Malt Liquor vs. Beer: Understanding the Differences

Malt Liquor vs. Beer: Understanding the Differences

Malt liquor and beer are two popular alcoholic beverages that are often confused with one another. They are both brewed from malted barley and hops, so they have some things in common but differ significantly. 

This blog post will explore the differences between malt liquor and beer.

What is Beer? 

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. The malted barley is heated and mashed to release the enzymes that convert the starches in the grain into sugars. Next, hops are added to provide a bitter flavor and as a preservative. Finally, the yeast is added to ferment the sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide.

What is Malt Liquor? 

Malt liquor is a type of beer that contains more alcohol than standard beer. A beer with a volume alcohol level above 5% is considered malt liquor in the US. This higher alcohol content means that malt liquor can substantially affect the body more than beer, which is why it is sometimes called a "heavy" beer. Plus, more adjuncts, like corn or rice, are frequently used in brewing malt liquor, which might result in a sweeter flavor profile.

Differences Between Malt Liquor and Beer 

Alcohol Content 

Beer and malt liquor differ primarily in terms of alcohol concentration. Malt liquor has a higher alcohol concentration than beer, which usually has a 4-5% by-volume alcohol content. Due to its increased alcohol level, malt liquor has the potential to be more robust and more intoxicating than beer.

Flavor Profile 

Malt liquor and beer also differ in terms of taste. Malt liquor tends to be sweeter than beer because it contains adjuncts like corn or rice. Adjuncts are additional ingredients added during brewing to enhance the beer's flavor, color, or texture. This makes malt liquor thicker and syrupy in consistency compared to beer. While some people enjoy malt liquor's full-bodied and sweet flavor, others find it overpowering or excessively sweet.

Brewing Process 

Although both malt liquor and beer are alcoholic brewed beverages, they have significant differences. Beer is produced by fermenting grains, usually barley, hops, water, and yeast. It has a long history and is brewed globally, resulting in various styles such as lagers, ales, stouts, and porters. In contrast, malt liquor is produced using a more considerable amount of malted barley, resulting in a sweeter flavor and a higher alcohol concentration.

Different types of malted barley used in the brewing process are another factor influencing the taste variation between malt liquor and beer. Malt liquor frequently employs malted barley, known as "six-row" barley, which has a higher protein content than the "two-row" barley commonly utilized in beer. This higher protein content can cause a denser, more viscous texture and a sweeter taste in malt liquor.

Marketing and Consumption  

The ways in which malt liquor and beer are marketed and consumed are vastly different. Malt liquor, which frequently has significant alcohol content, is typically sold to consumers searching for a quick and inexpensive way to get intoxicated. On the other hand, beer is marketed as a fun and delightful beverage for dining or socializing. As a result, it is frequently consumed in public places like bars, restaurants, and homes when loved ones are present. Malt liquor, on the other hand, is commonly associated with solitary drinking or use in less convivial settings.

Beer and malt liquor are both alcoholic beverages, although they are prepared and packaged differently. Compared to beer, malt liquor typically comes in larger bottles or cans, with some companies providing 40-ounce or larger sizes. This disparity in packaging may give the idea that malt liquor is meant for binge or excessive consumption. But it's important to keep in mind that moderate alcohol use is always advised. 


Legally, malt liquor is subject to different regulations than beer due to its higher alcohol concentration. In the United States, for instance, malt liquor is commonly subject to more stringent labeling requirements and higher taxes than beer. Some states also have implemented laws restricting the sale of malt liquor to specific hours or locations to mitigate its adverse effects on public health and safety.


The beginnings of malt liquor and beer have separate historical roots. Beer can be traced back to ancient civilizations that manufactured beer for religious purposes and everyday consumption while having a long and diverse history with wide varieties and cultural traditions. Beer has contributed significantly to social and economic development and has become a staple beverage in many countries.

Malt liquor has a relatively short but controversial history. It emerged in the United States during the mid-1900s as a distinct type of beer primarily targeted at specific demographics in urban areas. The popularity of malt liquor rose in the 1960s and 1970s as many beer companies began producing their own versions. Colt 45, St. Ides, and Olde English 800 are among the well-known brands of malt liquor.


In conclusion, while malt liquor and beer share some similarities in their ingredients, they are distinct beverages with different brewing processes, alcohol contents, flavor profiles, marketing strategies, and more. Understanding the differences between the two can help consumers make informed choices about what they drink and how they consume it. With a wide selection of malt liquor and beer varieties available at Remedy Liquor, you can explore various options and taste the differences yourself!

Also Read: The Best Liquors for Shots

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