I grabbed a few double-deuces -- Colt 45 in one hand, St. Ides in the other -- and walked toward the register, which was bunkered inside a thick sheet of bulletproof fiberglass. As the clerk rang up the bottles ($3.50 for 44oz of booze) and sheathed them in individual brown paper bags, I tried to make conversation.
"Which tastes better?" I asked him, gesturing to the Colt 45 and St. Ides bottles on the counter.
"They’re all the same, man." He shrugged. "I can tell you which one sells the most, though."
"Which?" I asked him, assuming he was about to name a brand.
"Not these," he said, chuckling and tapping the 22oz bottles before him. "Forties. This is nothing in the ’hood."
This is, I think, the only solid ground you'll ever find in the cultural quagmire of malt liquor in America. It's not quite poison, though it sure tastes like it. And it's not quite racist, though its track record for dubious marketing and crude racial insensitivity is undeniable. Young black men drink more malt liquor than they statistically should, given their share of the population, but they still represent less than a third of all its drinkers. Hispanic adults and rural white folks drink more than two-thirds of the stuff. This is something we should remember, as Winship cautioned, "before we cast malt liquor as a racist and calculated attempt to harm minorities."