In 2004, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery was well into the process of making a name for itself through envelope-pushing beers, like 120-Minute IPA and World Wide Stout, brews notorious for their astronomical alcohol content.
Then came something even more unusual: Liquor de Malt, an American adjunct malt liquor made with gourmet corn and packaged in 40-ounce bottles inside a hand-stamped paper bag.
Unfortunately, Florida never received any of this beer, most likely because the 40-ounce package size is not allowed. But now, 13 years later, we have a local craft malt liquor of our own: 3 Daughters Brewing Ctrl + Malt + Del.
While “malt liquor” simply refers to any stronger-than-average lager, the term is forever linked to low-end brews sold in oversized clear bottles in gas station coolers across the country. And look, let’s not pretend that we’ve never enjoyed a cool, 32-ounce King Cobra, or perhaps the undisputed ace of the malt liquor game, Colt 45.
Ctrl + Malt + Del pours pale yellow and crystal clear, with a thin white head. The nose is neutral, with just a hint of sweet corn, the preferred adjunct for this style. The flavor is lightly sweet, with a little grain and little to no hop character, other than the small amount needed to offset any excessive sweetness. The finish is dry, the result of a very full fermentation (the goal of malt liquor is generally to get as much alcohol into the beer as possible).
Ctrl + Malt + Del clocks in at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume and drinks surprisingly easy, as long as you drink it while it’s cold. Everyone knows that you don’t let malt liquor warm up.
3 Daughters’ version hits all the right malt liquor notes, without any of the negatives that have given the genre a bad name, such as loads of fusel alcohols that give some malt liquors an unpleasant kick and enhanced hangover-producing potential.
You won’t find this one at Citgo — head to 3 Daughters (222 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg) to try it on draft. It’s an oft-maligned but nevertheless classic American style that’s worth trying, especially if you don’t take yourself too seriously. — Justin Grant