If you last pooh-poohed the hard seltzer market as a passing fad, you may need to look at the numbers again. The International Wine and Spirits Record released its annual market analysis and found that sales in the seltzer and ready-to-drink category grew last year, up 63 percent. Furthermore, the IWSR predicts that by the end of 2021, that category will be bigger by volume than total wine sales.
What was once seen as a side project for local brewers to tinker with has become an important profit center for craft brewers. While some breweries are content with adding seltzers to their tap handles, others, like Bauhaus Brew Labs, are creating entirely new brand extensions. Bauhaus’s BOLO brand is a favorite for clean and not-too-sweet flavors.
Those who like to push the envelope on the regular have found ways to experiment with seltzers to keep things exciting. Fair State Brewing’s seltzer smoothies, which have been rolling out all summer, are a blend of seltzer and fruit puree. And it’s not just breweries; distilleries like Gray Duck are getting in on the action too. It’s these innovations, more than anything, that prove the local market isn’t slowing anytime soon.
Who is the seltzer drinker? Youths. Drinkers skew younger, and some retailers think of seltzers as an approachable entry-level alcoholic drink. And yes, it’s the summer sipper, but drinkers are keeping the sales up all year round.
The hard seltzer health halo: Is it better for you? Most seltzers have an ABV of 4–6 percent, which is about the same as a light beer, while wine typically measures at around 12 percent. Seltzer brands also love to tout the fact that they are gluten-free, and most have a low carb and calorie count.
Here’s a sampling of seltzers from a few local makers who have bubbled to the top. All these cans can be found at area liquor stores: