The difference between beer and malt liquor, at least here in California, is largely a legalistic quibbling. There is some legislated percentage of alcohol by volume (3.6%?) at which a beverage stops being beer and must be labelled as malt liquor, or ale, or stout, or some other word. It cannot legally be called “beer.” However, not all malt liquor is cheap, high-test beer bottled in 40’s. I have enjoyed a number of high-quality German lagers (and other beers)that were labelled as malt liquor simply because the law required it to be. In particular, Spaten Oktoberfest is labelled as malt liquor, in deference to the law.
There’s a lot of confusion generated by this overlap between legislated labels based on alcoholic strength and stylistic labels. Stylistically speaking, an ale is a beer fermented by top-fermenting yeast at warm temperatures (50-65 degrees F), while lagers are fermented by bottom-fermenting yeast at cold temperatures (33-40 degrees F). Either may have an alcoholic content ranging from 2.5% alc./vol to 10% alc./vol or more.
As to cost, I’m firmly convinced that you get what you pay for. I’m also convinced that, while I enjoy a nice pint, if you’re drinking just to get drunk, and choose your beer based on which will do the job fastest, it’s a very real possibility that you have a problem that needs to be addressed.
Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.