Here's our exchange, presented in easy-to-read order, rather than the backwards order of email:
A-B: "I am currently working on a project surrounding craft malt liquor and came across your website. It seems that you truly are the expert when it comes to everything malt liquor and I was wondering if you would be able to give me any insights to where you think the future of malt liquor will be. Specifically, if you think that malt liquor can get over the “brown paper bag” stigma and become more high end. I would truly appreciate your time and insight!"
B40: "Realistically, malt liquor in general will never become more high end. As mentioned in the "Know Your Malts" section on my website, malt liquor was originally introduced as a sparkling champagne-like style of beer, and targeted towards upper middle class white America. But over time as you know lower income neighborhoods favored it due to its cheaper price (cheaper ingredients) and higher alcohol content. Since it has that stigma, at the same time the craft beer scene is exploding, means malt liquor in itself will never become more mainstream.
However, craft malt liquor could have a spot. Many craft breweries have tried their hand at a craft malt liquor and it appears to have been a hit with each of them, albeit probably due to it being an amusing experiment rather than a legit style that craft beer drinkers want. Usually these craft malt liquors have been released in limited quantities, but Rogue had one called Dad's Little Helper which was available for awhile. Eventually, however, their "Dad's Little Helper" became a Black IPA, which could be telling with respects to their malt liquor sales.
If A-B were to produce a craft malt liquor, it would give the hardcore craft beer drinkers (the same ones who get up in arms whenever A-B buys a craft brewery) something else to be negative about. But the rest of the craft beer market would probably be interested in trying it. It's unlikely they'd drink it regularly, because due to malt liquor's stigma they refuse to believe it could be an acceptable brand to like... even though if those same people don't know they're drinking malt liquor, or if the malt liquor is labeled as something else (Imperial American Lager, etc), they're likely to rate it higher.
My suggestion is for A-B to test the waters with a limited summer release.
Hope this helps and if you have any follow up questions, please do not hesitate.
If you want to look at some of the craft malt liquors that were produced in 40oz bottles, here are some links. There were many other craft malt liquors, but they weren't released in 40s and my site is dedicated to 40s, so they don't appear on there. Likewise, there are other craft beers that were not malt liquors that came in 40s - those are listed on my site - but not included here, since we're talking malts:
40oz to Freedom: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/40oztofreedom.php
Black Rabbit: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/blackrabbit.php
Cobra Horse: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/cobrahorse.php
Dirtbag McQuaig's: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/dirtbagmcquaigs.php
Dogfish Head Liquor de Malt: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/dogfishhead.php
Knucks Rye: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/knucksrye.php
Nickel Nickel 9: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/nickelnickel9.php
Tap & Die: http://40ozmaltliquor.com/brands/tapanddie.php
Also, I glanced at your LinkedIn and see you're in a management training program so you're unlikely to step on any toes at the moment, however if you know anyone worth passing my 2 cents along to, A-B's Hurricane malt liquor label needs to be completely redone - it's awful! My advice is to bring back/re-introduce the big red "H" logo! It was loved and nostalgia sells! And while they're at it, King Cobra's label still says "New Look, Same Taste" - that label came out many years ago - it's time to ditch that wording!"
A-B: "Thank you so much for all the information! I will continue to look more into it and appreciate your thoughts on the future of malt liquor. This is totally a personal project because I was intrigued with how well malt liquor sells in particular markets and the associations and stigmas behind it.
Your comments around Hurricane are valid and I will try my hardest to question the design in the future. As you mentioned, I am currently a tiny bug on the wall because I am just a trainee but I will keep it in mind!
Thank you again for all the information. Have a great rest of the week!"