Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dogfish Head's handcrafted Liquor de Malt is good beer, bad marketing.

Our scant allocation of Dogfish Head Liquor de Malt, billed as a bottle-condition, handcrafted malt liquor brewed with three types of corn (7% abv), was one case of twelve 40-ounce bottles, plastic-capped, and each coming with its own paper sack adorned with printed logo.

We quickly sold eleven of the bottles. The twelfth came home with me, and I’ve opted to ignore the explicit directions for proper use and instead pour the beer, sans paper bag, into my preferred tasting vessel, a 15-year-old Slovak pub mug.

Other than NABC’s Turbo Hog, I’ve not sampled an American malt liquor since my last visit to the Great American Beer Festival, when the temptation to relive memories of the early 1980’s compelled me to quaff a taster of Mickey’s Malt Liquor. It just wasn’t the same without tasting it directly from the wide-mouthed green bottle, but the flavor was as I remembered it.

Dogfish Head’s typically quirky version of what, in the American sense, should be an alcoholically enhanced, adjunct-choked lager marketed to those concerned with “bang for the buck” (the mainstream beer world’s equivalent of “raincoater” in porno parlance) is actually fairly good, with a creamy, lingering head and a deep golden hue.

The presence of corn is unmistakable in the palate, with Liquor de Malt exhibiting the sweetness left behind when the cob is tossed into the garbage, but there’s enough malt character for balance, and a hint of the trademark Dogfish hopping for good measure.

The beer itself? It’s fine, and illustrates the redemptive possibilities inherent in a microbrewery’s decision to personalize a mainstream style.

However, I must note that the marketing for Liquor de Malt is in questionable taste; we all know the stereotypes associated with malt liquor – all in good fun, I suppose they’d say, but the symbolism attached to drinking from a paper sack verges on tacky just the same.

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