Malt liquor’s rep is the stuff of 40-ounce bottles and dubious fruity flavoring. Which is exactly why the guys at Bellevue Brewing decided to make a small-batch, craft version called Medina Malt Liquor; partner John Robertson says it combines the best attributes of ales and lagers.
The name is both an ironic nod to Bellevue’s affluent neighbor and, he says, an attempt to recast the public perception of a beverage that dates back to the days following the repeal of Prohibition.
“It’s a classic American style that’s been brewed very poorly for decades,” says Robertson. “It’s been largely misunderstood.”
Before it became shorthand for cheap, harsh-tasting, high-octane booze, malt liquor was technically a strong brew made with the usual malted barley, plus adjuncts like sugar and corn. It was born of the period not long after Repeal Day, when America began gearing up for World War II and a shortage of grains forced brewers to get creative. In later years, mega-mass-produced versions sent the quality way south.
Medina Malt Liquor, says Robertson, has a golden hue with some grainy, malty sweetness up front (not unlike a lager) and a slightly hoppy finish. Though it doesn’t taste overly boozy, the 8 percent alcohol level is no joke. It’s made with a high-quality brewers malt, organic cane sugar, and flaked corn that's been through a process to remove its germ. Robertson terms this combo “Not the sexiest of ingredients, but historically accurate.”
The poster pays tribute to Medina's Overlake Golf and Country Club, which has Bellevue Brewing’s IPA on draft.
Several beer-focused bars in the area will have it on draft, but the Medina Malt Liquor should be reliably available at Bellevue Brewing’s taproom through the middle of July.