Is Malt Beer The Same Thing As Malt Liquor?

Before we get into the differences between malt beer and malt liquor, it will be helpful to know what malt is. Malt is a type of grain — usually barley or wheat but other grains like oats, rye, and rice can also be used — that has been prepared with brewing in mind (via Allagash Brewing Company). The chosen grains are steeped, germinated, kilned, and roasted to help remove nutrients from the grain itself and produce specific flavors that can characterize certain brews.

Now, let's get into some definitions. Malt liquor isn't actually "liquor" like vodka or whiskey. While many varieties of malt liquor can pack a high alcohol content, they won't knock you off your feet quite like a strong spirit because malt liquor is actually beer. And malt beer? Well, it's a different kind of beer, and you'd need to drink a nearly impossible amount to feel any kind of buzz.

A confusion of terms

Just like beer, malted barley is used to make malt liquor, notes Drizly. Malt liquor is boiled, similar to the beer-making process, and fermented so the drink ends up tasting more like a lager than something that needs to be served on the rocks. But unlike beer, malt liquor contains little to no hops. Arrow Liquormart reminds its customers that beer is usually sold in cans and contains less than 5% alcohol content, while malt liquor is typically sold in glass bottles and can pack 12% and above alcohol content.

Malt beer, on the other hand, can be difficult to find in the United States. Called "malzbier" in German, this dark drink, unlike malt liquor, doesn't contain a high alcoholic content; According to the German Beer Institute, malt beer actually considered an alcohol-free beverage (any drink with an alcohol-by-volume content that doesn't exceed 0.5% gets the distinction). Malt beer is made by brewing a low-hopped beer and cooling it before any yeast is added, and the drink is filtered and artificially carbonated before being bottled and sold. One brand, Malta, is described by The Growler as having an unrefined molasses-like taste that is slightly bitter and thicker than other beverages.

If you're tasked with the responsibility of picking up drinks for tonight's party, you may not want to confuse the two orders.