activates the enzymes and also helps with the release of sugars. At this point, the liquid you are creating is known as wort.

Next, you will boil wort plus hops. To create a unique taste, you can now add your spices or secret ingredients. Lastly, strain the wort, filter it, and then ferment it using yeast. Fermentation will take several weeks. During this time, yeast will break down the sugar to create alcohol plus carbon dioxide.

When it comes to malt on the other end, you will follow the same process. However, you will skip the part where you add hops. Also, to boost the alcohol content, you will need to add sugar, rice, and corn.

How to make malt liquor

Did you know that you can brew malt at home like beer? The two share a similar process, except for some minor adjustments when it comes to malt liquor.   On that note, here is a basic process that will help you understand how this beverage is brewed:

malt liquor


  • 6 pounds of grain malt (2-row or 6-row barley)
  • 1/2 pound of corn sugar (or 1 pound of light malt extract)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of gypsum
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Irish moss
  • 1 packet of ale yeast


  1. Start by soaking the grain malt in 4 gallons of water for about an hour at a temperature of around 150-160°F.
  2. Once the grain has been soaked, strain out the liquid, which is known as ‘wort’, and discard the grain.
  3. Place the wort in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, add the corn sugar, gypsum, and Irish moss and simmer for an hour.
  5. After an hour, turn off the heat and let the wort cool to a temperature of around 75°F.
  6. Once cooled, pour the wort into a fermenter and add the packet of ale yeast.
  7. Place an airlock on the fermenter and let the wort ferment for about a week.
  8. Once fermentation is complete, bottle the malt liquor and let it age for at least two weeks before drinking.


It is a type of alcoholic beverage made from malt and other grain ingredients. It is typically stronger than most beers and has an alcohol content of 5-7%. Malt liquors are usually flavored with spices. Not to mention, corn, sugar, and rice are added making them slightly sweet, fruity, and stronger. They can be found in many different colors and flavors, ranging from light to dark, dry to sweet, and hoppy to malty.

Malt liquors are often enjoyed as a session beer, or in mixed drinks like the boilermaker. They are popular among beer drinkers due to their high alcohol content and relatively low cost. Finally, malt being a kind of beer, they are similar in several ways. But what sets them apart is the alcohol level. Due to the added sugars, rice, and corn, this beverage can double the alcohol content of most beers.


If you have further inquiries about malt liquor, check out these FAQs:

what are the popular malt liquor brands in the US?

Well, in the US, this beverage dates back to the 18th century. It was known by different names then, until the 1950s when the first domestic malt liquor brand was founded. It was known as Clix Brand. Thereafter, other brands founded in the US emerged. As of now, the popular malt liquor brands in the US include Colt 45, Olde English 800, Steel Reserve, King Cobra, Lucky Lager, Country Club, and Mickey’s.

What constitutes malt liquor?

This is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented malt and cereal grains, such as barley, wheat, rye, and oats. It is typically top-fermented and can range from light- to full-bodied. As mentioned earlier, sugar, rice, and corn are added to increase their alcohol content. And that’s what makes it stronger than alcohol. Of course, due to the added sugar, it is sweeter while beer remains bitter.

How do you know it’s malt liquor?

Well, it’s worth noting that this beverage is brewed with a higher alcohol content than traditional beer. It is typically packaged in 40-ounce bottles and cans and has an alcohol content of between 4 and 8 percent. Malt liquor can be identified by its distinctive logo and packaging, as well as its higher alcohol content.

When should you drink malt liquor?

You can drink this beverage anytime. It’s best served cold or warm depending on your preference. It comes in different flavors, although there is a standard type you can stick with. The ideal time to drink it is during the summer months when the heat is higher. Also, if you love grilling outdoors, it’s the best beverage to have.

You can appreciate it during game nights with friends. Or even have it during outdoor recreation activities meant for fun. It’s said that malt liquor evokes confidence, and character. And it also has an edge. But like any other alcoholic beverage, you must drink it responsibly.


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