Before Colt 45 was associated with Billy Dee Williams and “that dynamite taste,” the famed Malt Liquor was once marketed towards the suburban white-collar middle class alcoholic demographic, a type whom nothing seems to faze.
Introduced to the beer drinking public in 1963 by the National Brewing Company, Colt 45 was developed to compete with the only other malt liquor on the market
at that time, Country Club produced by Pabst.
With a 5.6% alcohol content level, Colt 45’s selling main selling point was that had an “extra kick” as compared to other beers.
Malt liquor, unlike traditional beer, often contains ingredients that boost the alcohol content and may include corn, supplemental sugar, and other additives.
This is why Colt 45 claims in its description as being “slightly sweet and super smooth.”
Although often mistakenly associated with its handgun namesake, Colt 45 was actually named after Baltimore Colts running back Jerry Hill, who was #45 on the team for the city in which it was brewed.
By the 1980’s, the demographic of Colt 45 consumers shifted as seen in its marketing campaigns which would include Lando Calrissian actor Billy Dee Williams and, later, hip hop superstar Snoop Dogg.
Since Colt 45 exploded on the scene, the malt liquor market has grown exponentially as brands including Olde English 800, St. Ides, King Cobra, Mickey’s, and Schlitz followed.
Typically sold in 40 fluid ounce bottles and known as a “forty,” the renaissance of malt liquor came about as suburban youth emulated the taste and swagger of an exciting inner-city, hip hop culture.
Although malt liquor is often associated with brands such as Colt 45, in the US technically any malted barley beverage that has an alcohol content of 5% or more.
40s of Colt 45 are often inexpensive, going for as little as $1.70 in places like Trenton, NJ.
In Europe, however, where American malt liquors are rarely exported, similar “super-strength lagers” are available, including doppelbocks like Spaten’s Optimator (7.6% ABV) from Germany, Carlsberg Special Brew (9% ABV) from the UK, and Karhu Tosi Vahva (9% ABV) brewed in Finland.