Malt liquor isn't a style that's often touched by craft brewers, mainly because the general public defines them as cheap, crappy-tasting alcohol delivery engines -- decidedly un-craft. But when enterprising brewers do get their hands on it, interesting things can happen.
ML209 is this year's summer seasonal at Four Peaks, a malt liquor named after a rapid on the Colorado River that kicked the asses of several of the brewers and owners during a trip last summer.
Like most malt liquors -- made with excessive amounts of cheap adjuncts like corn, rice and dextrose sugar to keep the body of the beer light and the flavor mild -- ML209 was brewed with flaked maize along with other non-malt stuff. Unlike most malt liquors, it's also been run through a hopback packed with Hallertau and Liberty hops, then dry-hopped with Cascade and Saphir varietals. This ain't your hobo neighbor's 40 ounce.
Though the first 300 people to try ML209 got to enjoy the beer wrapped, as in the photo above (it's been scientifically proven that the taste of malt liquor exponentially increases when the bottle is swaddled in a brown paper bag), it's also pretty good in your standard shaker pint glass. Orange-washed oak in color and crystal clear, the beer exhibits an uncomplicated aroma: some bright, citrusy hops mix with subtle yet crisp graininess and a hint of booze.
ML209's flavor is much more forceful, delivering a nice bite of floral and herbal hops that impart hints of orange peel, mint and tequila. The husky malt character is met with impressive amount of booze.
The body is just right for the style, just a few notches above the viscosity of water. Bubbles prickle the tongue with moderate force, adding to the beer's refreshment capabilities and lending the brew a soft fizziness. The use of adjuncts results in a finish that's fairly clean, dry, and -- this is important -- avoids the obnoxious kick of the average malt liquor.
For the person used to the options you'll find at the average gas station, ML209 should be a welcome surprise -- familiar yet very different, smooth, flavorful and sneakily boozy. Doing Edward 40-hands with this beer would be downright enjoyable.
Malt liquor has a few properties that make it a great match for modestly spicy Indian food:
The beer's mild sweetness will help cut through the food's heat while the beer's clean, dry finish will work as a palate-cleanser. ML209, with its distinct herbal hoppiness, has decent flavors that aren't overpowering, yet will still stand up to the bold flavors of, say, curry. If you have leftovers, reheat the Indian food for breakfast and splash some orange juice in your malt liquor to create the classic Brass Monkey - breakfast of champions.
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