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Malt Liqour vs Beer: What's The Difference?

With all the different types of alcohol out there, it can be hard to keep track of them all and the differences between them. Malt liquor vs beer, for instance — what makes them different? The answer lies in what goes into each alcoholic beverage and how they are fermented.

What is Beer?

Beer is an alcoholic beverage brewed from grains. Specifically, cereal grains, "most commonly from malted barley, though wheat, maize (corn), and rice are also used," Wikipedia notes. It is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in the world.

What is Malt Liquor?

Malt liquor is technically beer with high alcohol content. "Legally, it often includes any alcoholic beverage with 5 percent or more alcohol by volume made with malted barley," Wikipedia says.

What's the Difference Between Malt Liquor vs Beer?

"As a lager, malt liquor goes through a bottom fermentation process while regular beer is made using either bottom or top fermentation," Renegade Brewing reports. VinePair claims they're actually not that different; "Both are made the same way: You create a mash, let it ferment, bottle it, let it carbonate, and then you have your product."

For malt liquor lagers, "Brewers use bottom-fermenting yeast that is a hybrid of the Saccharomyces eubayanus yeast and the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast," Renegade Brewing says, but, "Brewers use the top-fermenting ale yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae to make ale beer."

The alcohol by volume or ABV is another huge difference between the two. Beer has alcohol content ranging between 4.5 and 8 percent, VinePair says. This percentage is much higher in malt liquor, and can go as high as 20 percent, a much higher ABV.

To make regular old beer, water, barley, yeast, and hops are used. Malt liquor doesn't use hops, but the brewing process involves adding sources of sugar like dextrose, rice, and corn, as well as special enzymes, Renegade reports.

Beer tends to have more of a bitter taste, while malt beverages and their fermentable sugars are less so.

Some malt liquor brands include Colt 45, St. Ides, Schlitz, Mickey's, Steel Reserve, King Cobra, and Olde English 800. Popular types of beer include things like Budweiser, Corona, Coors, and many more.

Do you prefer malt liquor vs beer?

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