Hard Seltzer, Really?

Have you ever had someone ask you for something and you wonder to yourself, “What are you talking about, is that really a thing?”  That was my first response the first time I was asked for a hard seltzer, yes, hard, alcoholic seltzer.  This oxymoron is the newest category to hit the alcohol industry, and believe it or not, they are selling quite well.  Although the first hard seltzers were introduced in 2013, it wasn’t really until last summer that they became available in the Milwaukee market.  They hit the ground running, so fast in fact, that distributors were having trouble keeping some of them in stock.  I couldn’t get my head around this new craze then and still haven’t yet today.  I just don’t get it.

Hard seltzers are made from purified water, fermented malt or cane sugar, and natural fruit flavoring.  The allure of them is the relatively low calorie counts (around 100), low to moderate alcohol percentages (4%-6%) and a wide variety of flavors.  They seem to be a somewhat healthier alternative to the sweeter, sugary malternative beverages.  Standard flavors like lemon-lime, black cherry, watermelon, cranberry lime, orange mango along with more exotic flavors like ruby grapefruit, Colima lime, blood orange and passion fruit give consumers a wide spectrum from which to choose.

One brand that is priding itself on unique flavors is Press.  Flavors of grapefruit-cardamom, blackberry-hibiscus, lime-lemongrass and pomegranate-ginger set them apart from the field.  According to their website, “Press was created for those who believe all of life’s delicious moments should be savored.”  One way they suggest to do this, in addition to drinking them chilled or over ice, is substituting Press into your favorite cocktail instead of soda.  One drink that popped up while I was on their site was a Mojito using Press lime-lemongrass.  That sounds good to me!

Another major player in the hard seltzer category is White Claw.  Using their trademarked BrewPure process, artesian water and natural flavors they have created “The Purest Seltzer in the World.”  This is their registered slogan.  Last summer, White Claw couldn’t keep up with the demand and was often out of stock.  This year we hope that not to be the case.

Other brands of importance are Henry’s from Miller-Coors, Truly from the Boston Beer Company and Smirnoff.  As you might imagine, there will be a ton of marketing money allocated to all of these brands this summer, enticing people to buy, try and of course re-buy.

Whether you are like me and just don’t get it, or you are on board and already drinking hard seltzers, it is too early to say if this is just another fad or if this will be a long-term product line.  I have seen so many products come and go thus contributing to my pessimism.  However, if the sales of hard seltzers continue to increase, I might have to swallow my pride and accept that they are here to stay.  I’m preparing myself already.  Time will tell.

Stop in your favorite Otto’s location and pick up a 6 pack, or better yet, a 12 pack sampler.  See what you think.  You could be pleasantly surprised.

Tim – Brown Deer