Hard seltzer is undeniably popular, with many local craft breweries and larger brands trying their hand at making this beverage. It’s also not just breweries that can make hard seltzer: wineries like Barefoot and spirits company like E&J Gallo (makers of the popular High Noon hard seltzer and owner of many wineries as well) can also make hard seltzer as the alcohol needed to make them can come from any source be it malt, grapes or distilled spirits like tequila or vodka.
Hard seltzer sales have dropped off from its peak in 2022 but that doesn’t mean people should think the trend is over. A report by the analyst newsletter Sightlines+ says that although sales are down from their peak in 2022, the net has been cast wider and more players are entering the game, meaning more choices for consumers.
For Hard Seltzer Day, which is celebrated on September 20, here are some of the biggest drivers of the style plus a couple of my favorites.
The Truly brand is very strong and a big seller for its parent company Boston Beer Company. I’m a big fan of the lemonade versions, which feel more refreshing than the regular hard seltzers from Truly. The Truly lemonade variety pack is the sixth bestseller in chain retail shops in the U.S. (Truly’s fruit punch variety pack also sells briskly). In a cooler of drink options, that black Truly can is always a go-to when the sun is high in the sky.
Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher
This isn’t an alcoholic brand but I wanted to highlight how many breweries are now making hop water. Lagunitas (owned by Heineken) is one of the biggest seller of this style. Seltzers are big business and a lot of breweries are making these now for many reasons: it’s a great brand extension, it gets their brewery in the non-alcoholic space, it’s highly popular and it’s easy to make with most items breweries already have on hand. According to NielsenIQ, hop water has grown 173% over the last 13 weeks through mid summer 2023. Lagunitas’ hop water is the easiest to find and its name says it all: it’s a fruity, citrusy, and refreshing product.
White Claw Ruby Grapefruit
What can I say, I’m a sucker for the classics and White Claw ruby grapefruit is damn near as perfect a beach drink as you can get. It goes down dangerously as many hard seltzers do and it’s the tenth most popular brand at retail in the hard seltzer market right now (White Claw black cherry is their best selling flavor). Easy to find, easy to imbibe, White Claw ruby grapefruit will find its way into my fridge when summer arrives and is one of my drinks of choice for Memorial Day and 4th of July picnics. White Claw is owned by the privately held Mark Anthony Group.
Maui Dragon Fruit
Perhaps the cleanest and best tasting hard seltzer I’ve come across, Maui Brewing Company’s hard seltzer is ubiquitous across Hawaii and also available on many parts of the mainland as well. With unique Hawaiian flavors like dragonfruit, POG (passionfruit orange guava) and hibiscus lime, it’s best enjoyed under the shade of a tree while on island time. Last year, Maui Brewing Company bought the San Diego, California based Modern Times Beer Company with an eye on expanding their brand. Maui is available in over half the states in the U.S.
Ranch Water Original
Diageo owned Lone River Beverage Company’s ranch water is a hit. Ranch water is a drink created in western Texas where it’s been rumored to be the official drink of ranchers since the 1960’s. It’s now available nationally in a variety of flavors and its the classic lime Ranch Water that is my favorite. It’s also the lowest calorie seltzer I saw on shelves at 80 calories a can and at 4% ABV, having more than one (responsibly) can be in the cards.
Cheers to hard seltzer and the many innovations the beverage space has undertaken. As always, enjoy this day responsibly and surrounded with people you care about.