(n.) Not actually a liquor, but rather a beer with an ABV above 5 percent with a reputation for being cheaply made. To achieve higher alcohol levels, producers forgo the more expensive grain options, opting for fermentable fillers, such as sugar or corn.
Invented in the 1930s, malt liquor got a boost during World War II when grains were expensive and scarce. By the 1960s, producers began to market it to inner-city communities as a high-alcohol product sold in 40-ounce bottles nicknamed “forties.”
Many craft beers regularly notch well above 5 percent ABV, but some producers, such as Dogfish Head and Elysian Brewing Co., sell a malt liquor product, usually made from all grain, in 40-ounce containers as an ironic wink at the category.