Colt 45, Private Stock, Mickey’s and so many more.
I’m not the biggest fan of malt liquor. So when I decided to do a 40 list, it wasn’t going to be me rating them by taste. Because they all would’ve tied for last. (Kind of like if I ever made a list of best Danny McBride movies or baby names that rhyme with “maiden” or “waddison.”)
So, instead, I ranked 11 brands of 40s by their overall prestige and fame within the malt liquor genre. As with all my rankings, it’s totally subjective and I’m sure there will be many a disagreement over both the order and the omissions. And that’s why lists are wonderful. Far more wonderful than Your Highness or kids named Jayden.
11 | Magnum
It cracks the list because it’s a fairly common brand that always seems to be in stock at the grocery store. But it can’t climb any higher than 11th because it’s clearly not what people think of when they hear “magnum.” “Magnum” is more commonly associated with condoms, Sellecks and opii than malt liquor.
10 | Hurricane
Anheuser-Busch makes this one (well, the Belgian conglomerate behind A-B). A-B was also responsible for the more iconic King Cobra brand. Hurricane is just a cheap, quick secondary brand they whipped up to try to scrape up a little leftover market share. It’s the Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior of malt liquors.
9 | Schlitz
If I was writing this list in 1973, then Schlitz would be way higher. Also, I’d be writing it on a typewriter. While high on quaaludes. And stroking my thick, bushy mustache. (I’ve only actually ever experienced one of those three things. And sadly, it’s not ‘ludes.)
8 | Country Club
Country Club initially got its name because it was actually marketed, non-ironically, toward the bourgeoisie — with some decent sales success. It is no longer targeted at people who actually go to country clubs. People named Lance and Muffy are too narrow-minded to enjoy the charms of malt liquor.
7 | Steel Reserve 211
There’s a fairly famous rumor that the “211” represents the police code for an armed robbery. It’s a very short jump from there to “oh, they’re marketing this to once and future criminals.”
According to the people behind Steel Reserve, that’s not true — 211 was the medieval symbol for steel. Why, it’s just an unfortunate coincidence it has a less-politically correct, evocative meaning, too!
Which is, of course, like saying “We named our restaurant Hooters because we like owls, the top-heavy waitresses are just a coincidence” or “We named her Pussy Galore because she owns a shitload of willows.”
6 | Mickey’s
Somehow the Irish always find a way to elbow themselves in when there’s a brave new frontier of alcohol. No wonder they could never hold their own during the early years of Whacking Day.
5 | St. Ides
Unlike Steel Reserve 211 up there, St. Ides had no qualms about marketing itself as the official malt liquor of the hood. They signed up rappers to make ads for them; a famous Ice Cube rap in this St. Ides commercial said “get your girl in the mood quicker, make your jimmy thicker.”
Of course, Ice Cube would go on to star in movies such as Are We There Yet and Are We Done Yet.
And I’ll admit that I’m nerdy enough that the last time I heard “St. Ides” my first thought wasn’t about malt liquor but rather about the old brain teaser: “As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. [Etc.]” (Maybe they should’ve given those wives some St. Ides. Could’ve gotten them in the mood quicker.)
4 | Private Stock
This one got an epic boost from the Notorious B.I.G. line in Juicy where he says he was “smokin’ weed and bamboo, sippin’ on Private Stock.” That one plug bumped this up at least three spots on the list. It’s better than if Oprah had put Private Stock in her book club.
3 | King Cobra
Iconic brand for sure. Something about King Cobra just makes you feel like it wants to fight you. And, frankly, that’s kinda what you want in a 40.
2 | Olde English 800
Put up a good fight for the number one slot but fell just a tiny bit short for me. Still, it will always be my number one — I like when my cheap, gritty alcohol shares the same name as a font.
1 | Colt 45
The moment they hired Billy Dee Williams as their smooth-voiced shill they locked this spot up. He vaulted Colt 45 up, making it the most widely-recognized brand of malt liquor out there. Even to this day, it’s the first brand the average person would name if you walked up to them on the street and yelled “Quick, name a brand of malt liquor.”
(I wouldn’t recommend actually testing that experiment out. Especially not if you happen to have 40s duct taped to both of your hands at the time.)