Malt liquor as craft beer – judge not lest ye be judged

April 28, 2010 | Tim Akimoff

The name EKU 28 isn’t a whole lot different than Colt 45. Well, ok, it’s one letter more and 17 letters less but both are malt liquors and who is counting anyway? The trouble with the term malt liquor is that it brings up connotations of cheap, high-alcohol beer served in 40-ounce glass bottles or tall boys often hidden inside a paper bag.

When is┬áthe last time you went to a high-end beer cafe and ordered a malt liquor served in a brandy snifter? It’s probably been a while if ever.

On Saturday, I slipped into Cafe Dolce to check out the latest beer offerings at this growingly popular Missoula beer spot. After checking out a great Japanese craft beer from Baird Brewing Company, I decided to try a bottle of the EKU 28, a product of the Kulmbacher Brauerei in Germany. Not a traditional eisbock or ice bock, the EKU 28 actually is a very strong bock that gets classified as a malt liquor for its soaring ABV.

Aside from the large MALT LIQUOR designation on these bottles, everything about this beer smacks of class and sophistication. The first sip showed this beer to be extremely well structured in spite of its high ABV. Hints of apricot, dried peaches and brandy dominate this very nicely balanced beer. Rich malts like bread pudding or fruitcake give a super dense feeling to this beer, which sips like a fine sherry.

Known for being a great apertif or a strong winter beer, EKU 28 is one of many European-produced malt liquors that are available in the states. Don’t let the MALT LIQUOR designation scare you off of trying one of these beers. A $6 bottle at Cafe Dolce can be shared easily by two people, and paired with one of their delightful pastries, it can make for an amazing dessert experience as well.

On the horizon, I see much potential for this style and that of eisbocks to become staples of American craft breweries as well. With our thirst for bigger, stronger beers, craft-beer malt liquors should only gain in popularity over the next few years. There is already one American craft brewery looking for label approval for an eisbock, so good things are in store.



Kulmbacher Brauerei's EKU 28

Kulmbacher Brauerei's EKU 28

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