Has the hard seltzer craze gone too far?
From a super-strength seltzer to one made by Bud Light, have we reached peak seltz?
Ever grabbed a hard seltzer to get your poolside buzz on? Well, what started as spiked fizzy water is now a huge meme-inspiring trend, and 2019 was truly the summer of the hard seltzer.
There’s a bunch of companies getting in on the bubbly action, and you can even go and sip a seltzer at dedicated tap rooms cropping up across the US. Some are calling it the new craft beer.
But now that Bud Light and Four ‘blackout in a can’ Loko are launching their own versions — has hard seltzer mania gone too far?
Hard seltzer 101
Wait, let’s backtrack a sec: what actually is a hard seltzer anyway? It’s essentially spiked sparkling water with a mild fruity flavor. They come in cute colorful cans that look exactly like… uh, a regular seltzer. Most of the options out there right now are around 5 ABV (on average you’re looking at 4.5 ABV for beer, 11 ABV for wine).
But what’s the difference between hard seltzer and just, like, mixing seltzer with vodka? Glad you asked. Hard seltzer is actually more like beer, because it’s made by fermenting sugar — rather than barley like beer, or grain like vodka. So it has a lower alcohol content, meaning it’s ideal for a chill session at the beach...or wherever really, because the cans have the added benefit of being super portable and convenient. Another appeal is that they tend to have less calories than wine or beer.
The bro's beverage of choice
The alco-seltzer thing started back in 2012 with SpikedSeltzer from Connecticut — which is now owned by industry heavy hitters Anheuser-Busch InBev. Gradually more and more companies started making it, but one of the most famous is the black-cherry flavored White Claw, which came out in 2016. Since then, sales of the seltz beloved by bros everywhere shot up by over 200%. To give you another barometer of its success, White Claw was all over Coachella this year, it’s spawned loads of memes and some even called it a ‘cultural phenomenon’. Yep, seriously.
Billions and billions of bubbles
Now there are tons of different varieties of hard seltzer, including cans from indie brands too. Everyone’s fave low-cal lager Natural Light has a slightly stronger one at 6 ABV, with flavors like Catalina Lime Mixer: When Cherry & Lime Become Best Friends; and Aloha Beaches: When Mango & Peach Go Beach Mode.
To put the whole ‘summer of hard seltzer’ thing into perspective: hard seltzer is currently worth $550 million. Some are predicting that figure could grow to $2.5 billion by 2021. That’s a lot of bubbles.
Blackout in a can
So now that you’re up to date on our... *canned* history of the bubbly stuff, here’s where it gets interesting. Now Four Loko is joining the party and attempting to blow the competition out of the … fizzy... water by launching its own version this month. For anyone who remembers Four Loko’s reign (of terror?) back in the mid-2000s, these are the guys who made a notorious caffeine-alcohol concoction that some claimed was equivalent to five coffees and a six-pack of beer. It was quickly banned by a bunch of authorities, and allegedly caused some students to get sick.
You might think it’s weird for the company that made ‘blackout in a can’ to now be getting into the light seltzer game. But there’s a *lime* twist (sorry). The Four Loko seltzer is a whopping 12 ABV. At more than double the usual alcohol content, that makes it the hardest seltzer of them all. You might ask what’s the point of that, and we’d be right there with you.
Please no, Bud Bubbles
Yet more seltz news was revealed this month, as Bud Light announced it is launching its own version coming out early next year. It’ll be a far more reasonable 5 ABV, and thankfully will come in four fruit flavors (we had visions of sparkling beer). They don’t appear to have plans to call it Bud Bubbly, which we think is a missed opportunity, tbh.
Has the world of hard seltzer gone too far? We’ll let you be the judge of that…