Malt Liquor vs Beer

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Malt liquor vs beer, how do I compare and contrast these two alcoholic beverages? Liquor and beer lovers everywhere ask themselves this question regularly. The answer is not always straightforward, as the two drinks share some similarities while also having key differences.

Malt Liquor vs Beer

Overall, the primary difference between malt liquor and beer is the way they are crafted and the alcohol content each contains. Generally, beer is either top or bottom fermented, while malt liquor is always bottom-fermented. The malt liquor will have a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage than beer when comparing the potency.

An image of a bottle of malt liquor

Beer and liquor enthusiasts often have a preference for one over the other. Getting the most significant difference and understanding the two drinks is key to picking which one you might want to drink. Liquor vendors and brewers have long debated the topic of malt liquor vs beer, with passionate drinkers on both sides of the fence.

Malt Liquor Overview

Malt liquor is a type of beer that has been around since the Middle Ages. It is made by mixing malted barley with hot water in a mash tun. The malt starch is converted to fermentable sugars by the natural enzymes present in the malt.

The wort is then separated from the spent grains in a lautering process and is subsequently boiled. After boiling, you quickly cool the wort and transfer it to a fermentation vessel where yeast is added. The yeast ferments the sugar and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.

Instead of hops, I use cereal grains, corn, and rice hulls as adjuncts in brewing malt liquor. These adjuncts are cheaper than hops and also contribute to the high alcohol content of the final product. This process only requires bottom fermentation, where yeast ferments at cooler temperatures near the bottom of the vessel.

Advantages of Malt Liquor

  • Malt Liquor is Cheaper to Produce- I don’t need hops to brew it, and adjuncts are cheaper than hops.
  • High Alcohol Content- The use of adjuncts in the brewing process significantly increases the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage.
  • It’s Good for Stout Beers- The unfermented adjuncts present in the malt liquor add body, sweetness, and color to stouts.

Disadvantages of Malt Liquor

  • The Flavor is Not as Good as Beer- Some people say that the adjuncts used in malt liquor brewing give the final product a grainy flavor.

Beer Overview

The beer brewing process is called “ale” brewing. The beer is made with water, malted barley, hops, and brewer’s yeast. The beer includes other grains such as corn and rice in many cases. First, grind the barley and mix it with hot water in the mash tun vessel. This process extracts the sugar from the malt, which will be used for fermentation.

After the mash, the sugary liquid, now called “wort,” is transferred to a boil kettle where hops are added for bitterness and flavor. You then boil the wort and cool it before transferring it to a fermentation vessel. The yeast is added, and the beer is left to ferment for two to four weeks.

After fermentation, the beer is transferred to a conditioning tank, where it matures and carbonates for another four weeks. The beer is then ready for bottling or kegging. You can use either top or bottom fermentation in the beer brewing process.

An image of a glass of beer

Advantages of Beer

  • Better Flavor- Hops in the brewing process give the beer a better flavor than malt liquor.
  • Ease Brewing- Brewing beer is easier than malt liquor since you can use top or bottom fermentation. This gives you the option to use different yeasts depending on the beer you want to brew.
  • Low Alcohol Content- If you are looking for a lower alcohol content beverage, beer is the way to go since it has a lower ABV percentage.

Disadvantages of Beer

  • More Expensive- Hops are more expensive than adjuncts, so beer is more costly to produce.
  • Longer Brewing Process- The longer brewing process means that it takes more time to make beer than malt liquor.

Comparison Between Malt liquor and Beer

Knowing the two types of alcoholic drinks, their properties, and the differences could help you decide the next time you are looking for something to drink.

Similarities Between Malt Liquor and Beer

  • Both are brewed drinks made from water, yeast, and grain (malted barley)
  • Grains such as wheat, corn, and rice can be used in malt liquor and beer brewing.
  • The yeast fermentation creates the alcohol content in both drinks during the brewing process.
  • Both malt liquor and beer are carbonated.
  • They both have varying colors, depending on the ingredients and brewing process.

Differences Between Malt Liquor and Beer

  • Malt liquor is more potent in alcohol content than beer. The average alcohol by volume (ABV) for malt liquor is between 6% and 14.2%. The average ABV for beer is between 4% and 6%.
  • Malt liquor is made with more sugar than beer. This results in a sweeter taste for malt liquor.
  • Malt liquor is typically served in a larger container, such as a 40-ounce bottle or can. Beer is most often served in 12-ounce bottles or cans.
  • Malt liquor is often cheaper than beer.
  • The manufacturing and distribution of malt liquor are not as regulated as beer. This could lead to potential health risks with malt liquor.
  • The appearance of malt liquor is typically a darker color due to the use of adjuncts like corn and rice. Beer has a more golden appearance due to the use of hops.
  • Malt liquor has a shorter brewing time than beer. Malt liquor can be brewed in two weeks, while beer takes at least four weeks to brew.
  • Malt liquor is typically less carbonated than beer.

The Major Distinguishing Factor

I have looked at the main similarities and differences between malt liquor and beer. The primary distinguishing factor is the alcohol content. Malt liquor has a higher alcohol content than beer, making it unique.

Its alcohol content ranges from 6% to 14.2%, while beer’s alcohol content is only 4% to 6%. This higher alcohol content gives malt liquor unique properties, such as a sweeter taste and a more potent effect.

An image of a malt liquor

When to Drink Malt Liquor

Beer enthusiasts might turn their noses up at malt liquor; however, it does have its time and place. If you are looking for a cheap way to get drunk, malt liquor is your drink.

It is also an excellent choice for parties, as you can buy large containers that will last for quite a while. It is important to remember that malt liquor is more potent than beer, so drink cautiously.


When to Drink Beer

If you are looking for a refreshing drink to enjoy with friends, beer is your best bet. It has a lower alcohol content than malt liquor, so you can drink more without getting drunk.

It is also a good choice if you are looking for something to drink with food, as the hops in beer can help enhance the flavors of certain dishes. Beer is also regulated and has a long history, which means that the brewing process is typically very consistent.

So, Which Is Better?

It depends on what you are looking for. If you want to get drunk quickly, malt liquor is the way. If you are looking for a refreshing drink to enjoy with friends or food, beer is better. It all comes down to personal preference in the end.

Price also plays a significant role in choosing between malt liquor and beer. Malt liquor is often cheaper and has a longer shelf life than beer. This could be a deciding factor if you are on a budget or looking to stock up for a party.


Malt liquor and beer are two of the most popular alcoholic beverages globally. They have many similarities. However, there are also some significant differences, the most important of which is the alcohol content. Therefore, it is crucial to know when to drink each beverage and what you look for in an alcoholic drink.