Difference Between Malt Liquor and Beer – Beer vs Malt Liquor

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If you’ve ever purchased a litre of malt liquor from the supermarket, you might have thought, “What makes this different from beer?” Yes, the bottles tend to be larger, and malt liquor is frequently less expensive, but why?

Price isn’t the only appealing aspect of it. Malt liquor is preferred by many due to its sweeter flavour and strong effects. Due to its rising popularity, numerous American microbreweries have started making their own versions of malt liquor.

Is it worthwhile to buy microbrewed malt liquor? Can malt liquor ever compare in flavour to beer? All of these concerns will be addressed in our comparison of malt liquor vs beer. Continue reading to learn how these two beverages differ from one another.

Table of Contents

What Is Beer?

Even if we all understand what traditional beer is, a formal definition will enable us to define it more precisely. Aside from water and tea, beer is the third most consumed beverage worldwide. It is also one of the oldest alcoholic beverages ever manufactured. While wheat and corn can also be used to manufacture beer, barley is the primary ingredient used nowadays.

You can learn more about the Beer Ingredients in our guide!

The famous Code of Hammurabi, which was penned in ancient Mesopotamia, was the first to mention beer production. These alcoholic beverages are now available in a variety of flavours and styles, including ale, lager, pilsner, stout, and many others.

The primary distinctions between beer types are alcohol concentration and consistency. They are also classified by their country of origin, yeast/malt levels, and brewing procedure. Most beers contain 4% to 6% alcohol by volume.

What Is Malt Liquor?

Technically speaking, malt liquor is a beer with a greater alcohol content. According to the definition, the term refers to any alcoholic beverage prepared from malted barley that has more than 5% alcohol by volume (ABV). It most closely resembles an American-style lager in terms of beer type.

Since malt liquor has been consumed since the 1600s, when it was first manufactured in England and encompassed both beer and ale, you may have already consumed it without realising it.

Contrary to popular belief, malt liquor is a stronger type of beer—more specifically, a lager. Additional sugar is added to the mixture in order to achieve that level of alcohol. Along with malted barley, this is frequently presented in the form of sugar, rice, or corn.

Colt 45, Schlitz, King Cobra, and Olde English 800 are the four malt liquor brands that are currently the most popular. Malt liquor typically contains 6% to 9% alcohol by volume.

Malt Liquor vs Beer: Their Brewing Processes

The brewing process is the main distinction between malt liquor and the majority of types of beer. Malt Liquor is made as a lager using the bottom-fermentation method, just like other lagers. Top or bottom fermentation can be used to create several types of beers.

How to Make Beer

We must first learn how beer is typically created in order to comprehend the differences between top and bottom fermentation. Every time beer is made, the starch source—typically barley—is converted into a fluid known as “wort.”

The wort is then transformed into beer via a yeast-induced fermentation process. In order for the starch to ferment and transform into sugar, it must first be “mashed” with hot water for one to two hours. The wort is then removed and cooked in a different container.

During this process, the brewer adds hops to the beer to enhance its flavour and aroma. Whether a beer is top-fermented or bottom-fermented depends on the yeast the brewers use throughout the brewing process.

If during the brewing process the yeast rises to the top of the container, the beer is top-fermented. It is bottom-fermenting yeast if it sinks to the bottom.

How to Make Malt Liquor

You need a combination of barley, hops, yeast, and water to produce beer. All of these components—aside from hops—are required to make malt liquor. Malt liquor producers will substitute additional fermentable sugars for hops to increase the alcohol concentration.

Typically, dextrose, cereal grains like corn and rice, or a unique enzyme provide this sugar. As a result of the procedure, a beer loses some of its more complex flavours and malt liquor becomes slightly sweeter than lager. Additionally, it is brewed at a cooler temperature than most beers.

Difference Between Beer and Malt Beverage

BeerMalt Liquor
FlavourThe hops are what give beer its bitter and wholesome taste. The more hops the brewery includes the more bitter and darker the beer is.The taste is far sweeter and also has fruity undertones. The extra sugar also makes the malt far more carbonated than your average beer.
AppearanceThe colour of your beer will tell you a lot about how it was brewed. A darker beer implies longer roasting of the malts. The colour of the malt will range from pale yellow to light golden brown.
Brewing ProcessTop or bottom fermentationBottom fermentation

Let’s examine some of the other key differences between malt liquor and beer now that we’ve established the variations in their brewing processes. These include:

  • Flavour
  • Appearance
  • Alcohol Level
  • Price
  • Consumption


It would be nearly impossible to classify all beers based solely on flavour. Depending on the variety, the region in which it is brewed, and the components used to make the final product, there is a wide range of flavour possibilities. In contrast to malt liquor, there is a definite variation in flavour.

