Move over White Claw — craft seltzers have arrived in Salt Lake City. Several Capitol City breweries have recently added the fruity, bubbly beverages to their line-up, joining the ever-growing hard seltzer market that continues to see enormous growth.
“We tend to make unusual beverages, like crazy sours, so seltzers were definitely up our alley,” said Alexandra Ortiz de Fargher, who owns Shades Brewing with her husband, Trent Fargher.
Shades launched their hard seltzer line, Livli, a year ago after their director of sales noticed restaurants and bars using half-cans of hard seltzers to mix cocktails and tossing the remainder. The raspberry seltzer was sold in kegs, but when the pandemic hit and buying a keg with a limited shelf life became a risk for businesses, they started canning the seltzer and added in new flavors such as pineapple mint and grapefruit to create a mixed pack.
“The sales have exceeded our expectations,” said Ortiz de Fargher. After launching in Whole Foods and Harmons, Livli is set to arrive in other retailers this spring.
It’s no surprise if you take a look at the national numbers. During a three-month period starting in March 2020, hard seltzers accumulated $1 billion in sales, according to data analytics company Nielson. By comparison, hard seltzer sales tallied $1.5 billion in all of 2019. Experts predict sales will continue their meteoric rise.
New kid on the block, Grid City Beer Works, always had seltzers in the plan for the brewery and restaurant, but they took a backburner to opening the new establishment in March, mid-pandemic.
“There’s a time and a place for an alternative to heavy beer for our palates, but we were underwhelmed by the seltzers that are out there,” said Justin Belliveau, founder of Grid City.
Today the brewery has two low-ABV seltzers — cucumber lime and a beer-inspired variety made with mosaic hops. The 8.2% ABV rosé hard seltzer kicked off the line of higher-point bubblies that the brewery plans to expand, most recently with an 11.2% ABV seltzer naturally flavored with botanicals to resemble an aperol spritz (sans any actual aperitif).
But what is it about making hard seltzers that has craft brewers jumping on board? For one, creating the beverage is not as far-off from making beer as one might think — and it requires the same equipment.
“Rather than using grain like in beer, it starts with creating a mash — a fermentable base — using water and corn sugar and adding any other flavorings to it along the way,” explained Belliveau. “We use a Sauvignon Blanc yeast that imparts a little bit of wine character and quality to the two [low-ABV] seltzers.”
The rosé-flavored seltzer doesn’t have any actual wine in it, but contains an organic muscat grape juice and other fruits, such as prickly pear and grapefruit peel to create a beverage that drinks like a wine spritzer.
Epic Brewing Company released its Pakkā hard seltzer line in April 2020 with four flavors brewed with real fruit, like grapefruit tangerine and cherry lime. With more breweries jumping on the seltzer bandwagon, it’s all about continuing to innovate, according to Gus Erickson, marketing specialist with Epic.
The company has since released a hard coconut water as well as a hard green tea and black tea.
“We’re always looking ahead,” said Erickson.
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