Malt liquor is alternately derided as preying on our nation's poor, as a cheap way for frat boys to get drunk, and as just terrible beer. Certainly, all of these are true. However, malt liquor may also be a cheap and very fun source of entertainment this summer. I know this doesn't sound right coming from someone who advocates good beer, but bear with me.
A beer tasting party is something that I've been wanting to try but knew my friends weren't ready for. Now don't get me wrong, they've been good sports about my craft beer fetish by going to brewpubs most weekends and trying countless new styles of beer. But that doesn't mean they've always liked it.
While a tasting party of Double IPAs or Flemish Sours wouldn't go over well with this crowd, a simpler style of beer actually might. And it doesn't get any simpler than malt liquor! With this in mind, "Malt Liquor Madness" was born.
For those unfamiliar, malt liquor is a lager brewed specifically to produce higher alcohol levels at a low cost. Typically dry and light in color, malt liquors are far more sweet than bitter. The inclusion of adjuncts such as corn, sugar, and rice, as well as fusel alcohol, allow malt liquors to weigh in anywhere from 5.5 to 9% alcohol by volume! Between the high ABV and the fact that most come in 40-ounce bottles, malt liquor is not something to be taken lightly.
For our tournament I set up a bracket with eight malt liquors facing off in the first round, with the two highest scoring entries advancing to a head-to-head final matchup. Scorecards allowed everyone to take notes on each of the five categories on which beer is rated (appearance, aroma, taste, mouth feel, and overall impression) and then give each entry a score ranging from 5 to 1.
At only $2 for a 40-ounce bottle, hosting the entire event was quite inexpensive. Two-ounce pours left enough for all 10 participants to sample during the first round and, if necessary, the finals. More importantly, small pours moderated our alcohol intake from these behemoths. While we were ready for the tournament, I was not prepared for the results.
Shockingly, STEEL RESERVE 211 (HIGH GRAVITY) finished dead last. This was actually my favorite beer of the night for its aroma of light malt and faint hops. All the more impressive considering that the beer was served close to freezing. In retrospect, it was probably done in by its seeding as the first beer served of the night, and therefore the first malt liquor many of my friends ever tasted. Live and learn.
Coming in at #7 was MICKEY'S, a very watery beer. Equally light-bodied and bland was finalist #6, KING COBRA PREMIUM MALT LIQUOR. Another surprise came in the form of two of the pre-tournament favorites settling into the middle of the pack. COLT 45 MALT LIQUOR is a classic that I wanted to like, but found overly sweet and creamy. HAFFENREFFER PRIVATE STOCK boasts of its "imported taste" and was the hoppiest beer of the night. This balance made Private Stock my second favorite.