From Beer to Hard Seltzer: A Cultural Pivot Finds a New Market

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by CervezaNY, May 20, 2020 at 4:24 PM.

  1. CervezaNY

    CervezaNY Initiate (195) Mar 24, 2016 New York

  2. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Poo-Bah (2,002) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
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    Not a market for me, if I want an alternative to beer I will have a mixed drink or wine. This reminds me of wine coolers or Zima, that was all the rage then fizzled out and beer remained strong as ever.
  3. craigbelly

    craigbelly Meyvn (1,173) Dec 31, 2015 Iowa

    While I do see this as a fade I don't fell beer will come back as strong as ever. Hard seltzer over the next few years will find their way to the back shelf next Smirnoff Ice and Mike's hard. Worth noting that these do cost about half the price to produce over beer, so the companies behind these aren't just going to let go of this cash cow without a mighty push.

    More interested in the demo. My more craft heavy friends are not drinking seltzer but go wine if not beer. As do I. I've read alot on the increase in wine across younger people. I see all the Truly or White Claw drinkers are light beer drinkers.
  4. Cstamp3084

    Cstamp3084 Initiate (26) May 3, 2020 Maryland

    My girlfriend enjoys white claws I to have never tried one. I am happy they make them because I can pick her up a 12 pack when I go get beer and it keeps her from complaining about my beer buying.
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  5. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,486) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I thought the linked video was interesting to watch.

    As other have stated I have my doubts that Hard Seltzer has 'staying power'. I view things this way due to my personal bias against Hard Seltzers but also the fairly recent history of beverage like Zima.

    It makes business sense for beverage companies like Boston Beer Co. to 'chase' this trend right now. Like the old saying goes: make hay when the sun is shinning. Hopefully somebody at Boston Beer Co. has strategic thinking (Sam Calagione?): what should we pursue when the Hard Seltzer market fizzles x years from now.

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  6. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (288) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I will need to watch the video later but I think that Hard Seltzer will have staying power because:
    • Less calories, sugar, carbs, no bloating for some people, etc.
    • More bang for the buck in some cases and 24 oz cans are the same price as 19.2 oz beer cans in my area. In many cases twelve packs are the same if not cheaper than many beers.
    • Unlimited flavor possibilities.
    • Cheaper to produce so can be a higher profit margin for the company.
    I had my first one last night with dinner and I enjoyed it enough to be open to trying more flavors and it's a viable alternative for me. Also when I grabbed my single can off of the shelf almost all flavors were sold out but next to these were aging IPAs and other beers that have been there for months. HS is still new enough that I feel it's too early to make the this is just a passing fad judgement call just yet but on the surface this looks like it could have some staying power.
  7. ovaltine

    ovaltine Poo-Bah (3,070) Apr 6, 2010 Indiana
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    There is no alternative to beer. IJS.
  8. craigbelly

    craigbelly Meyvn (1,173) Dec 31, 2015 Iowa

  9. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Poo-Bah (2,002) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
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    LOL dam right
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  10. BrewsOverHoes

    BrewsOverHoes Savant (946) Nov 17, 2013 Georgia
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    The wife loves White Claw so I usually keep a 12 pack on hand if not a locally brewed seltzer (Monday Night Brewing makes nice ones, even Sweetwater is getting into the game). I don’t mind having one or two if I’ve had enough of beer for the evening or feel like a quick shot of vodka and a Lime White Claw. People probably drink LaCroix or similar non alcoholic beverages, tastes about the same to me as those. So I don’t see the hatred exactly.

    Now, the mountains of displays with seltzers only in my local grocery store is getting out of hand. And do we need 5 fridge doors wide of seltzer’s too? I see the cutting into shelf space argument.

    Will I ever stop beer in lieu of these? Nope. But I don’t mind mixing up once in awhile.
  11. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (288) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    This is a good point and I don't drink much soda and instead drink sparkling water when in the mood for something carbonated so for me it's an easy transition into a HS.
    BrewsOverHoes likes this.
  12. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (115) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

    The shelf space problem is a pretty big bother for me, and mostly why I don't want to support the sale of Hard Seltzer.

    The fact is, there's a huge demand for the stuff. I remember, for example, that there was a pretty massive shortage last summer in many grocery stores; people were buying it faster than the store could stock it. Because people want it ice-cold quickly, they have to use the refrigerator space on the beer aisle. However, I suspect grocery stores are bound by distributors to stock a certain fraction of their beer section with the macro brands, so they can't annex that space, and instead have to take the craft section over. To me, there's way too much Budweiser and Coors that they are trying to sell and they should begin taking over some of that space instead, but now that the macros like Bud and Corona are getting in on the business, that isn't probably going to happen.

