photo (5).JPG
We are family
One casually debauched Sunday morning as an undergrad in Missoula, Mont., a few chums and I headed to the neighborhood casino for


Can Malt Liquor Have Class? Full Sail Makes the Case

photo (5).JPG
We are family
One casually debauched Sunday morning as an undergrad in Missoula, Mont., a few chums and I headed to the neighborhood casino for an eye-opener and machine poker.

*See Also: Attempting to Steal Six-Pack of Olde English, Suspects Accused of Beating Clerk with Ukulele

Photos: Trike for Beer 2012

One of us hit his straight and cashed out with enough to treat everyone to a few 40s of Olde English, and we repaired back to our rental house to drink them on the lawn. We all had the beer on ice, polishing off the bottles far too fast. A fist fight broke out, and I passed out at 5.

And that is how stories involving malt liquor go.

The name "malt liquor" itself came about in a post-Prohibition America still weary of beer that rose above 5 to 7 percent alcohol, depending on the state. Basically heavy lagers, these beers were confined to liquor stores. And while there have always been breweries that take the genre seriously (Carlsberg's Elephant Malt Liquor being the standby example of this), once we as a nation loosened up and allowed the stuff in gas stations, it was inevitable that the sickly sweet brew that drank like a punch in the face would be confined to frat houses and highway underpasses.

In no way, under any circumstance, will Full Sail's Big Daddy J's Malt Liquor change this reality. Still, with the style entirely commoditized - every malt liquor option at the gas station rang in at $1.99; it might as well have been gasoline itself - it's fun to see what a skilled brewer can do with a heavy lager.

And this is the work of a brewer, Jason Muñoz, who produced Big Daddy J's under Full Sail's Brewer's Share program. The program was designed originally to allow each brewer at Full Sail to "express their creations to be shared on tap exclusively in our pub," according to the brewery. But they are now bottling some of the fruits, meaning you can relive those pukey college days while holding a respectable label in your hand. I found my bottle at Bottleworks on 45th.

In order to keep my palate grounded, I drank the Big Daddy beside two offerings from the Shell station up the road. I opted for a $1.99 tall boy of Olde English and a $1.99 tall boy of Steel Reserve to sip on.

Hardly a gimmick of naming, Full Sail's malt liquor shares plenty of qualities to the gas station fare, from the brass coloring of Beastie Boy fame to the general shape of the beer. Most importantly, all three beers are winey; the light body can't cover up all that alcohol, so I tasted it instead.

But to Muñoz's credit, the Big Daddy does drink in many ways like a craft beer. While his beer starts out so light that one might think it's a Budweiser, a rich flavor blooms in the aftertaste, showing its pedigree. To further distance it from OE and Steel, I should state flat out: It doesn't taste like ass, or make you feel like ass. It's simply a well-done lager that brings more to the table than is typical for that style.

Still, the style itself may be severely - if not fatally - flawed. The strong presence of alcohol in the flavor will always be off-putting, and it seem unavoidable when dealing with a style that tries to be both light and alcoholic.

Full Sail acknowleges how odd it looks for its label to carry a malt liquor. On the bottle itself, they say they asked Muñoz what he was thinking when proposing the beer.

"I wanted this beer to celebrate the inner college student in everyone..." he's quoted as saying.

Well then, let's make it a 40, and see you at the casino.

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