Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The Best Affordable 40-Ounce Malt Liquor in 2022

Call it an understatement, but these are trying times. That being said, we need to find comfort where we can and one of the places that we can find comfort is in a forty-ounce bottle of booze.

Workhorses of the drinking world, forties offer not only a ton of alcohol for less than the price of a Frappuccino, but after making it through one, you’ll have a good buzz to boot. Sure, the quality of the booze may not be the best, but again, these are trying times and sacrifices must be made.

If you’re wondering what exactly a forty is, the name gets at half of the full definition. A forty is a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor. Malt liquor, it needs to be noted, is at its simplest, strong beer that has been made stronger by the use of adjuncts such as sugar or corn that help bump the alcohol percentage up a few ticks. In other words, it’s not liquor in the sense that rum or vodka are liquors.

Related Reading:

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 forties. 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. Below you’ll find the top forties to try out (or to reminisce about) follow by a couple of non-malt liquor forties.

In the words of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony: “Bless da 40 Oz.”

Best Malt Liquor


Image used with permission by copyright holder

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% alcohol by volume and is crisp and generally light for 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.

Colt 45

colt 45
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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%. 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

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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% 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.

King Cobra

Image used with permission by copyright holder

With a name like King Cobra, you have to expect some sort of bite, but the only real bite you’ll sense is a sharpness on the nose that might be a turn-off. When it comes to the body, King Cobra is light on the hop characteristics (as well as everything else). It doesn’t even really feel like you’re drinking a 6% beer – which is probably for the best. With a logo that looks like a CFL team shield, it is also one of the nicer-looking bottles on the (bottom) shelf.

Steel Reserve 211

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ah, Steel Reserve. Don’t let those fancy new “Alloy Series” beverages confuse you — they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Steel Reserve 211, the 8.1% behemoth that graces shelves across the country with its presence. Slightly sweet and malt-ish, Steel Reserve is a great all-around option when you need to pack a punch with as little cash as possible (as long as you’re okay not tasting any hops). Oh, and that 211? It has two meanings. First, it is allegedly the medieval symbol for steel. The second and less savory (though more entertaining) meaning is that 211 is the penal code for a robbery.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

When Miller came out with Steel Reserve, the folks at Anheuser-Busch knew they needed to do something. Thus, Hurricane was born. Bearing the same alcohol and basic makeup as Steel Reserve, what it comes down to is which mega-brewery you’d like to support. Expect a sweeter body and little hop flavors from start to finish. The aftertaste might sneak up on you, but at over 8%, does that really matter when you’re drinking a forty?

St. Ides High Gravity

Image used with permission by copyright holder

St. Ides may be the poster child for the connections between hip hop culture and forties. Everyone from Snoop Dogg to 2Pac to Macklemore has referenced the high gravity malt liquor in their works over the years. A product of the Pabst Brewing Company, fans of PBR will like St. Ides, as they have similar taste profiles. The only difference? St. Ides is like PBR on steroids at 8.2% ABV.

Schlitz Blue Bull

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Did you know that Schlitz was once the largest producer of beer in the United States? It is no longer (having been sold a couple of times, finally landing in the hands of the Pabst Brewing Company in the late 1990s), but Schlitz still persists in the form of high gravity beers and forties. The Blue Bull was Schlitz’s original forty-ouncer but has since been followed by Bull ice and Red Bull (because no other company has ever called something by that name). A standard malt liquor, you’ll find beer flavor, beer flavor, and more beer flavor.

Bonus 40-Ounce Bottles

Forty Ounce Muscadet

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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 a real 40-ounce style.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Jahla Seppanen
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Born and raised off-the-grid in New Mexico, Jahla Seppanen is currently a sports, fitness, spirits, and culture writer in…
The 30 best spring cocktails to cheers the season with
Spring is here, which means you survived winter and have earned a drink: Here are the best cocktails to try
Two glasses of grapefruit cocktail with grapefruit slices and rosemary garnish on a table

Spring has sprung, bringing much-needed energy to just about everything. That includes cocktails mixed up with new seasonal ingredients made to toast the longer, milder days ahead. Whether you like a Hibiscus Tequila Sparkler or something bourbon-based, we've got you covered with spring cocktails.

Hibernation season is behind us, so trade in those hot cocktails and heady pours of Scotch for some breezier drinks with a little more finesse. You can enjoy one somewhere in between spring cleaning and planting your garden. And if the cards are right, you may even be able to enjoy that drink al fresco, as the sun sets at a much more reasonable hour.

Read more
The 9 best whiskey quotes of all time
Enjoy these quotes, and remember where they came from when you use them
Errol Flynn

OK, so talking about whiskey is almost never going to be as fun as actually drinking whiskey, but it can still be an enjoyable time. Take a moment to think about it. You're sitting around a fire with your best friends, a few fingers of a fine single malt whisky (and a few more already in your stomach), so why wouldn't you want to wax poetic about the source of your current joy?

Maybe you're not sitting around a campfire with friends holding your favorite camping flask, or maybe you're feeling morbid and want to plan your gravestone prematurely. You want the world to know that, even in death, you really freaking love whiskey. Perhaps you need a new quote for your dating app profile. We’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find whiskey quotes from a variety of celebrities across time, from writers to actors to professional athletes, that all discuss this amazing spirit. We love these quotes, and frankly, we think you will, too.

Read more
The 11 best citrus cocktails to make in 2024
If you love a good citrus drink, these are the cocktails to mix up
A teal bowl of citrus fruit on marble

Citrus season is right around the corner, so let’s prep early and concoct invigorating spring and summer cocktails with peak seasonal ingredients like grapefruit, lemon, lime, and tangerine. Before making citrus cocktails, we have bad news: There's a decent chance you're doing citrus wrong.

We spoke with Tory Pratt, the founder of Pratt Standard Cocktail Company, a D.C. outfit that specializes in syrups tailor-made for vintage cocktails. Hence, it’s no surprise that Pratt knows a thing or two about getting the best out of citrus (Pratt's ideal citrus-forward classic is the daiquiri, and we've got her favorite version, a blackberry mint riff, below). If you're looking for easy cocktail recipes that include different types of citrus fruits, look no further and keep reading.
Tips on preparing citrus cocktails

Read more