The bitter and healthy flavour of the beer is derived from hops. Beer producers will tout their knowledge of how to add hops and determine the ideal beer-to-hop ratio. The more hops a brewery uses, the darker and more bitter the beer becomes.

Since malt liquor doesn’t include hops, the added sugar makes up the majority of its flavour. It greatly enhances the sweetness of the malt liquor and gives it a hint of fruitiness. Malt liquor is significantly more carbonated than a typical beer due to the additional sugar it contains.

Due to the higher levels of carbonation in malt liquor than in beer, most people experience greater bloating or fullness after drinking it. Malt liquor is more difficult to consume rapidly than an equivalent-sized beer due to its fizziness.


There are a few techniques to distinguish between beer and malt liquor merely based on appearance.

First, don’t make the error of seeking out beverages with light colours. The colour has more to do with the brewer’s base malt than with the popular misconception that ales are dark and lagers are light. While many beers also come in these hues, malt liquor typically ranges in colour from a pale yellow to a light golden brown.

Your beer’s colour will reveal a lot about the brewing process. Your beer was likely given a lengthier roasting time if it is a darker colour. If they are running high, water temperature and pH levels can also darken the beers.

Darker beers could also indicate minimal filtration. Some breweries produce unfiltered beers. Unfiltered beer will taste thicker and be considerably hazier. Learn all about Filtered vs Unfiltered Beer in our guide!

Alcohol Level

Malt liquor comes in larger containers than most beers and has a higher alcohol content, which is another notable distinction. Small Malt liquor 330ml cans contain 40% more alcohol than the typical beer bottle. A litre bottle of malt liquor contains 4.7 times the amount of alcohol as a typical beverage.

When ingesting malt liquor, you’re likely to become intoxicated more quickly due to the higher alcohol content.

I would advise consuming one or two fewer 330ml drinks than you would if you were drinking beer if you want to be safe when drinking malt liquor.


The lower cost of malt liquor is one of its main marketing benefits. Almost any convenience store or petrol station will have a litre bottle of malt liquor for less than you’d pay for a six-pack of ordinary beer.

Most people regard the brewing process and consumer base as the two main justifications for why malt liquor is significantly less expensive. It is substantially less expensive to brew malt liquor because of all the additional sugars. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about the extra cost of purchasing hops.

The second justification is connected to the initial introduction of malt liquor. When the beer industry started to lose clients to wine and other spirits, malt liquor rose to popularity in the UK and US economies.

Malt liquor was introduced as a less expensive beer substitute to boost usage among those with lower incomes. The cheaper price is only the beginning of the bargain. You get more alcohol for your money by purchasing malt liquor rather than beer.


Because malt liquor has a higher alcohol concentration than beer, the typical user consumes roughly 80% more alcohol per drink.

By selecting this type of beer, your dangers are multiplied due to the larger containers and increased alcohol intake. It will lead to elevated blood alcohol levels, a higher risk of alcohol poisoning, and additional issues associated to alcohol.

The majority of malt liquor consumers live in underdeveloped, minority-populated areas. Malt liquor consumers were more likely to be homeless, receive public assistance, be unemployed, be daily drinkers, be smokers, and drink with companions of the same sex, according to a 90-day research on the subject conducted in the US.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is malt liquor stronger than beer?

Yes, malt liquor has a higher strength than beer. Malt liquor has a far less bitter flavour than beer but much more alcohol by volume. The average alcohol by volume (ABV) for a single serving of malt liquor is 5.6%, while some brands have as high as 8.1%. Even though beer has average alcohol by volume (ABV) of 4–6%, the effect is apparent when you consume a lot of malt liquor. Both beer and malt liquor should be used in moderation, as with any alcoholic beverage.

Why is malt liquor so cheap?

Due to the absence of hops and the use of dextrose as a sugar source, malt liquor is inexpensive. When utilising noble hops or rarer strains, hops can get pricey. Malt liquor was also intended to be a less expensive but stronger substitute for beer, and it still is.

Is there a difference between malt liquor and beer?

Malt liquor and beer do differ from one another. First off, there are no hops in malt liquor. Although technically a lager beer, malt liquor requires more sugar to make and has a higher alcohol content overall. Additionally, it is sweeter and smoother than beer.

Who drinks malt liquor?

The bulk of those who drink malt liquor reside in impoverished, predominantly minority areas. According to a 90-day study on the topic undertaken in the US, those who drink malt liquor are more likely to be homeless, get public assistance, be unemployed, be daily drinkers, be smokers, and drink with others of the same sex.

By Tickety Brew

Ivor Ardghal : Brewer and Writer at Tickety Brew