It’s August, and that means we can officially call it: The summer of 2019 is the summer of people writing about how it’s the summer of hard seltzer. The malt beverage has been the subject of a flurry of stories about its rise, and you can’t deny the stuff is selling and that you’re definitely seeing it everywhere that Colbys gather. While it’s true that hard seltzer’s qualities dovetail with a lot of what’s happening in booze right now, it’s also true that there’s a lot of money and big players (AB-Inbev, Aldi, Smirnoff, and so on) behind it. Here’s everything you (sort of) need to know.
Why is it the summer of spiked seltzer? I thought it was Hot Girl Summer?
It’s both, it seems. In 2018, the Street asked, “is this summer of spiked seltzer?” Since then, the phrase has been trotted out at regular intervals. In March of this year, the Washington Post warned “the summer of hard seltzer is coming.” The Week chimed in during April, and Thrillist’s story hit in May, when the site declared an imminent “summer of hard seltzer.” A bunch of other stories have followed.
So what’s the deal with hard seltzer? It doesn’t sound new? That’s what my bud Sky calls a whiskey soda.
Your bro Sky isn’t wrong. But hard seltzer is really a relatively new category of flavored malt beverages (the first, Spiked Seltzer, originated in 2012 and features Waspy flavors like “Cape Cod Cranberry”), a broader category that includes Lime-a-Ritas, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice, Twisted Tea —
Oh, man, Sky loves Tweas!
Uh, right. It’s like those, which means it’s made like beer except by fermenting sugar instead of barley. That’s where the booze comes from. Otherwise it’s bubbly water and fruit flavorings like black cherry and pineapple. Most importantly, unlike Smirnoff Ice and Lime-a-Ritas, it actually has fewer calories than, say, the traditional beverage of lake boats, the Bud Heavy.
That sounds like White Claw! I love the Claw!
Right. White Claw has become the poster child of the hard-seltzer movement.
The Claw, as you’ve probably heard, has surged in popularity since it debuted in 2016. On August 1, VinePair reported sales of the black-cherry flavor had surged by over 200 percent. In fact, earlier this year, so many people drank it at Coachella that the Wrap called it “Gen Z’s version of Zima.”
WTF is Zima?
Broseph. Zima is the White Claw of the ’90s. Its slogan was “Zomething different.” (The ’90s were great, some say.) A more relatable comparison may be to the say that it’s becoming a novelty trend, like Smirnoff Ice or Four Loko, with less chaotic energy.
Why do people like this stuff now?
Partly because the drink is a meme, obviously, thanks to its earnest popularity among bros and a widely watched parody video by YouTuber Trevor Wallace, whose line “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws” went viral. (There are many more choice one-liners in the video.) And while this was said in earnest, self-described Santa Monica bro Ben Shea gave Insider an instantly classic quote of his own: “I’m a bro, I do dude things and get stoked and all that. But I also just feel comfortable saying I like White Claw and that it’s good.”
Is it good?
Do you like La Croix?
It tastes like a La Croix with some vodka: slightly fizzy, definitely stale, vaguely fruity. Some are better than others. The best thing you can say about White Claw’s black-cherry flavor is that tastes like Schweppes. Spiked seltzer doesn’t exactly taste good, more like it’s inoffensive and, as the Takeout aptly puts it, uncomplicated. And, well, it’s not very strong, so you can drink it all afternoon. Its easiness is another key element of its appeal.
Bruh, please tell me there’s an indie version. I love that artisanal shit.
You’re in luck, Bro-hemian Rhapsody. There are a bunch of brands on the market, some owned by macro producers. White Claw is owned by Mark Anthony Brands, of Mike’s Hard Lemonade fame; Spiked Seltzer was bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2015; Smirnoff is owned by, well, Smirnoff; Artic Summer is a Polar project; Aldi’s owns Vista Bay; and Sam Adams’s makes Truly. But you also have Peak Organic getting in on the action, as well as other craft brewers like Fulton, Lift Bridge Brewery, and CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective, and they all make what you’d call “indie” seltzers.
Does Guy Fieri pound the Claw?
You would think so, but King Donkey Sauce is actually more of a wine guy.