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What's up with these nasty tasting "clear malt liquor" drinks?

Hey, Matt:

I'm seeing lots of advertisements for "malt beverages" that have the flavor of rum or vodka or any other liquor. Why don't the alcohol companies just make a regular rum and Coke beverage with real rum? Why the nasty-tasting malt stuff?

-- John, San Marcos

All of boozedom is divided into two parts: the distilled spirits part and the malt beverage part. Vodka versus beer. Scotch versus Hurricane Malt Liquor. The drinks you talk about legally are the equivalent of beer and are manufactured much like beer. So if you're Coors or Anheuser-Busch, already grinding out suds, already claiming a large chunk of the beer-cooler space in stores, already selling to beer bars, why would you suddenly want to go into the distilled liquor business with a whole new set of laws, outlets, manufacturing and distribution problems? If you can produce a "clear malt beverage," 5 to 6% alcohol by volume, then tart it up with fake lemon or rum or kiwi-strawberry flavor, or make it taste like a bad margarita, why complicate your marketing life with real distilled alcohol?

Next time you're in a store, check out the cooler space devoted to fancy (nonalcohol) fruit juices. It's a booming part of the youth-oriented soft drink market. So when a brewer comes up with something that's easy to make, slides down your throat like Kool-ade, and gets you falling-down drunk, they've hit the summertime thirst-quencher trifecta. Who cares what it tastes like. Heck, Coors' Zima started all this years ago. It's still on the market, and nobody's ever liked the taste.

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Hey, Matt:

I'm seeing lots of advertisements for "malt beverages" that have the flavor of rum or vodka or any other liquor. Why don't the alcohol companies just make a regular rum and Coke beverage with real rum? Why the nasty-tasting malt stuff?

-- John, San Marcos

All of boozedom is divided into two parts: the distilled spirits part and the malt beverage part. Vodka versus beer. Scotch versus Hurricane Malt Liquor. The drinks you talk about legally are the equivalent of beer and are manufactured much like beer. So if you're Coors or Anheuser-Busch, already grinding out suds, already claiming a large chunk of the beer-cooler space in stores, already selling to beer bars, why would you suddenly want to go into the distilled liquor business with a whole new set of laws, outlets, manufacturing and distribution problems? If you can produce a "clear malt beverage," 5 to 6% alcohol by volume, then tart it up with fake lemon or rum or kiwi-strawberry flavor, or make it taste like a bad margarita, why complicate your marketing life with real distilled alcohol?

Next time you're in a store, check out the cooler space devoted to fancy (nonalcohol) fruit juices. It's a booming part of the youth-oriented soft drink market. So when a brewer comes up with something that's easy to make, slides down your throat like Kool-ade, and gets you falling-down drunk, they've hit the summertime thirst-quencher trifecta. Who cares what it tastes like. Heck, Coors' Zima started all this years ago. It's still on the market, and nobody's ever liked the taste.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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