Everybody’s Making Seltzer!

When White Claw hard seltzer was introduced in 2016, lots of beer nerds scoffed at it in the same way we scoffed at hard sodas. Sure, lots of people liked them, but they were just something for people who didn’t like the flavor of good things, like beer.

Hard sodas and flavored beverages are still around, but have faded quite a bit from when “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” was released and seemed like it was completely unstoppable. Early in the hard seltzer craze, I and a lot of my friends thought hard seltzer would be similar: a big rush initially and a long, slow death because they weren’t very good.

But I was missing a big point: I was the one who didn’t think they were very good. What I thought didn’t really matter, I wasn’t the target market for hard seltzer. I like a wide variety of beer styles, and I was happy with my selection.

Meeting a Need

Hard seltzer got poo-pooed as a passing fad, but there was a large market for a moderate-strength (5% ABV) beverage that was easy to drink. Lots of older drinkers like to say seltzers are just for young drinkers who can’t appreciate “real adult beverages”. . . whatever that means.

Creekside hard seltzer fresh off the canning line. Sorry for the blurriness, I was trying to keep up with the machine.

But in my experience, there isn’t a single age range that likes seltzer, it seems to be an option for drinkers of any age. I’ve seen rough and tumble-looking men in their 50’s and up drinking seltzer right next to the stereotypical female college student. So, it’s appealing to more than just young drinkers.

It’s a Craft Movement

The market for hard seltzer is so strong right now that most craft breweries are looking for ways to produce hard seltzer, hoping for a product that will offer a quick infusion of cash to the business.

Brewers Publications even released the book How to Make Hard Seltzer: Refreshing Recipes for Sparkling Libations (affiliate link) aimed at craft breweries looking to enter the hard seltzer market. It covers recipes and recommendations as well as some of the legalities involved with making hard seltzer in the United States.

Sawtooth Brewery, where I currently work, in Hailey, Idaho just released their Creekside line of hard seltzers. And I have to admit that when I tried them, I started to see why people enjoy the hard seltzers.

If you’re a beer snob connoisseur, like me, don’t just turn your nose up at hard seltzer. It can be a nice change of pace and a new flavor experience, give it a try.

Brew Up An Adventure Podcast

Episode 1 – Dare to Risk Being Bad

In this episode, I talk about the fact fear can hold you back from starting to homebrew. The important thing is to learn what you can, but then you just have to do it.

Things may not go to plan, but at least you’ll be doing it. Once you’re brewing, you’ll ask better questions when you need help, and you’ll actually figure a lot of stuff out on your own.


The Magic of Community

Waaaay back in 2015, I was asked to present at the inaugural Midwest Craft Brewers’ Conference at UW Stout. At the time, I was president of the local homebrew club in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Since I didn’t have commercial brewing experience, I chose to talk about Clarke’s law, which states:

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ – Arthur C. Clarke

Brewing was Magic

When brewing was developed, the process wasn’t fully understood. Early humans knew that under certain circumstances, grain that was soaked in water produced bubbles and eventually that liquid made them feel nice.

There are some historians who argue that this discovery is what actually encouraged our hunter-gatherer ancestors to settle down and develop agriculture. This theory is met with some skepticism, but as a beer lover, I enjoy the thought that beer was important enough it changed the course of history.

But Magic is Unreliable

Magic, by its nature, is poorly understood at best. There are mysteries, and doing similar things can produce wildly different results. Even wizards in stories, who were the most familiar with the practice of magic always had a degree of uncertainty with the outcome of their magic use.

The people who changed the course of history couldn’t have been happy with inconsistent, unpredictable results.

The Opposite of Magic

I think that technology is the opposite of magic. It can be incredibly complex, and not fully understood by the average person. But to people who use the technology, it is reliable and functions within a certain set of rules.

So I think our early ancestors who became brewers worked to take brewing out of the realm of magic and turn it into technology. Farmers developed better types of grains and better practices for growing them.

Maltsters started to understand how to take those better grains and better prepare them for use in making this magical liquid.

And the brewers started to understand how to take those properly-prepared malts and produce better and more delicious beverages.

Communities: the Best Magic

Over time, these groups of people harnessed a variety of magical concepts to improve the process of making beer and getting it to those who enjoyed it.

In my opinion, the most important magics are friendship and collaboration, where we get to gather together as brewers and talk about ideas for making better beer and better worlds. And as a community of brewing friends, we get to harness the magic of experimentation to learn from each other and bring people together.

Breweries and homebrew clubs have the opportunity to work together to expand everyone’s knowledge of brewing, and of beer. We can work together to make better beer and help others enjoy it.