A 40 is a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor that is cheap (no more than $2.50 usually) and strong. Malt liquor is actually not a liquor like vodka — it’s a beer. The (usually) higher alcohol content is a result of a strong lager or ale with added sugar or corn, which boosts the fermentable sugars and therefore raises the overall alcohol concentration.
But enough of that definition stuff. You probably know the term “40” and recognize its shape from iconic hip-hop names like N.W.A., Ice Cube, Snoop, Cypress Hill, Eminem, Bone Thugs, and Wu-Tang Clan (although the latter is more into flavored vodkas these days).
Heavy and sweet without much bitterness, drinking a 40 is less about the taste as it is the attitude of being strong, cheap, and rebellious. That said, a 2013 article in Punch by Besha Rodell explains that the insane success of the 40 was short-lived once “rappers moved on to cognac and Cristal.” Some states even banned the sale of 40s. However, I can’t imagine a day where I don’t see a 40 in the cooler of the liquor store, and in the spirit of keeping that poor, rebellious kid alive, we’re grabbing the best 40s off the shelf to enjoy after work — including malt liquor, as well as beer and wine as a bonus.
In the words of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony: “Bless da 40 Oz.”
Most beer experts agree if they’re going to drink any 40, it’s going to be a Mickey’s. Made by Miller Brewing Co., this malt liquor has 5.6 percent alcohol by volume and is crisp and generally light for a malt liquor. Indeed it is a “fine” malt liquor as its bottle says, and the judges at the GABF and World Beer Cup agree, it’s a standout brew for being, well, a malt. But you have to drink it cold, otherwise, the corn heaviness is just too heavy. The overall taste is smooth and never bitter.
Sweet and silky with a hint of lemon, a Colt 45 is not for hardcore IPA drinkers but those who enjoy a light kolsch or saison. Pick up a Colt 45 for your throwback evening (Edward 40 Hands anyone?) if you’re looking for a grainy and tart beer that doesn’t have a bold flavor. Colt 45 is one of the top two most popular malt liquors ever made – thanks, Afroman— and packs an ABV of 5.6 percent. The beer pours straw yellow with a white head, but honestly, there’s no use getting that fancy — just drink the damn thing.
Olde English 800
Back to the basics of 40 royalty, Olde English 800 is another one of the most popular names in the game. Eazy-E’s song “8 Ball” is more or less a homage to the Milwaukee-brewed malt. At 7.5 percent ABV, it’s stronger than others on the list, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to tasting good. Ask any 40 drinker which name is the best, though, and someone will throw out Olde English. Expect a smooth and rich drink that’s got a dose of subtly fruity aroma. Is it the best beer ever brewed? No. Is it a great 40? Yes.
Forty Ounce Muscadet
The 40 got a boost in 2017 when Forty Ounce Wines came out with rosé in a 40-ounce bottle. Avocado toast-eaters flipped their shit … perhaps because they were the ones drinking 40s in high school — I mean college — and now their bougie sensibilities and street-rat tendencies converged into one. But instead of the rosé, I recommend the Forty Ounce Muscadet from 2016 that is a legit Muscadet French white wine. (No, that doesn’t mean it’s a Moscato.) Fresh lime, white peach, lemon, and gardenia fill the nose and pallet with a blossoming mineral quality. Chill that shit and wrap a paper bag around it for real 40-ounce style.
The Mexican lager Sol dates back before Ice Cube penned the romantic lines, “Get your girl in the mood quicker, get your jimmy thicker with malt liquor.” Sure, Sol isn’t technically a malt but it’s a 40-ouncer so who GAF. Sol is also delicious for being an “approachable” beer (aka not complex). The golden lager is light but brings in a dash of heavier malt flavor. It’s refreshing and doesn’t have the acidity of a Corona, so pour some out for the homies and down the whole bottle.
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