    I have a hypothesis that I've suggested a few times here: essentially, the history of beer has been a struggle to reduce flavor as much as possible to reach the widest audience possible. First we had beers that were like Rauchbier, but also brewed with whatever yeast was in the environment, so you'd get something smoky, dark, and funky. Gradually brewers began to move towards better malting methods, creating isolated environments where they had direct control over the microbiology of the brew, and that brought about lager beer when German brewers discovered a type of yeast that generated a particularly smooth beer without the fruity, funky flavor of ale. Then modern kilning methods created Pilsner-type malt in the 1840s which naturally tasted cleaner, lighter, and smoother than dark and pale malts, and you fuse that together with lager yeast to get Pilsner. In the twentieth century, these Pilsner beers are watered down, their flavors yet reduced further by using less ingredients and attenuating the beer yet further, taken to its most extreme conclusion with light beer. Even still, light beers aren't yet enough to win people over, so they created something that fools drinkers into believing it isn't beer (or alcohol) at all: Hard Seltzer. Even hazy IPAs and Pastry Stouts are part of this: they try to deceive the drinker into thinking that it is not beer, because it doesn't taste like what we would typically think of beer.
  13. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,320) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey

    Not your fathers had lines forming and truck chasers outside the liquor store I worked in at the time it came out. The 10.4-% version was really good actually but when NYF was released it was super crazy
    BrewsOverHoes likes this.
  14. mambossa

    mambossa Aspirant (211) Jun 30, 2015 Ohio

    I mean a lotta people were saying NEIPA was just gonna be a fad...look how that shit turned out.

    A year or two ago my sister was really quick to try the (then brand new) Truly seltzers. She is always an appreciator of good beers and wines, so it seemed like a downgrade. I scoffed initially for a while. I tried one, and begrudgingly thought “yeah this is alright.”

    Until they became extremely popular. My ol’ lady started bringing them home, generally having a 12pk on hand for the nice weather. That’s when I grew to like them a lot. It’s easy. You don’t have to think about it. It’s not a challenging flavor. It’s got bubbles! It gets you a little tipsy! How can you hate that?

    And the brands differ in preference of sweetness vs dryness, and local breweries around me are doing cool cocktail-inspired flavors. This is going to change the new generation of drinkers in a huge way. Sadly, I don’t know how that will affect the beer market in the next half century. But who knows.

    It’s all in good fun. I don’t see any reason to shit on hard seltzers. Sometimes you just want a LaCroix, but also wanna soften the edges.
  15. mmmbeerNY

    mmmbeerNY Devotee (426) Mar 5, 2014 New York

    I think LaCroix are gross, seltzers are definitely not for me hard or not.
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  16. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (2,392) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
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    If I had any desire at all to drink this stuff, I think I'd just manufacture my own. A bottle of Everclear, a few flavors of MIO, two liters of seltzer water, and Bob's yer uncle.
  17. jp_4

    jp_4 Initiate (52) Jan 3, 2017 New Jersey

    Isn't it basically vodka and seltzer? Just buy a $20 1.75l bottle of Sobieski, a 24 pack of seltzer for like $9, and boom...tons of hard seltzer

    It's like Twitter, I couldn't believe someone could create an idea so simple and it actually be appealing that they would make a ton of money off of it. Remember when Twitter came out, it was like Facebook, except you could say much less and do much less with it. But everyone went bananas for it.

    I need to find that next thing that just seems way too obvious.
  18. Tripel_Threat

    Tripel_Threat Poo-Bah (2,711) Jun 29, 2014 Michigan
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    A LOT of my favorite breweries here in Michigan have cranked out their own seltzers. It's extremely easy to make and cheap. I broke down a month or so ago and gave some a try. Frankly, for the price, the calories, the flavor, and the fact my wife loves it if I pick some up seltzer might have a place in my fridge for the foreseeable future.

    I'm actually looking to brew a batch since it's basically water, sugar and yeast with whatever flavoring you want to add. Way easier than beer.
  19. MistaRyte

    MistaRyte Zealot (541) Jan 14, 2008 Virginia

    Hard seltzer is equal parts ditch water and carbonic acid
  20. Ronmarley1

    Ronmarley1 Aspirant (229) Jan 20, 2014 Ohio

    My wife and son like ‘em, so I have one here and there. I rarely drink pop, but this is kinda like that, and not as sweet, and you get a little buzz.
    My daughter put a shot of rum in a lime one, added a sprig of mint, and called it a Hillbilly Mojito.
  21. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,401) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I happen to like the seltzer’s, they’re especially beach and pool friendly. I find they extremely easy to drink, low on the bloating, 5% abv, very light and crisp obviously, low in calories. The White Claw Grapefruit imo is really good, and I prefer these over a bad light beer. The little touch of sweet it pretty nice as well, I think you might even be able to slip in with gin or rum, definitely vodka to give it a bit more oomph. Depends on the flavor, but any lemon line or grapefruit might replace tonic.
    dukeandduke and ESHBG like this.
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,486) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Maybe the Pet Rock is ready for a 'comeback'!?!

