Olde English 800 (otherwise known as “Olde E”) is an absolute classic in the world of malt liquor. Its current status as the malt liquor of choice among many rappers is wildly different than its humble origins at the Peoples Brewing Company of Duluth in the early 20th century. Olde English was originally known as “Ruff’s Stout”, which is confusing since it’s clearly not a stout style beer. In fact, it was deemed a stout for its high alcohol content rather than its style. It was eventually renamed to Olde English 600, and sold off to a Spokane, WA brewery in 1950. Somewhere between being sold to Weinhard, followed by Pabst and eventually Miller, they landed on Olde English 800. I can’t find any answers as to where the 600 or 800 came from, but my best guess that it’s a reference to the ABV (800 = 8% ABV).
Thinking back on my college days, Olde English is the malt liquor I seem to have the fondest memories of. I can still remember those hot summer days spent on my front porch drinking a 40 of Olde E. It was cool, refreshing, and one of the few beers I enjoyed at that time in my ignorant adolescence. The Olde E I once knew is just that though: a memory. We often seem to look on the past with rose-tinted glasses, but I’m convinced Olde English 800 has changed in the 10 years since I last drank it as my go-to malt liquor.
Why am I so convinced it’s them that’s changed, and not me? The very first thing you’ll notice when you go to buy an Olde E is that it’s no longer in that iconic glass bottle. Instead, it has been replaced by an ugly plastic bottle that looks like you’re about to drink a piss-flavored Faygo. Secondly, the label itself has now been branded with the same temperature gauge attached to Coors Light, which lets you know if your beer is cold enough to drink. Pro Tip: if you need your beer to be chilled to 32°, it probably tastes like trash.
Olde English isn’t complete trash though. When you first crack open the bottle you’ll find that it has a sweet smell and is very carbonated. It’s actually really easy to drink right out of the fridge at peak coldness. It’s has a pretty light, unassuming malt flavor, and even exhibits some amount of head when poured. It sits at 7.5% ABV, but there’s no burn going down. For me, it was the aftertaste that was really unsettling. After hitting the back of the tongue, it tasted a bit like drinking a stale, day-old beer. I was able to get past this unpleasantry for a little while, but once it started to warm up a couple degrees, the remnant of day-old beer was all I could taste.
It’s a bit disappointing and unlikely that I’ll revisit Olde E anytime soon. Hopefully Miller will improve their product in the meantime. On the plus side, I haven’t drunk enough malt liquor over the past few years to permanently erase the memories with Olde E that I still hold fondly.