The term malt beverage can accurately describe any drink made from malted barley. However, a relatively recent trend uses the term to refer to sparkling flavored alcoholic drinks, whose source for alcohol was created with malted barley. These modern “malt beverages” are not necessarily fermented in their production, however they frequently use alcohol as an ingredient which was distilled. These drinks are typically fruit flavored, and have alcohol contents consistent with the most widely consumed beers, generally about 5% ABV.
History: Flavored malt beverages became widely popular in the United States in the form of “wine coolers” in the 1970s. After a dip in popularity, they experienced a resurgence in the 1990s when many liquor companies entered the business, promoting their brands on the labels of a variety of malt beverages.