A 40oz For Breakfast: The Historical Relationship Between Malt Liquor & Hip Hop by La Liko

It was my first experience with liquor. The name was Hurricane, no not Hurricane G, Hurricane Malt Liquor. We had stolen it from my friend’s garage where his dad hid the alcohol, gone and posted up behind an old run down building with a boombox playing The Predator. We were just two Latino kids pretending to be badass. I never again drank malt liquor after that day, but I still remember the taste. It was like stagnant water marinated with rusty nails. Who could forget a taste like that?

Malt liquor was created for no other purpose than to get you fucked up. Wikipedia’s definition of malt liquor is “an American term referring to a type of beer that has an artificially-induced high alcohol content and is therefore considered too alcoholic to be marketed as “beer.” Manufactures have gone on to produce malt liquor in bottles as large as 65 ounces, but more commonly, 40 ounces because the higher alcohol content just isn’t enough. You can also find malt liquor priced for as low as 99 cents, so even the most thrifty of drinkers can fit a forty into their budget.

So who is credited for such an ingenious invention? The Grand Valley Brewing Company created the patented brand Clix in 1937, which has been credited as the first malt liquor in the United States. The Repeal of Prohibition had passed in 1933 as the Great Depression was going on. Brewers were having trouble acquiring the necessary materials such as malt to make a proper tasting beer, and so, Grand Valley Brewing Company came up with a way to make such a beverage without the use of as much malt as beer thus creating the first malt liquor.

Clix

The first malt liquors were marketed to be upscale beverages for rich, white people, by comparing them to champagne and using promotional tools such as bridge scoring pads.
In 1950 Country Club entered the scene with its posters of wealthy white people in sweaters mingling at parties. For around twenty years malt liquor unsuccessfully attempted to find its way into the upper class white market.

(A 1972 commercial for Country Club Malt Liquor)

Until 1963 when a guy named Dawson Farber fucked it all up for the white folks with his introduction of Colt 45. Farber was forced to find a niche in marketing as large-named breweries moved into his city of Baltimore with larger advertising and production budgets. Instead of continuing on the set path of advertising portraying images aimed at an upper class crowd, Farber focused more on the beverage’s potent taste with an image of a kicking horse and a horseshoe.

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