  23. Czequershuus

    Czequershuus Poo-Bah (2,043) Feb 7, 2014 Minnesota

    I think the one reason seltzers have really taken off is they do fill a niche that nothing else does. They are neither sweet, nor beer. The entire category of flavored malts has long been dominated by really very sweet options (Mike's, Smirnoff, Hard Sodas, etc), and if you want a beverage that is less sweet, you are pretty much left with beer. So hard seltzers filled a category that was not covered before.

    I see a broad cross section of people buying them too. Young, old, people who only otherwise drink AALs, people who mainly drink craft, people who mainly drink wine - everyone buys them.

    And I get it. I primarily drink craft beer, wine and cocktails, but I have found myself keeping a 12 pack of hard seltzer at home. Admittedly, on pack lasts a while, but it is a nice choice when you want an alcoholic beverage you don't want to think about. I realize for most people an AAL would fit this place, but I just hate the taste of those, they always seem so sweet to me. I really don't get the people who see the seltzers as sweet - with a few exceptions they read as really quite dry.
  24. traction

    traction Zealot (533) Dec 4, 2010 Georgia
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    As others have mentioned a lot of craft breweries in my area have started making their own seltzer. I have seen an interesting one on the market called "Florida Seltzer" by Untitled Arts.

    Here is what Untitled Art says about it:

    It's no secret hard seltzer's have made a huge impact on beer sales. For many breweries, the knee jerk reaction to demonize these drinks is understandable. Yet for me, I have watched these with intrigue. While I don’t personally like the flavor of White Claw/Truly/etc, I have watched friends of ours at @fairstatecoop, @the8thstatebrewing, etc. make craft versions of hard seltzers that taste great! I view hard seltzer as a new base style to play with, and it is up to craft breweries to elevate and innovate within this style, just as every style of beer. This year Octopi, our contract facility, brought a membrane dealcoholizer online… it’s the the same million dollar piece of machinery that White Claw uses to make their seltzer. This allows us to create the purest and cleanest hard seltzer base of any craft brewery. I have combined that equipment with a flash pasteurizer and the fruiting rate of Floridaweisse to create:
    Florida Seltzer
    100 calories, 5% ABV, and very VERY fruit forward!
    This first version is prickly pear and guava, and more flavors are on the way. Our commitment at Untitled Art is to always explore flavor

    Here is a picture (not mine; I have never tried this stuff)


    That doesn't even look like a seltzer and is actually decently reviewed on Untappd with a bunch more pictures there. The idea of a hazy seltzer with low calories is obviously appealing to some because it sold out quickly in my area. As mentioned in the quoted text above there will be more flavors coming out.

    On a side note I always assumed making seltzer would be a straight forward process; mixing grain alcohol (or maybe vodka) and seltzer until you reach your desired ABV. i was surprised to read these guys had to spend a million bucks on a "membrane dealcoholizer" in order to make this stuff.
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  25. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Savant (997) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

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  26. traction

    traction Zealot (533) Dec 4, 2010 Georgia
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    High Noon cans will be available both individually and in four-packs, with suggested retail price of $2.50 for single cans and $9.99 for

    That is an absurd price point for 12oz cans of 5% vodka water. Scofflaw makes a good craft seltzer and sells 12 packs of 16oz cans for $16
  27. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,212) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia

    I'm a Millennial. I don't drink hard seltzer. I've barely tried in fact. However, all of my friends drink hard seltzer, male and female. I also recently looked deeper at this market because I was doing a valuation project on Molson Coors who recently released their seltzer brand, Vizzy. This is a very fast growing category and everyone is throwing in a lot of money into this. I don't think earnest efforts were made in investment for other categories like seltzers or previous malternatives like Mike's Hard. It feels like this is going to be a very competitive fight with Bud Light and Corona staking their brand on this segment.

    I do see the appeal. A lot of people my age are living a more active lifestyle, where people are watching their calories and wanting to drink something that might not let them feel as bloated. With its low calories count, plethora of flavor offerings, and lightness in general, I think that this has more staying power because it has a market fit. It's not just an alternative to beer or wine or cocktails, it does have a purpose.

    I think that there are interesting questions being raised as far as whether the market will continue to grow as fast as it is. I too am interested to see how the battle for shelf and cooler space works out. I just don't think that seltzer is going to stagnate like other challenger beverages have.
  28. traction

    traction Zealot (533) Dec 4, 2010 Georgia
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    It absolutely serves a purpose and it isn't going anywhere anytime soon; I have no doubts seltzer is here to stay. The reason a lot of people here aren't seltzer fans is because every new seltzer put out is taking up shelf space that was previously occupied by beer therefore giving those of use who enjoy beer and not seltzer more options. I doubt many people would care at all about seltzer if this stuff wasn't on the shelves and people were just mixing up their own vokda and La Croix at home.

    Combine seltzer with the popularity of IPA's and that ends up kicking a lot of other beer styles off the shelf altogether.
  29. Scottsbeer

    Scottsbeer Zealot (550) Nov 3, 2017 Florida

    Seltzer Bad.....Beer Good
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  30. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,212) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia

    It will be interesting to see how the shelf space battle goes. I feel like seltzer is a bigger threat to macros than it is to craft. I think there's less crossover between craft and seltzer and the type of people switching from craft to seltzer are probably coming from the macro craft brands rather than the niche craft brands. At least, that would be my initial hypothesis.

    I'm also interested to see how distributors handle the seltzer brands. Sam (Truly) and Mark Anthony (White Claw) are mostly with Miller (Vizzy) distributors. I know that funny business could result in legal action, but I am going to keep an eye out on who is getting the primo shelf/fridge space.
  31. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (288) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

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  32. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,503) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Good article here about Nightshift and all the R&D work they had to do to perfect their seltzer line, Hoot.

    I’m not a big hard seltzer guy, but I enjoyed theirs much better than Truly and White Claw.
    Sheppard and traction like this.
  33. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,486) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Gonna buy a 12 - pack of these seltzers to go along with all of those lager you recently purchased!?!:flushed:

    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  34. Singlefinpin

    Singlefinpin Zealot (595) Jul 17, 2018 North Carolina

    People act like this seltzer thing is something new, back in the day when there was a milkman people would get seltzer delivered to their front door like milk, add vodka, seltzer, maybe a lime or a peach or whatever fruit juice they had around and Presto! A seltzer water drink, presently known as hard seltzer.
    Are people just too lazy to mix two or three ingredients?
    Oh shit! If people discover how easy it is to DIY? The hard seltzer craze could be over just like that! LOL! To each their own in choosing the beverage of their choice.
    But, I'll close with this, "Beer is proof God loves us." Benjamin Franklin
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  35. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,309) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    I think its more the convenience of pre packaged goods. Take it to the beach, the pool, I've.honestly seen 3 people now drinking them while driving :grimacing: (And who knows how many I might have missed since I only recognize the white claw label). Plus its standardized don't have to worry about your drams growing larger as you work your way through your second and third glass of the homemade
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  36. dukeandduke

    dukeandduke Meyvn (1,349) Feb 2, 2015 Illinois
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    There ain't no laws....

    I had the four Bud Light versions courtesy of a distributor. Wasn't as bad as I feared. I liked these better than wine coolers (hello the 80s are calling), Zima (hello the 90s are calling), Miller Light (one of the few beers I cannot/will not drink period), and several too sweet NEIPAs I've had over the years.

    I am not in the market to buy this product, but I can see how they are popular for people who don't like to drink much but like pop and a little buzz, and would drink for free if there were no other options. I expect this segment to continue to grow substantially, it is the segment with the most growth the past few years, low cal beers are next on the list of growth. I'll stick with the beers I like.
  37. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,401) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Can’t overlook convenience, I could brew my own beer, but I don’t, I could distill my own corn liquor, but I don’t. Really there’s nothing not to like about having a seltzer here or there, they’re light , refreshing and most are pretty tasty enough, I certainly don’t go out of my way to buy, and some better than others, I’d put them into a pool beach category. I’d guess from what I see at our local community pool seltzer and Bud Light would fight for #1.
    Sheppard likes this.
  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,486) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    The quick answer to your question is yes: people are too lazy to mix up their own hard seltzer.

    There are several advantages to creating your own hard seltzer:
    • You can save a lot of money this way
    • You can readily mix up the the flavor additions and if you are creative create a flavor that is not even available via the canned hard seltzers on the market
    • etc.
    If people ever get over their "laziness" here the companies who make these beverages are quite exposed.

    As regards the convenience factor, if you ever want to travel with your hard seltzer simply place it in your insulated travel mug. People (e.g., police officers) won't even know what you are drinking.

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  39. traction

    traction Zealot (533) Dec 4, 2010 Georgia
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    I feel like this is both good advice and bad advice at the same time
  40. donspublic

    donspublic Poo-Bah (1,843) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
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    Wow, that is a big reverse from the people that brought you Boones Farm, Carlos Rossi & Barefoot
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